Hurunui Hot Pools

Hurunui Hot Pools

Hurunui Hot Pools are a small terraced hot pools large enough to fit three to four people in Lake Sumner Forest Park. They are located far deep within the forest park along the Te Araroa trail accessible on foot (or by bike if you’re skilled enough). The most direct approach to reach these hot pools is to travel from the end of a public road at Lake Taylor. This will take you past Hurunui Hut where we stayed a night. Hurunui Hot Pools are certainly adequately warm to relax and soak in for a good long period of time. So much so that after 5-10 minute you’ll probably feel the need to refresh yourself in the forest air. There’s an abundance of sandflies near the pools. Ensure you’re towel, clothes and insect repellent are nearby and handy for an efficient exit.


2 hours


9.0 km


205 m





Zach & Tobias enjoying a cold one in the hot pool

42°41′41″S 172°02′51″E

In Detail

To reach Hurunui Hot Pools, reaching Hurunui Hut is the first step. The most efficient way of covering off the wide flat vehicle track from Lake Taylor is to mountain bike the section right the way up to the Hurunui River swing bridge which links the Hope Kiwi Track to the Harper Pass track. Alternatively you could approach from along the Harper Pass track over multiple days from Hurunui Hut No. 3 Hut. Reaching Hurunui Hut is the quickest and most simple approach to getting there. If you’re walking in it’s a long way considering the terrain and the kilometres you need to cover. Taking a lighter pack and trail shoes (rather than boots) for the journey.

Taking a good swig from the can before preparing to defend his body against an army of blood thirsty sandflies

Hurunui Hot Pools Route

The route into the Hurunui Hot Pools is relatively straightforward, following the well marked Harper Pass track (a part of Te Araroa trail). This post assumes that you have already made it to Hurunui Hut. A large portion of the track finds you following the Hurunui River alongside through the forest. Locating the hot pools is the most difficult part of the whole adventure. Eventually you should reach a section along the track that starts smelling like sulphur. A distinct stream that is well marked by it’s sludge and may have some steam coming off it. If you’re alongside the river it’s a simple climb up to a point along the river that juts out slightly. From here orange markers lead you back towards the hot pools.

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Lake Sumner Forest Park Weather

The weather in Lake Sumner Forest Park can usually be relatively stable being sheltered from the western wind and rain. Even when it may be raining or drizzling the track is a relatively good option. Reasonable sections of track beyond Hurunui Hut are undercover from surrounding trees. If a large amount of rain falls, the surrounding rivers can swell up quickly. Fortunately to reach Hurunui Hot Pools there are no major river crossings along the way, just a number of ankle deep stream crossings that can be jumped across, although these will also swell during heavy periods of rain.

Hurunui Hut

Hurunui Hut is the start and end point for this adventure. If you’re walking Te Araroa you likely won’t want to be retracing your steps and will continue on to Hurunui No.3 Hut along the Harper Pass track. The hut is a comfortable large 16 bunk hut with two levels of Maori style bunks along with a third platform situated on the western wall. Water is available from the tanks outside the hut along with their being a toilet in the fringes of the bush. Drop off your heavy gear (sleeping bag, cookware, food) at the hut and take a smaller lighter hut to the hot pools. The round trip return to Hurunui Hut takes two hours, or approximately an hour to reach the hot pools.


16 bunks


Fire place, Mattress, Water



Hurunui Hut basking in the morning light

Te Araroa Trail to Hurunui Hot Pools

The trails from Hurunui Hut begins from around the west end of the hut leading through the forest marked by the usual orange triangles. The first section is well formed and would be relatively easy to ride. Before long you’ll reach a washout along the track. Looking from the point where the track ends, the track begins at the edge of the forest. To get there you’ll have to make your way through a dispersed field of matagouri along the banks picking out the best goat tracks you can find.

Top: Beginning the run through the forest towards the Hurunui River
Middle Left: Toby, followed by Zach running along the Te Araroa Trail
Middle Right: A clear washout along the track that requires some navigation en route to the hot pools
Looking out across the Hurunui River towards the Southern Alps

Grasslands alongside Hurunui River

Along your way to Hurunui Hot Pools there is a lengthy section of grass and shrub that can be covered at a fast walk to speed up your trip too and from. From the end of this section there is a DOC sign with times for Hurunui No. 3 Hut, Mackenzie Hut and Mackenzie Biv. According to DOC it should be approximately a further 2.5 hours from this point before you reach Hurunui No. 3 Hut. It’s also an approximate halfway point between Hurunui Hut and Hurunui Hot Pools.

Top: Running along the open grassy plains for what felt like a decent chunk of the walk in
Zach reaching a DOC sign an alternative turn-off to Mackenzie Hut and Mackenzie Biv

Along the track there are a number of stream crossing you’ll make through the forest, between the grassy plains and the hot pools. You should be able to count at least three significant stream crossings from the DOC sign before you reach the Hot Pools. None of these streams are significant enough to get your feet wet if you rock hop. The final section of track is deep within the forest where you should find yourself smelling a sulphurous as you approach.

Top: Tobias stretching the legs to avoid getting his feet wet over a river crossing through the bush
Zach stretching out in mid-air before reaching another rock avoiding getting his feet wet along the trail
Bottom: Tobias and Zach making their way through the forest along the Te Araroa trail

Locating Hurunui Hot Pools

Locating Hurunui Hot Pools can be a bit of a mission when they are tucked in the bush relatively well. A key indicator to look out for is the water stream pictures below. If you follow the stream up you’ll find that it’s the outlet of the hot spring. If you find yourself in the bush do your best to follow your nose smelling for that sulphurous scent. Using a map, phone with a topographical map application or GPS can be helpful. During our reconnaissance trip we ended up climbing further up into the bush before dropping back down to the track to find the pools.

Top: The final outlet of the Hurunui Hot Pool stream seen alongside the river bank
Bottom Left:
Looking from the Hurunui River bank up through the forest to the Hot Pools
Bottom Right:
Further along the short track towards the hot pools, an orange triangle marker can be seen on the tree

Hurunui Hot Pools

Hurunui Hot Pools have a small inlet flowing down a rock face that feeds the hot pools followed by a smaller outlet that leads down a further rock face. They’re hidden from the track but not unnoticeable if you look, eventually you’ll stumble across the pools. As mentioned earlier, ensure you’re towel, insect repellent and clothes are out ready to put on soon after you’ve dried off. The sandflies around here are feisty and are present in the droves. Having a pair of slides, jandals or slip ons can help you to escape the sandflies a little bit faster without damaging your feet.

Zach eyeing up his drink as he & Tobi enjoy the warmth of Hurunui Hot Pools

As the warning sign states, do not immerse your head under the water, drink the water from the stream or jump into the hot pools. Doing so can result in serious damage to For more information about Amoebic Meningitis and it’s fatal health risks refer to Health Ed from the New Zealand government. Fill your water bottle up upstream along the Hurunui River, where the water should be relatively safe to drink.

Clockwise from Top Left
A DOC sign describing the health warnings alerting people to not put their head under the water
The steaming trickle that feeds the hot pools flowing through a lot of goop and moss before reaching the pool itself.
Zach and Tobias making a dash to avoid the sandflies as they run down the hill to get their cold fix in the Hurunui River
Reaching the final drops of beer in his can, fuelling a taste for adventure

Hurunui River

For the complete Hot ‘n Cold experience you can soak in the hot pools until your steaming hot and then run back down along the trail to the Hurunui Hut. At the same point that you left the main trail there are a number of good rocks that jut out from the area that make for an ideal spot to jump in and freshen up. Collect your towel, and gear on your way down to avoid the worst of the sandfly infestation around the hot pools.

Top: Looking through the forest down towards Tobias wading to the river bank after a plunge into the river
A trio sequence of Tobias taking a bomb plunge into the Hurunui River

Return Journey from Hurunui Hot Pools

The return journey back to Hurunui Hut follows the same entire track that you took to get to Hurunui Hot Pools. Dry your feet off well to prevent any major blisters forming and tuck a warm hat over your head to prevent you losing too much heat along the walk back (especially if it’s cold in winter). It takes a similar time (one hour) to reach Hurunui Hut as it does to locate Hurunui Hot Pools.

Zach and Tobias packing up their gear, drying off before returning via the same track to Hurunui Hut