After 20 years, this historic West Coast walking track has been reopened to the public and promises to give the popular Lake Matheson viewpoint some stiff competition! The track starts & finishes next to the café so you can fuel up beforehand and stop for a celebratory coffee at the finish.
The Lake Gault walkway is a great alternative (or add-on) to Lake Matheson but takes you higher up on an extended 3-5 hour 8km return tramp. The track cuts through ancient podocarp forest and winds up to scenic Lake Gault with spectacular views of Aoraki/Mt Cook, Mt Tasman and the Southern Alps mountain peaks.
Lake Gault sits above Lake Matheson/Te Ara Kairaumati and on a calm day (morning is best) you may be able to capture a reflection of the mountain peaks mirrored in the lake waters. With the added possibility of spotting or hearing the rarest breed of kiwi – the Rowi, this is a great half day tramp in some of New Zealand’s most spectacular scenery.
The track starts and finishes right next to the Lake Matheson Café and Reflectionz Gallery. Here you can enjoy a well deserved coffee or freshly prepared meal and browse through our range of souvenirs, art and kiwiana. We are open all day and we take reservations for dinner by calling us on 03 751 0878 or filling in our online reservation form.
The walkway starts from the Lake Matheson carpark, along the gravel track and over the swing bridge. From here head anticlockwise around the first part of the Lake Matheson loop track until you reach the signposted turn off for Lake Gault. The track starts off as a graded gravel walkway before reaching the first section of the newly cut track. The track takes you through mossy podocarp forest (part of the Te World Heritage area) on a gradual climb up to the Lake Gault viewpoint. Along the way you will likely encounter some mud and rocky parts of the track so it best to be wearing tramping boots*. Lake Gault provides spectacular views of Aoraki/Mt Cook & Mt Tasman. From this higher vantage point you will be able to see more of the mountains and feel part of the scenery. While around 400,000 people visit Lake Matheson annually, this walkway promises to offer more moments of solitude along the way. For more track info please visit the Dept of Conservation website
An added bonus is the release of juvenile rowi kiwi into the forest surrounding Lake Gault. The rowi is New Zealand’s rarest kiwi species and numbered just 160 back in 1995. Since then a DOC intensive recovery programme has successfully increased numbers to the extent that they needed a new release site for some of their juveniles and Lake Gault was chosen as their new home. 27 juvenile rowi were released in December 2018 and the hope is that they will successfully adapt to their new home. For the first time in many years it will be possible to hear the calls of the rowi kiwi as they make the forest around Lake Gault their own. Rowi are special in that both the male and female take turns in sitting on their egg and juveniles can stay with their family group for several years. Kiwis are slow to breed, hatching on average just one chick a year – many of which fall prey to stoats and other predators. Please ensure you follow all guidelines around tramping in areas close to kiwi populations – more information can be found on the DOC website.
Lake Gault History:
The West Coast of New Zealand offers a fascinating insight into the life of early Western settlers and the days of the gold rush. The original Lake Gault track was hand cut back in the 1930’s to service a hydroelectric power station which powered a mining dredge used to search for gold at nearby Gillespie Beach. By this time the real boom time of the gold rush was well and truly over but the dredge was used from 1932 -1945 with some success. After this the track fell into disrepair and was abandoned. However it wasn’t forgotten entirely and the locals of Fox Glacier in partnership with the Department of Conservation (DOC) worked hard for over a year to reopen the track in 2019. Due to the hard work of volunteers this scenic walkway is once again available for everyone to experience.
We look forward to welcoming trampers and visitors to this historic West Coast walking track.
*What fitness does an Intermediate Walking Track require?
The Lake Gault Walkway is an intermediate walking track which means while the track is mostly well formed and well marked, there may be sections which are muddy, on a steeper gradient or are rough underfoot. We recommend you wear hiking/tramping boots and take appropriate clothing and provisions with you.
As this is a 3-5 hour return walk, we would recommend you have a little tramping experience before you go. For more information check the DOC website for track grading information Please always check conditions before starting out on a tramp. This track is not recommended in heavy rain.