Lewis Tops Route, Lewis Pass Scenic Reserve, Canterbury NZ
A classic walk to the Lewis Tops, climbing at first through attractive beech forest, then up onto the tarn strewn tops for wonderful views in all directions.
The popular Lewis Tops walk had been on my hit list for some time. I’d walked the nearby Nina Valley Track when staying in Hanmer Springs in winter, but had been waiting for clear weather to get onto high ground for the first time in this region. It was very much worth the wait, with wonderful views in all directions once above the bushline. Before then there is an hour-long climb through attractive beech forest, and there are also a number of tarns on the tops that made for nice photographic subjects.
It seems to rain a lot in the Lewis Pass region, so I couldn’t resist a rare weather window forecast on my midweek day off, and decided to make the 2 hour 20 minute drive one way from Christchurch. That drive makes it a tiring day out, but it’s worth doing this classic walk in fine weather and with less people. Track notes at the end.
Lewis Tops Route: The Scenery
We actually started this walk at a car park of sorts on the bend in the road, and summit of the pass. There is 4wd only access to this clearing, and from here a short unmaintained track soon meets up with the main Lewis Tops Track, (after perhaps 5 minutes walking). The official route (marked on the topographic map above), starts at the St James Walkway car park. You can see both spots in the Google Map below.
The initial climb is through attractive beech forest, with a couple of clearings affording the first of the views quite early on in the walk. This could be a short walk for people wanting to stretch their legs. It took us about an hour to get above the bushline, and from there there are views in all directions for the rest of the walk. The route is poled at first, but once these run out you can walk freely on mostly flat ground as far as you like. I recommend going at least as far as the tarns. The whole walk is of just moderate difficulty, and you can get more information on the DOC website, (but its pretty straightforward).