By: Christopher Cookson
Access to Lake Chalice is via the North Bank Road, which connects to State Highway 6 between Blenheim and Nelson just north of the Wairau River bridge. Follow the North Bank Road west to Top Valley, and then take the Top Valley Road until the Staircase Road that ascends through plantation pine forest to reach the Mount Richmond Forest Park conservation. Follow the road past Enchanted Lookout, to the Lake Chalice Carpark.
The road is unsealed and rough, but in good conditions it is usually suitable for two wheel drive vehicles, however it may be closed due to bad weather or forestry operations, so it is important to check with DOC (Department of Conservation).
From the Lake Chalice carpark, a steep track descends to the lake where there is a standard eight bunk hut. Sandflies are common, and wasps may be a problem so it is important to carry insect repellent and antihistamine. From the hut, a relatively flat loop track circumnavigates the lake passing through native beech forest.
DOC estimates an hour to descend to the lake, and slightly longer for the return, with an estimate of two and a half hours for the loop around the lake. DOC estimates are usually conservative, so fit walkers will usually be able to complete a hike in less time, however if you have children, or want to stop frequently to observe the natural history in the area, you may take longer. It is certainly possible to descend to the lake, complete the loop track, and return to the carpark as a day trip, however if you want a more leisurely expedition, or want to explore some of the other tracks in the area that can be reached at either end of the lake, you may want to stay a night or two in the hut. If you intend to stay, you will need to purchase hut tickets.