This walk starts in New Zealand’s driest area, and climbs onto Cairnmuir Hill at 1114m of elevation. There are extensive views of the moody Dunstan Mountains, and over the flatlands further south.
This walk is one half of a complete traverse of Cairnmuir Hill (1114m) in Central Otago, which would take you from near Bannockburn over to Clyde. It starts in New Zealand’s driest and most arid area, with just introduced thyme eking out an existence. As you steadily climb the country becomes more hospitable, with familiar tussock grass dominating the scenery, along with a few rocky outcrops. There are good views over the moody Dunstan Mountains, with their large tors and wrinkled dark slopes, and also glimpses of the aqua coloured Lake Dunstan in the valley below. (You can climb to Leaning Rock high up in the Dunstan Mountains on a hard day walk).
The initial climb on vehicle trails can be a little mundane, (my wife thought so), but I liked the novelty of this dry landscape. Irrigation means the area around Bannockburn is quite a successful wine region, and after this rather long walk you would probably benefit from a glass of the local produce (if that’s your thing). There’s no shade for the whole walk, and I was even a bit hot in winter in the sheltered areas, so plan for sun protection. Track notes at the end.
Cairnmuir Hill Track: The Scenery
Track notes in the following DOC brochure: number 19, as far as Cairnmuir Hill summit and then we returned. As mentioned you can continue over the top to Clyde but you’ll need to arrange transport. The map below show’s what I think is the start of the walk.