Straddling the Southern Alps, known to Māori as Ka Tiritiri o Te Moana (Steep Peak of Glistening White), this vast alpine wilderness became the South Island's first national park in 1929. Of its 1144 sq km, two-thirds lies on the Canterbury side of the main divide; the rest is in Westland. It is a rugged, mountainous area, cut by deep valleys, and ranging in altitude from 245m at the Taramakau River to 2408m at Mt Murchison.
There are plenty of well-marked day tramps throughout the park, especially around Arthur's Pass village. Pick up a copy of DOC's Discover Arthur's Pass booklet to read about popular tramps, including: the Arthur's Pass Walkway, a reasonably easy track from the village to the Dobson Memorial at the summit of the pass (2½ hours return); the one-hour return walk to Devils Punchbowl falls; and the steep walk to beautiful views at Temple Basin (three hours return). More challenging, full-day options include the Bealey Spur track and the classic summit hike to Avalanche Peak.
The park's many multiday trails are mostly valley routes with saddle climbs in between, such as Goat Pass and Cass-Lagoon Saddles Tracks, both two-day options. These and the park's longer tracks require previous hiking experience as flooding can make the rivers dangerous and the weather is extremely changeable. Always seek advice from DOC before setting out.