Black Gully Loop, Blue Mountains, West Otago NZ

This lesser known walk in New Zealand’s own Blue Mountains ascends through beech forest to a high point of 1019m at Tapanui Hill. The views of surrounding farmland are extensive, but the forest is probably the highlight.

Black Gully Loop, Blue Mountains, West Otago

This walk is a reasonably short side-trip off Route 8 between Dunedin and Queenstown. It’s near nowhere in particular, so if you are passing by this way it’s a good opportunity to stop and do the walk. The loop track starts at Black Gully and ascends through very attractive beech forest to tussock grass on high ground. Views of the surrounding farmland are extensive, but for me the beech forest was the highlight. There are also some lush sections of gully forest towards the end.

The Blue Mountains were apparently named by gold miners after their likeness to Sydney’s Blue Mountains, but to be honest I can’t see much similarity. Track notes at the end.

Black Gully Loop: The Scenery

Black Gully Loop, Blue Mountains, West Otago
Contrasting colours on top versus the farmland below.
Black Gully Loop, Blue Mountains, West Otago
One of a number of panoramas I took. They all looked a bit the same.
Black Gully Loop, Blue Mountains, West Otago
The high point of the range at 1019m asl, called Tapanui Hill. I guess even a thousand metres doesn’t get you a mountain title in New Zealand.
Black Gully Loop, Blue Mountains, West Otago
Very green farmland below.
Black Gully Loop, Blue Mountains, West Otago
Alpine flowers.
Black Gully Loop, Blue Mountains, West Otago
Descending along the track that doesn’t appear on the maps, but you can clearly see the orange markers in this shot.
Black Gully Loop, Blue Mountains, West Otago
The beech forest looked quite different depending on the lighting, and perhaps also on the species. Here it looks silvery.

Black Gully Loop, Blue Mountains, West Otago

Black Gully Loop, Blue Mountains, West Otago
Beech forest looking golden in the sun.
Black Gully Loop, Blue Mountains, West Otago
Sophia in the forest.
Black Gully Loop, Blue Mountains, West Otago
Hairy trees.
Black Gully Loop, Blue Mountains, West Otago
Fungus.
Black Gully Loop, Blue Mountains, West Otago
Lush sections of forest in the gully below.

Black Gully Loop, Blue Mountains, West Otago

Track Notes

Black Gully Loop, Blue Mountains, West Otago
We ascended on the Black Gully Track, walked north-east to Tapanui Hill, then backtracked a bit and descended down an obvious track that does not appear on any maps I can see. So the dotted line is a bit of a guess, but I do remember it was obvious, not far back from Tapanui Hill, and we crossed a stream in a gully to return to the outward track near the start (you can see that in my last two pictures). Keep your eyes open for the fork in the track when you set off, and that will give you some comfort that you know what’s what.

We used track notes in Day Walks of New Zealand: Central Otago and Queenstown,although they didn’t describe a loop, so we just winged that part. It starts at Black Gully campground, ascends pretty directly up through beech forest, then you walk north along the tops for a couple of kilometres to Tapanui Hill at 1019m of elevation. Head back just a bit to find another track down the mountain through even more attractive beech forest to complete the loop (rejoining the track out very near the start, I think). I can’t see this track down on any maps, but it is easy enough to see when you are there.

Author: Edward Hathway

I'm a clinical psychologist and keen hiker.

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