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.

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. Continue reading “Black Gully Loop, Blue Mountains, West Otago NZ”

Caples Track to Mid Caples Hut, Otago NZ

Roughly 5 hours of level walking through the beautiful Caples Valley takes you to Mid Caples Hut and back on this first (or last) section of the multi-day Greenstone and Caples Track circuit.

This section of the multi-day Greenstone and Caples Track circuit makes for an excellent day walk, and one for those who are less keen on climbing. The level track wanders from near the western shore of Lake Wakatipu through the beautiful Caples Valley. There are high mountains in every direction, beech forest, grassy flats, groves of manuka, mountain streams and the Caples River to enjoy along the way. Mid Caples Hut makes for a good lunch spot and turnaround point. Continue reading “Caples Track to Mid Caples Hut, Otago NZ”

Rocky Mountain-Diamond Lake Circuit, near Wanaka, NZ

An easy to moderate walk passing by the picturesque Diamond Lake, and climbing up to the summit of Rocky Mountain (775m) for views of Lake Wanaka.

This walk near Wanaka offers good views for only mild to moderate effort. It’s an easygoing alternative to the famous but much longer Roys Peak Track that starts down the road a bit closer to town. You can do a figure of eight taking in the picturesque Diamond Lake, and then climb higher to the summit of Rocky Mountain (775m) for views over Lake Wanaka and towards snow capped mountains to the north. My wife did this walk in winter with her sister and said the views were even better. Continue reading “Rocky Mountain-Diamond Lake Circuit, near Wanaka, NZ”

Leaning Rock via Lilico Spur, Central Otago NZ

This long walk climbs through farmland to the Waikerikeri Conservation Area, and then through rugged tussock grass country to the barren summit of Leaning Rock (1647m), where there are many large tors.

A fairly long walk to the summit of Leaning Rock (1647m), the latter half of which is off track in the Waikerikeri Conservation Area. Starting in farmland, the walk ascends up Lilico Spur to the edge of the conservation area. From there the scenery is predominantly tussock grass, rocky areas, and finally the barren summit moonscape replete with multiple tors of various shapes and sizes. The overall feeling is one of remoteness, (although there are major  communications installations on the summit). Continue reading “Leaning Rock via Lilico Spur, Central Otago NZ”

Cairnmuir Hill Track, Central Otago NZ

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. Continue reading “Cairnmuir Hill Track, Central Otago NZ”

Earnslaw Burn Track, near Glenorchy NZ

A truly spectacular walk to a tussock basin below the Earnslaw Glacier. Highly recommended for fit walkers or those willing to spend a night there.

You get up close and personal with Mt Earnslaw and its glacier on this mammoth walk, which took my wife and me almost 10 hours. The Earnslaw Burn Track follows the true left bank of the Earnslaw Burn through beech forest up to a tussock basin below the Earnslaw Glacier. Once out of the forest the views will be enough to knock your hiking socks off, and are amongst the best we’ve seen on any day hike. They include the Earnslaw Glacier and numerous waterfalls, big fallen rocks, and we caught sight of an avalanche too. Continue reading “Earnslaw Burn Track, near Glenorchy NZ”

Sawpit Gully Circuit, Arrowtown NZ

The Sawpit Gully Circuit is a pleasant enough walk in the hills behind Arrowtown, which is itself a very pleasant historic town.

The Sawpit Gully Circuit starts in Arrowtown’s historic Chinese gold mining settlement next to the Arrow River. If you walk it clockwise the track climbs into the surrounding hills and returns through the Arrow River Gorge. It’s a nice walk through open country, but with some really spectacular walks in the area it has some steep competition. We’ve done it twice so far and it’s been a good choice for a not too strenuous walk close to Queenstown, and you can hang out in the picturesque village of Arrowtown afterwards. Probably shouldn’t be first on your list if you are new to the area. Continue reading “Sawpit Gully Circuit, Arrowtown NZ”

Mt Pisa via Tinwald Burn Ridge Track, Central Otago NZ

A long hard walk up 1600m of elevation to reach the barren plateau on top of the Pisa Range, finishing at the summit of Mt Pisa (1963m).

The ascent of Mt Pisa is a pretty gruelling slog up 1600m of elevation over 12.5 km, but the otherworldly moonscape on top is impressive and worth the effort. Most of the climb is through farmland on a vehicle track, and when we did it there was a lot of animal dung around, so it wasn’t the most pleasant experience. Once out of the farmland and into the Pisa Conservation Area the terrain changes to a barren and rocky moonscape, and when on the plateau there’s a further 2km of mostly flat walking to rocks on the summit at 1963m of elevation. Continue reading “Mt Pisa via Tinwald Burn Ridge Track, Central Otago NZ”

Lower Wye Creek Track, Remarkables Conservation Area NZ

A walk through beech forest to the tree-line at Wye Creek in the Remarkables Conservation Area. There are views further up the creek and over Lake Wakatipu.

Lower Wye Creek is the forested section of a potentially much longer walk in the Remarkables Conservation Area. Ending the walk just above the tree line makes it a satisfying finish with views up the creek to high ground, and of rugged crags immediately above the creek. Picking your way very carefully between lethal spear grass you can climb up the steep slopes from the creek to get more (partial) views of Lake Wakatipu. Continue reading “Lower Wye Creek Track, Remarkables Conservation Area NZ”

Shirt Tail Track, Kingston NZ

A short but steep walk up the side of a mountain for views over the village of Kingston at the southern end of Lake Wakatipu. The Te Kere Haka Track is an alternative flat option along the lake foreshore.

The small town of Kingston sits at the southern end of Lake Wakatipu, and is a pretty low key place without the tourist scene around Queenstown. The short but steep Shirt Tail Track is one way to get above the town and enjoy the scenery if you are in the area, and the drive down from Queenstown is also nice.

The Te Kere Haka track is another flat option that runs alongside the foreshore of Lake Wakatipu; we did a bit of this but I don’t think we had time to make it to the end. Both walks are nice enough, but there’s much more specular scenery around Queenstown, and at the northern end of the lake around Glenorchy.   Continue reading “Shirt Tail Track, Kingston NZ”