Parachute Rocks – St Arnaud Range

Are you looking for a challenging day walk with spectacular views of wondrous mountain peaks and lakes…well check out Parachute Rocks!

Located in the beautiful Nelson Lakes National Park. This walk offers stunning views of Lake Rotoiti and even better views from the top of the St Arnaud Range. From the lake’s edge, it’s a 700-metre climb to the rocks and a further 200 metres to the ridge top. I definitely recommend climbing onto the range…you will be rewarded with breathtaking views of alpine tarns, mountain peaks as far as the eye can see, and the ever-impressive Lake Rotoiti. Allow 5 hours return for the 1000 metre climb.

Route Description

From the edge of Lake Rotoiti at Kerr Bay, follow the Lakehead Track to the turn-off for the St Arnaud Range Track. Turn left onto the track, it’s an easy-to-follow track with the first stage of the climb gentle. After 20 minutes the loop track junction is reached, cross the Borlase Stream and follow the track upstream. Eventually, the track will leave the stream and start its steady climb through beech forest zig-zagging its way to the bushline and Parachute Rocks. As you gain altitude the trees will become stunted allowing views of the lake and Mount Robert. It also gives a good gauge of how far you have climbed.

I was curious to know how the rocks got their name, so did some research and discovered they were named from a parachute-shaped gravel scree just to the north of them. This fans out like a parachute.

For those climbing onto the range, follow the snow poles to the top. It’s a little steeper than the bush track and offers some great views all the way to the top. From here you will see the Richmond Ranges to the North, the Wairau Valley and many alpine tarns to the East. To the West is the Kahurangi National Park and to the South is the Nelson Lakes National Park…including Mount Robert directly across.

Return to Kerr Bay the same way. Have fun, and take plenty of water and food…this is definitely a fabulous day walk!

Getting there

Head for the alpine village of St Arnaud which is on State Highway 63. Coming from the north, take State Highway 63 from Blenheim, 103 kilometres. From the south, State Highway 6 from Murchison and then State Highway 63 onto St Arnaud, 80 kilometres. From Nelson it’s 88 kilometres.

From St Arnaud, turn into Kerr Bay Road and follow until the lake or the Visitors Centre if you plan to park there. It’s well signposted you can’t miss it.

What to Take

These items pretty much live in my day pack. For more info on what to take tramping check out my post on what to take.  

  • Water
  • Food
  • A waterproof jacket or raincoat
  • Sturdy and comfortable footwear
  • Thermal and fleece clothing for warmth
  • Hat and gloves
  • Sunglasses and sunscreen
  • An Emergency First Aid Kit
  • A Map and GPS 


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Learn more about NZ’s amazing walks!

Interested in seeing more of the country’s incredible natural beauty? Take a look around the website to learn about other outdoor adventures, such as Lake Waikaremoana. It’s the only way to truly see New Zealand!

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