Canterbury 2000m High Peaks You Can Climb in a Day

A selection of 2000m high peaks in Canterbury New Zealand that can you climb in a day.

Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury

There’s nothing more satisfying for me than climbing a mountain to epic views, then making it down in time for a nice dinner and indoor plumbing. (Yes I’m a princess). Here in Canterbury New Zealand there are many opportunities for such walks. But for an added sense of achievement and adventure, I like to stretch myself and climb a 2000m high peak from the bottom. There are limited opportunities for summitting a 2000m peak in a day due to the often long distances involved, however I’ve managed a few since coming to live in Canterbury, and always have one or two on the to-do list.

For now I’ll share the peaks I’ve done, and then add to this list as I do more. Just click on the title or picture to open my original blog post on each walk.

Mt Taylor 2333m

Mt Taylor ascent, Canterbury
Looking west over a veritable moonscape from the summit of Mt Taylor (2333m).
The climb: ~ 1650m over 31km (return)

At 2333m, Mt Taylor is the Big Daddy of the Canterbury Foothills, and climbing it makes for an excellent if rather long day out. It’s a pretty barren mountain, and the 10km approach across flat plains means you’ve done a good sized walk even before you start climbing. But there’s a real sense of adventure as you set off up the rugged Swin River South Branch, then climb up through tussock and scree to the summit.

There’s a hut at the base of the mountain if you want to make this an overnighter, which might be necessary in the shorter days around winter.

Mt Potts 2184m

Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury
Sophia contemplating the epic views towards Mt Arrowsmith from the summit of Mt Potts (2184m).
The climb: ~ 1600m over 11km (return)

I think Mt Potts was my favourite of the 2000m high peaks I did in my first year living in NZ. It’s a fairly steady climb to the top, with great views all the way from the bottom, and then the best views of the day from the summit. We made a circuit of it, and the route back along an old ski field road was easygoing and yet still atmospheric. I also think doing this in spring helped, as a bit of snow on the tops made it all the more scenic.

Mt Princess 2126m

Mt Princess ascent, St James Conservation Area
Sophia looking towards the summit of Mt Princess (2126m).
The climb: ~1200m over 20km

One of the more challenging peaks I’ve climbed to date, there’s a few options to get to the summit of Mt Princess but they all involve steep terrain or rocky ridges, and almost certainly some scrambling. The reward will be really excellent 360 degree views, including of Princess Bath, the cirque lake nestled immediately below the summit. Easily accessed from Hanmer Springs this mountain is in the very north of Canterbury.

Black Hill 2067m

Black Hill Circuit, Hakatere Conservation Park
The Rakaia and Wilberforce Rivers from the summit of Black Hill (2067m).
The climb: 1850m over 24km

Climbing Black Hill (2067m) in Hakatere Conservation Park is a long but spectacular walk. Views are of the Rakaia, Wilberforce and Mathias Rivers, plus countless mountains in all directions. A real classic, especially in mid-winter when I did it.

Mt Sinclair 2065m

Mt Sinclair ascent, Te Kahui Kaupeka Conservation Park
Mt Sinclair’s tarn and point 2061m.
The climb: 1600m over 16km

This walk is scenic enough to attract tourists in helicopters, at least to the tarn at 1600m on the way up. You won’t be disappointed with the views from the summit either, which take in countless high peaks to the north especially, including the Two Thumb Range to the NW. It’s a challenging route in places depending on the conditions, so consult my track notes before going.

Mt Cloudsley 2107m

Mt Cloudsley via Long Spur, Craigieburn Forest Park
Clouds on Mt Cloudsley (2107m).
The climb: ~ 1350m over 12km (return)

This was my first time to climb a 2000 metre high peak from the bottom, the bottom being at 760m in this case.  Despite these numbers it is a fairly straightforward climb up Long Spur to the summit of Mt Cloudsley (2107m), the second highest peak in the Craigieburn Range. I would rate this as one of the easiest of the walks in this compilation.

It made for a great winter walk after some fresh snow, with views along the Craigieburn Range and over to the Torlesse Range. And from the summit, views south-west over a jumble of topography around Lake Coleridge, and north-west towards numerous peaks in the Southern Alps.

Godley Peak 2087m & Moorhouse Peak 2025m

Godley Peak & Moorhouse Peak via Homestead Hill, Palmer Range
Godley Peak (2087m) centre, and Moorhouse Peak (2025m) to the right.
The climb: ~ 1600m over 20km (return)

Climbing Godley Peak (2087m) offers a fairly remote walking experience in a long day-hike. And you can bag a second high summit, Moorehouse Peak (2025m), for just another kilometre of walking. The patchwork of colourful pink scree and golden tussock of the surrounding slopes is very attractive if you like that sort of thing. There are views of the Rakaia Valley for almost the whole walk, and there are higher peaks in the Main Divide not too far away.

Some bush bashing required on this walk early on, but nice open travel afterwards.

Mt Cheeseman 2031m

Mt Cheeseman from Texas Flat, Craigieburn Range
Mt Olympus viewed from Mt Cheeseman (2031m).
The climb: ~1200m over 10km (return)

Mt Cheeseman was our second 2000m peak in the Craigieburn Range. The first, Mt Cloudsley, was our first 2000m peak in NZ. There are fabulous views from the summit, including the impressive Mt Olympus (2094m), and peaks in every direction. There are also a couple of small tarns along the way, which add to the alpine feels. Most of the route is off track through sometimes rugged terrain, but still is one of the more accessible peaks in this list.

Mt Enys 2194m, Mt Cloudsley 2107m & Carn Brea 2090m

Mt Enys & Mt Cloudsley Circuit, Craigieburn Range
Epic views from Mt Enys (2194m) over the lumpy topography east of Lake Coleridge.
The climb: ~2150m* over 20km (return)

My second time up Mt Cloudsley, but this time I continued along the tops to Mt Enys (2194m) for spectacular views, particularly to the west. You bag three peaks over 2000m on this walk – Carn Brea (2090m) is the other one, and not much extra effort to climb this as it’s on the way down. Quite a physical challenge this walk.

(*A number I saw online (twice), which I nevertheless think is a bit of an overestimate. But it is a big walk.)

Mt Hutt (2185m) via Steepface Hill

Mt Hutt via Steepface Hill, Canterbury
The climb: 2500m over 20km (return)

I’d wanted to climb the iconic peak of Mt Hutt since coming to live in Christchurch in 2020. Three years later I finally made it up. This long route over Steepface Hill is a pretty big day out, but you’ll be rewarded with great views all day, and surely some bragging rights for the 2500m change in elevation alone.

Mt Izard (2019m) from Texas Flat

Mt Izard from Texas Flat, Craigieburn Range
As many snowy ridgelines as I could fit in frame, from the summit of Mt Izard.
The climb: ~1200m over 12 km (return)

One of multiple 2000m high peaks in the Craigieburn Range. The route to the top of Mt Izard is reasonably straightforward, and offers excellent views of many peaks including Mt Cheeseman, another peak in this list. (There are also views of Mt Cloudsley, also in this list, but it’s less interesting to look at). This walk will be reasonably safe as a winter or early spring option because it’s pretty much just up one spur to the summit.

Mt Catherine (2085m) via south ridge

Mt Catherine via south ridge, Hakatere Conservation Park
Looking over point 1877m to the Arrowsmith Range, amongst other ranges.
The climb: ~1600m over 23km

There’s at least two or three ways up Mt Catherine, but this route, although a bit long, is mostly on a ridge and so maximises views. (I had gone part way up from the west in winter – see that post here). The views are excellent in all directions, and on your way down you can choose scenic alternatives for a bit of variety.

Kohurau (2009m)

Kohurau - Awakino Circuit, St Marys Range
Looking up at Mt Bitterness (on the left).
The climb: ~1400m over 14km

Wide open views over Central Otago and the Waitaki Valley on this circuit walk up to Kohurau / Mt Kurow (2009m) in the St Marys Range, south-eastern Canterbury. The tops are very stark and have an otherworldly quality, whilst the valley are of streams running through attractive tussock grass. I imagine winter would be a good time to walk here, but we did it in late spring after the snow had cleared.

Bonus: Castle Hill Peak 1998m

Castle Hill Peak via Foggy Peak (in spring)
My wife on the summit of Castle Hill Peak (1998m).
The climb: ~ 1200m over 11km (return)

Falling two frustrating metres below my height criteria for this post, tall people and those willing to jump can nevertheless claim to have hit the 2000m mark when they have summitted Castle Hill Peak. This walk is considered a bit of a winter classic, although you’ll need the right gear and experience for that. You visit Foggy Peak along the way, and that is enough for some hikers. But for extra adventure and views then Castle Hill Peak beckons along a long and broad ridge. Conveniently reached from Christchurch, you’ll meet more people on this walk than most of the others in this list.

Author: Edward Hathway

I'm a clinical psychologist and keen hiker.

2 thoughts on “Canterbury 2000m High Peaks You Can Climb in a Day”

  1. Hi Edward
    Your site was exactly what I was looking for….I’m new to NZ and knocking off some 200oer’s is exactly my plan. We based in Auckland, so for me – it means flying in on Friday night and climbing on Sat before flying back on Sunday…Planning on following your schedule and so Mt Cloudesly is in my recent plans. It would be great if you could share you route GPS for the climbs … thanks Regards Laurent

    1. Hi Laurent. Great to hear you’ve got some adventures planned. Unfortunately I don’t record my routes but they are seldom so complicated that you would need that info. Cloudsley for example is basically one spur the whole way (Long Spur!) So once you are on it just keep climbing! My original posts do have my approximate routes marked on a map. I navigate by landforms and I only walk on clear days (for the views).

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