Big Hill – Arrow River Circuit, Arrowtown NZ

A nice circuit walk out the back of Arrowtown, taking in tussock country on Big Hill (1137m), & a section of the Arrow River and Gorge.

Big Hill & Arrow Gorge Circuit, Arrowtown

This was another great walk out the back of Arrowtown near Queenstown. The route first climbs steadily from the edge of town steadily to Big Hill Saddle, passing through a mix of vegetation including a pleasant stand of beech forest. Then it’s up and over Big Hill itself, with views of the region’s typically wrinkly, tussock grass covered topography that looks particularly attractive in winter lighting.

This walk has the added advantage of being a circuit, although note that it requires crossing the Arrow River three times. This could be dangerous or impossible after heavy rain. If this is a problem then you could return from Big Hill and it would still be a nice day out. Track notes at the end.

Big Hill – Arrow River Circuit: The Scenery

Big Hill & Arrow Gorge Circuit, Arrowtown
My second time to see a tree covered in fungus like this.
Big Hill & Arrow Gorge Circuit, Arrowtown
Nice muted colours down there.
Big Hill & Arrow Gorge Circuit, Arrowtown
Various mushrooms I saw in the beech forest.
Big Hill & Arrow Gorge Circuit, Arrowtown
This beech forest adds welcome variety to this section of the walk.
Big Hill & Arrow Gorge Circuit, Arrowtown
Brow Peak at the back.
Big Hill & Arrow Gorge Circuit, Arrowtown
Looking over towards the Wakatipu Basin.
Big Hill & Arrow Gorge Circuit, Arrowtown
Climbing the last bit to Big Hill (1137m).
Big Hill & Arrow Gorge Circuit, Arrowtown
The ridge leading to Brow Peak. This is a great walk.
Big Hill & Arrow Gorge Circuit, Arrowtown
My wife Sophia backed by wrinkly topography along Soho Creek.
Big Hill & Arrow Gorge Circuit, Arrowtown
Tussock country up on Big Hill.
Big Hill & Arrow Gorge Circuit, Arrowtown
Nice muted colours and shadows.
Big Hill & Arrow Gorge Circuit, Arrowtown
Lumpy glacial topography in the Wakatipu Basin
Big Hill & Arrow Gorge Circuit, Arrowtown
Views just before we dropped off the tops down to Hayes Creek.
Big Hill & Arrow Gorge Circuit, Arrowtown
A panorama of the views just before we dropped off the tops down to Hayes Creek.
Big Hill & Arrow Gorge Circuit, Arrowtown
Looking down towards our way out (to the right).
Big Hill & Arrow Gorge Circuit, Arrowtown
Evidence of human alterations to the landscape as we dropped down to Hayes Creek, possibly ex mining operations. There were also sheep nearby.
Big Hill & Arrow Gorge Circuit, Arrowtown
I thought this cottage may be derelict at first but as I got closer it looked in habitable condition (I didn’t actually get close enough to look inside). Not sure what it is used for as it is pretty cut off from the world.
Big Hill & Arrow Gorge Circuit, Arrowtown
Nice colours here in the afternoon light as we neared Hayes Creek.
Big Hill & Arrow Gorge Circuit, Arrowtown
The Arrow Gorge.
Big Hill & Arrow Gorge Circuit, Arrowtown
Quite rugged scenery on this section of the walk, which was entirely on a vehicle track.
Big Hill & Arrow Gorge Circuit, Arrowtown
The Arrow Gorge
Big Hill & Arrow Gorge Circuit, Arrowtown
The Arrow River down there.
Big Hill & Arrow Gorge Circuit, Arrowtown
Interesting rock striation on the walls of the gorge.
Big Hill & Arrow Gorge Circuit, Arrowtown
Thankfully there was a foot bridge over the Arrow River further downstream. This is looking back down at it from the track that joins up with the end of the Sawpit Gully Loop, and the easy walk back to the start (if you have walked clockwise).

Track Notes

Big Hill & Arrow Gorge Circuit, Arrowtown
Tracked except for a poled route over Big Hill and down to Hayes Creek (walking clockwise). The track down along Hayes Creek was a bit overgrown. When you leave Hayes Creek you have to cross the Arrow River three times and will get wet feet. It may be dangerous / impassable after rain.

Starting at the car park near the historic Chinese miner’s settlement, and if walking clockwise, head off up the Bush Creek Track (part of the Sawpit Gully Circuit) and take a right up the hill on a section of the Te Araroa Trail. Follow this all the way to Big Hill Saddle, and then up and over the hill following a poled route. You eventually drop down to Hayes Creek, past a cottage, and the track becomes a bit overgrown in places. After leaving Hayes Creek the track crosses the Arrow River three times so you might want to just get wet feet rather than trying to change your shoes each time. It was about knee height.

From here the route follows a vehicle track until it crosses the river on a bridge, and then returns to Arrowtown on the Arrow Gorge Track, part of the same Sawpit Gully Circuit that you started the walk on.

Author: Edward Hathway

I'm a clinical psychologist and keen hiker.

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