I’d heard good things about the views from Mt Bruce (1630m) in Craigieburn Forest Park, and I was not at all disappointed! Spectacular 360 degree views await you at the summit, but there’s plenty of interest for much of the walk. There’s nice forest at the start, already good views on the tracked section, then ever improving views as you climb to the summit.
From the summit you overlook grand mountains in the the Southern Alps, numerous peaks around Arthur’s Pass, the wide open Waimakariri River Valley, and colourful patchy mountains of scree, tussock and forest elsewhere in Craigieburn Forest Park. You can also see the long thin forms of Blind Spur and Bealey Spur, the latter offering another good walk in the area that we have on our to-do list (…now done). Making a loop by returning eastward along an attractive ridge will top it all off.
Try to do this walk in fine weather to get the best of the views. Track notes at the end.
Mt Bruce Circuit: The Scenery
The route starts on a marked track through beech forest and then a section of plantation pines (which are spreading up through the tussocks unfortunately). Once the track emerged from the bushline it was pretty boggy in winter, so don’t wear your nice white sneakers!
We decided to begin climbing towards the Mt Bruce summit from a viewpoint over Lagoon Saddle. The ground here was boggy for a while, but not a problem in winter with a little snow cover and frozen waterholes protecting us from wet, muddy boots. Not sure about other seasons. From here it was a straightforward climb to the summit. We stuck to snow covered scree sections as the going was quite easy with walking poles.
From the summit I can highly recommend a fairly quick descent eastwards along a ridge, eventually dropping down to the bushline to meet the outward track. This would be a good ascent route too, perhaps doing it all clockwise.
A bit less than 1000m ascent but not all that long: allocate a short day for this walk. The tracked section is part of the Cass Lagoon Saddle Track, and there’s information on this 2-3 day tramp on the DOC website.
Alternative Descent Route
There’s apparently an old and possibly overgrown DOC track down in the valley to the south-east, running along Broad Stream through the forest. The notes I came across online for this were from over five years ago, so I don’t know what state the track is in. Another issue with this route is that it takes you onto the road rather than back to the car park, so there’d be a bit of walk back to your car.