Mount Aspiring National Park
Roads only skirt the edge of this huge park, which compels you to hike, boat, and fly to see it. Only a winged, hoofed super-creature could possibly see the majority of Aspiring's wilderness. Daunting yet tantalizing: that's the magic draw of this unspoiled landscape.
At 355,000 hectares (877,224 acres), Mount Aspiring is the country's third-largest national park. The park's namesake mountain is only one of numerous geological wonders. The area has yielded much pounamu or greenstone, and the famous Otago schist featured in the architecture of the gateway communities. One unusual stretch of peaks is known as the Red Hills, where the toxic minerals in the soil rendered the landscape barren (and a deep rusty red). Most of the park is marked by beech forest and wildflowered valleys, with snow tussock grasslands and alpine herb fields above the snowline. The park is home to the famous Routeburn Track, a three-day Great Walk, and dozens of shorter hikes. Gateway communities include lively Wanaka, which offers a multitude of choices for lodging, dining, shopping, and those rewarding post-hike pints.