The overnight tramp to Jubilee Hut in the Silver Peaks offers great views and good track and hut facilities. This combined with proximity to Dunedin makes this overnight round trip well worth the effort.

The departure point for the first day is only 25 minutes’ drive North of Dunedin. It can fairly be described as Dunedin’s backyard. There would be few overnight tramping circuits more accessible to a major New Zealand city.

The carpark is on Mountain Road reached via Double Hill Road off State Highway 1 just North of Waitati. The track goes via the former Green Hut site and climbs to Pulpit Rock, almost the highest point in the Silver Peaks at 670m. The elevation allowed us to appreciate views toward the Rock and Pillar Range, Strath Taieri, and sweeps of the Otago coast.

This is a popular day walk for locals. However, on our March trip the only people we encountered on the track were a farming couple returning from Jubilee Hut with their two young grandchildren.

Beyond Pulpit Rock we were surrounded by further impressive views gaining a perspective of the landscape to the North. From the trail among tussock, Astelia, and sub-alpine turpentine scrub the delightfully named Painted Forest emerged on our left. This is an area of beech forest that appears to be happily regenerating.

Tracks in this region are maintained by a commendable and energetic group of volunteers known as the Green Hut Track group. They devote a day a week to maintaining much of the extensive track network in the Silver Peaks and Silverstream areas.

The descent to Jubilee Hut is via the Devil’s Staircase, a steep and rocky portion of the track. It was useful to have a walking pole at hand. Jubilee Hut appears in the distance as you descend among rocky outcrops to a creek.

There are good camping sites by the creek, which in summer would be an inviting option with shade among mature beech trees. We were thrilled to get some good views of a fernbird in this area. These scrub-dwelling shy natives are seldom seen but the Silver Peaks seem a stronghold for them.

The single room new build (2007) overlooks the creek below and the site of an earlier hut. While we idled away time on the hut porch in the late afternoon a pair of native falcons appeared overhead and returned the next morning – a memorable sight.

In the morning the sun tidied up the day, evaporating fog fragments as we climbed via the ABC caves to Yellow Ridge. The caves hold a sleeping platform offering a rudimentary overnight option with stargazing opportunities. Fresh pig sign was evident among the tussock in a number of places along Yellow Ridge but the expansive views were the feature of this part of the track. Much of the track is along exposed ridges and open country and, although our journey was in fine conditions, poor weather would make it unpleasant – pick your weather window.

On arriving at the modern four-bunk Philip J. Cox Memorial Hut it was time for a cuppa. Onward, and a steep descent through kanuka and remnant totara took us to the south branch of Waikouaiti River, with a stop or two to sample fat ripe blackberries along the way.

The steep climb from the river to Mountain Road was under a Douglas fir plantation. Then it was what seemed a long journey back to the car along the gravel road, completing the circuit.