Lake Chalice Hut

  • Untitled photo
  • Untitled photo
  • Untitled photo

Lake Chalice hut is an 8 bed, 4 bunk hut nestled in next to a little stream in the Mount Richmond Forest Park. Facilities include a fireplace, out house/toilet, mattresses and if you are lucky, dry, chopped firewood. The altitude of Lake Chalice hut is 760 metres above sea level, so the fireplace definitely comes in handy at night. From the hut it is a ten minute stroll to the lake front.   

Getting There

The track to Lake Chalice starts 5 km north of Renwick. After crossing the Wairau River bridge, turn off SH6 onto Northbank Road. Follow this for 33 km then turn right into Top Valley Road when you see the Lake Chalice sign. Our navigation system told us to carry on and ignore the sign, which ended up being the wrong decision as we eventually came to a locked gate. By this point you will have lost reception, so if all else fails, just follow the sign! Continue for 6 km then turn into Staircase Road and follow this for 18 km to the car park. The gravel road weaves its way up hill through forest, eventually revealing some incredible views, just be wary of pot holes!



Snow covered hills surrounding Lake Chalice

Untitled photo

Views looking back toward Blenheim

Untitled photo

By the time you reach the carpark, you will be at roughly 1250m above sea level. The track descends down a reasonably steep gradient, eventually dropping to 760m upon reaching the hut. It took us around 45 minutes to descend. The hike back to the car the next day was pretty tiring, but that was probably more because of the fact i had a lot of camera gear with me spread across 2 bags. It took about exactly an hour to make it back up. 

Lake Chalice from the start of the walk

Untitled photo

Snow on the ground at the start of the walk (August)

Untitled photo

The hut itself is pretty basic, but comfortable. The fire place even has an element on top which is useful to boil water or heat a tin of beans. You might need to play around with the air vents to get the fire cranking like it should, it took us a little while to work this out. The fire worked a lot better once we cleared out all the old ash. One thing i would definitely recommend bringing are some candles, as once it gets dark you very quickly run out of things to do. The hut is not very well insulated, so once the fire went out, it got pretty cold again. It would definitely pay to get up in the night and put more wood on the fire

Inside The Hut

Back Country Beer Cooler

Untitled photo

The lake itself is beautiful when conditions are calm, which we experienced when we first started doing the loop track. As the morning went on however, the wind picked up and the lake went from being like a mirror to being pretty choppy. The loop track was advertised as taking 2.5 hours, but we completed it in just under 2 hours. There are a couple of little waterfalls along the track. Keep an eye out for different mushrooms hidden in the bush too,  including a mushroom named Cortinarius porphyroideus, which is a striking purple colour.


In terms of photography, the lake is quite difficult to shoot. Because it is nestled in amongst the surrounding hills, it loses sunlight very early in the afternoon. It also doesn't get much natural light until late morning too, making capturing striking images quite difficult. The night sky at the lake was very good however, with no noticeable light pollution from Blenheim or from Nelson, resulting in some good Milky Way images. Scroll down some more to see a time-lapse i left running while i slept. 

Untitled photo

Lake Chalice Tracked Milky Way Time-lapse

To sum up my little getaway to Lake Chalice Hut, it was an awesome place to escape for a night. It really felt like you were hours and hours away from civilisation, when really you are only an hours drive from Renwick, positioned in the hills between Blenheim and Nelson. It was just what i needed to switch off from civilisation for 12 hours. 


I would recommend Lake Chalice hut to beginner trampers and families with kids, who want to experience spending a night in a back country hut but don't want to venture too far into the wilderness. Reading the guest book it sounds like there are a lot of wild goats and deer roaming the surrounding areas, so i imagine it is probably a good spot for hunters to base themselves while out in the bush. We even saw a herd of about 6 goats as we were driving out.


Photography wise it is a tough spot as i mentioned earlier in the blog. The lack of light makes it very tricky and there is not much foreground to work with, especially when the wind picks up and you can't rely on the lake reflections. The stars were shining brightly however, so astro photography and star gazing here is pretty decent.


Thanks for reading. To see more of my work please see my Website and Facebook page. If you have any more questions regarding visiting Lake Chalice, don't hesitate to flick me and email.


Happy trails!