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black Gillespie Pass Circuit

  5.0 ( 1 )

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20.3 mile 32.6 kilometer point to point


Ascent: 5,711' 1,741 m
Descent: -5,703' -1,738 m
High: 5,261' 1,604 m
Low: 1,000' 305 m


Avg Grade: 11% (6°)
Max Grade: 73% (36°)


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Trail shared by Almonzo Wilder

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A challenging circuit spanning two major valley systems via a stunning alpine crossing.

Almonzo Wilder

Features Birding · River/Creek · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife


The Gillespie Circuit is a spectacular two to four day route that traverses the Young and Siberia Valleys in Mount Aspiring National Park. A climb over stunning Gillespie Pass joins the two valleys, and an optional side-trip to Crucible Lake makes for a truly remarkable tramp.

Need to Know

The Young and Siberia Huts can be used to avoid carrying a tent on this walk.

The Makarora River can be challenging to cross at both ends of the walk. At low water, it can be forded near its confluence with both the Young and Wilkin Rivers. However, the river is likely to be uncrossable on foot after rain or during times of snow melt. To enter the Young Valley at the start of the circuit, the Blue Pools Trailhead offers an alternative bridged crossing of the Makarora River and trail connection to Young, but adds 7km of walking and the need to walk or hitch along Highway 6 to get to the trailhead. Alternatively, a jet boat ferry service can be arranged from Makarora town for reasonable cost.

The circuit as described here ends at Kerin Forks, where jet boat ferry service can be arranged ahead of time for return transport to Makarora. The alternative is an unremarkable 15km hike out the Wilkin River Valley, with a ford of the Makarora River at the end.


The Gillespie Pass Circuit is a popular but challenging tramp in Mount Aspiring National Park. The walk starts at the town of Makarora, where you'll need to negotiate a crossing of the Makarora River to get to the mouth of the Young River - see 'Need to Know' for details.

The track heads up the Young Valley on the true left of the Young River. The going is generally easy through beautiful riverside forest and meadows as far as the bridge at Young Forks, where a campsite with an open shelter and toilet can be found. Beyond this point the going slows as the valley steepens considerably. A beautiful bridged crossing of Stag Creek is a highlight of this section. The Young Hut (20 beds, no reservations), which is comfortable and modern, is in the forest about an hour below treeline.

Above the hut the walk climbs steeply to the Young Basin, a spectacular cirque dominated by the glaciated Mount Awful looming above and wildflowers in the meadows. For those not staying in the hut, campsites abound in the Young Basin.

After a beautiful and fairly level walk through Young Basin a sign points the way up to Gillespie Pass. Here the trail leaves the valley and climbs directly up a steep spur to the ridgeline above. There is no dependable water above the Young Basin, so load up before the ascent. After an approximately 500 meter climb, the trail finally tops out at Gillespie Pass, where awesome views extend in all directions, and give your first glimpse of the Gillespie and Siberia Valleys below. Look for kea, rock wrens, pipits, and chamois in this alpine landscape.

The track meanders along the ridgeline for about a kilometer with non-stop vistas before descending steeply into Gillespie Valley. At the bottom of the valley, near the confluence of Gillespie and Siberia Streams, a beautiful wild campsite is tucked beside the trail. Just beyond in the Siberia Valley, look for the signed intersection with the Crucible Lake Track, which is an outstanding side trip (allow 6-8 hours return).

The Gillespie Circuit continues down the Siberia Valley, where the Siberia Hut (20 beds, no reservations) is reached about 45 minutes from the Crucible Lake junction. This is a comfortable hut situated below a waterfall where a ranger is usually on duty. There are beautiful views and nice tent sites scattered around the area. Downstream from the hut, the track follows Siberia Stream through open meadows before entering a quiet forest and descending to the Wilkin River. Here signs point the way to the jet boat pick up location, or it's possible to walk down the river some 15km back to Makarora town.

Flora & Fauna

Forested sections of the walk are home to some interesting birds, including Yellowhead, Long-tailed Cuckoo, Yellow-crowned Parakeet, Rifleman, Tomtit, and more. Blue Ducks can be found on any of the waterways - check the upper Young River, in particular. Above treeline look for Rock Wren (historically found near Gillespie Pass), Kea, and Pipits.


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Dec 29, 2017
Dave McBride
Mar 31, 2017
Ron mccartney

Trail Ratings

  5.0 from 1 vote


  5.0 from 1 vote
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Anonymous User
Anonymous User  
So it's allowed to camp in your tent if you don't want to stay in the huts? I couldn't find anything about camping sites on the track. Nov 19, 2015
Ron mccartney
Ron mccartney   Queensland
We did this hike on 31/1. very well marked track, huts were very nice. the tracks always had various hand and foot hold options which was very nice. going over the pass was made tougher by gale force winds, rain and snow. A few hairy moments going up where you just had to hang on. going down the other side was nice. the day trip to crucible lake was great and well worth it. Apr 11, 2017
I just came back from (partly) doing this hike and want to leave behind some good info for those who wish to do this track. My advice is: 1) set aside more than 4 days to do this route. Its pretty common to get bad weather in this area at all times during the year. So, set aside 6-7 days for this hike just in case you come across bad weather that doesn't allow you to go forward. We faced torrential rain for 2 days that forced us to turn around from Young Hut because we didn't budget enough time or food. 2) With 1 in mind, bring enough food for the whole trip plus 2 extra days in case you or your friends need it, or you need to spend another day at Siberia Hut/ Keran Forks because you need to wait for the plane or jetboat to have space to take you out. 3) Just because the elevation for the first 8 miles (or any section of the trail where the elevation profile map shows no elevation change) doesn't increase that much doesn't mean that this section of the trail is easy. Its not. This route requires frequent rock scrambling, fording streams and rough footpatches. It is often slow going, so wake up early and expect to spend 12 hours or more hiking. 4) Also because of 1), bring good rain gear and waterproof gloves! Bring appropriate weather accessories! 5) I didn't find the need to bring a tent or a water purification method. Shelter is provided by way of the huts and each has clean water. There is even clean water at the Young Campsite. 6) Sandflies don't do well in windy areas. 7) The blue pools track is also slow going. It is almost entirely one huge rock scramble. Avoid if possible. 8) If you don't want to get your pack wet, don't ford the Makarora river alone. Link arms with at least one other person, even if it is only up to your knees. 9) The Makarora Visitor Center is pretty nice. Don't mean to scare anyone, but this hike is totally worth it! Would do it again! Dec 29, 2018

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