New Zealand,  We12hike

Bushline Hut: an easy alpine backcountry in Nelson Lakes National Park

All of us travelers are looking for special places, those that the big masses of tourists skip because they are in a hurry to see as much as they can. Or that they don’t bother going to because it may not be on the list of top-things to see … When I travel in New Zealand I obviously try to see the highlights. However, during my more recent travels I also enjoyed places that are not on everyone’s list. One of them is Nelson Lakes National Park with the perfectly located Bushline Hut.

This article first appeared online in 2018 and was updated in 2024 after my most recent visit to New Zealand.

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View from Bushline Hut above the treeline

For this article I have to say thanks to a Kiwi named Paul. He’s an avid tramper who currently lives in The Netherlands and has hiked many trails in his native country. He advised me about the best trails to hike and advised me to head to Bushline Hut already in 2011. I revisited many years later, only to found out its location is just as stunning but there are a few more trampers now, as with the rest of New Zealand.

Where to find Bushline Hut

Although you would expect the town of Nelson to be close to the Nelson Lakes National Park because of it’s name, it’s still quite a drive (about 75 minutes) and the town closest is actually the village of St. Arnaud. There’s not a whole lot to do here and at first sight it didn’t seem very welcoming. However, there is more than the eye can see because right in its backyard lies the beauty of Lake Rotoiti, one of the lakes in the Nelson Lakes National Park. The other one is Lake Rotoroa which is way less accessible and therefore even receives less visitors.

The Bushline Hut is located just above the treeline of Lake Rotoiti. To get to the trailhead, take the Mt. Robert Road, where at the end you will find the parking lot. The trail up to Bushline Hut is a circular track, you can take two routes up.

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The trailmap
hike to Bushline hut
The map up close

The hike up to Bushline Hut

There’s two ways to reach Bushline Hut: via the Pinchgut Track (2.5 hrs one way) or Paddy’s Track (2 hrs one way). Both trails up are steep, however the Paddy’s Track is definitely the easier one. I hiked both trails up. When taking the Pinchgut Track, the first part of the hike up was just zigs zags up a steep slope through a beech forest. After about an hour and a half I reached the base of the clouds that had appeared and all views were gone. You can climb Mount Roberts along the way but I had zero views.

During my second time at Bushline Hut, I took Paddy’s Track up. It was once again a cloudy day but I got views until all the way at the bushline this time. The trail was pretty worn but still in good condition if you compare it to some other tracks I’ve tramped in New Zealand.

Paddy's Track on a cloudy day
Paddy’s Track on a cloudy day
Paddy's Track on a sunny day
Paddy’s Track on a sunny day

Staying in Bushline Hut

Bushline Hut went from a standard hut to a serviced hut during recent years, meaning that they have mattresses, water supply, toilets, handwashing facilities and heating with fuel available. They may have cooking facilities with fuel and a warden.

There are 14 beds in Busline Hut and reservations are required, they can be made on the Department of Conservation website.

You will need to bring all you need for your overnight: a sleeping bag, a cooking stove and gas, food etc. I’d also recommend to carry a water filter (I use the Sawyer Squeeze) as water is not safely drinkable at the hut.

I found staying at Bushline Hut super cozy. Not just because of the location, but also because both times I stayed there, I was one of the few (I stayed in November, so pre-season) and the weather was just insane. Somehow, going to bed in the clouds and then waking up in full sunshine the next morning has something magic to it.

Bushline Hut in the clouds
Bushline Hut in the clouds
Early morning at Bushline Hut
Early morning at Bushline Hut

Onwards to Angelus Hut

On my second time around, I hiked onwards to Angelus Hut from Bushline Hut. Given the fact that the hike to Angelus Hut is quite hard, I figured it would be good to have already done a major section of the hike. The hike to Angelus Hut is strenuous and only for experienced hikers.

You can read my full story on Angelus Hut here.

If you want to hike a bit further up from Bushline Hut, the first hour after is quite an easygoing walk. After that, it becomes strenuous but even during the first section, the views will be amazing!

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At the crossing of the Paddy’s Track and Pinchgut Track

For who is the hike to Bushline Hut?

I’d only recommend this hike to those who are used to hiking in alpine environment and used to doing a steady climb up. It’s a relatively easy hike to an alpine hut in the Nelson Lakes National Park and gives you an insight of what tramping on a non-Great Walk is like.

New Zealand multi day hike packing list

Below I have mentioned my essentials for carrying when doing an overnight hike in New Zealand and staying at huts. Always make sure to check if the below applies for the hut you’re staying at as options may change throughout the season.

  • A 35-50 liter backpack, I have the Osprey Aura AG 50
  • A sleeping bag for the huts, I have this one.
  • A liner if you wish, I carry a silk one that almost weighs nothing but adds warmth.
  • An inflatable pillow
  • A cooking stove and gas.
  • A lightweight mug, pocket knife, spork and pan. 
  • Dry bags for my clothes and valuables.
  • Water filter. I have the Sawyer Squeeze.
  • Food and at least two liters of water per day.
  • A powerbank.
  • My Kobo Clara for evening reading.
  • Headlight
  • Quick dry towel.
  • Clothes: hiking shoes (I hiked on the HOKA Challenger), hiking pants, a woolen shirt, long johns, socks, underwear, hat, mittens, a buff. 
  • Raingear: I have a Fjällräven rain jacket plus a rainpants.
  • Hut shoes, I usually bring my Crocs.
  • First aid kit
  • Sunscreen, sunglasses.
  • Emergency blanket.
  • Ziplocks for waste.
  • Toilet paper.
  • Garmin inReach Mini 2 (there is no mobile coverage on most of the track)
  • Insect repellent and a Bite Away.
  • Trekking poles.

Booking your trip

If you’ve found this article useful, I hope you make use of the following links to book your trip to New Zealand:


I have been to Bushline Hut twice and would happily go again. The hut’s beautiful location and silence of nature offer the best New Zealand has to offer.

Want to read more? You may also enjoy the following posts:

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