Mt Bruce Circuit, Craigieburn Forest Park, Canterbury NZ

Top class 360 degree views of numerous mountain ranges and the Waimakariri Valley from the summit of Mt Bruce (1630m) in Craigieburn Forest Park.

Mt Bruce Circuit, Craigieburn Forest Park

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 big-ass 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. 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

Mt Bruce Circuit, Craigieburn Forest Park
Nice beech forest early on in the walk.

Mt Bruce Circuit, Craigieburn Forest Park

Mt Bruce Circuit, Craigieburn Forest Park
There was mist in the Waimakariri Valley early on in the day. Arthur’s Pass is up the valley centre right.
Mt Bruce Circuit, Craigieburn Forest Park
Looking up towards Arthur’s Pass as mist cleared from the valley. Bit of zoom required for this shot.
Mt Bruce Circuit, Craigieburn Forest Park
Sophia backed by glary mist in the Waimakiriri Valley.

Mt Bruce Circuit, Craigieburn Forest Park

Mt Bruce Circuit, Craigieburn Forest Park
The upper sections of Blind Spur viewed from above Lagoon Saddle.
Mt Bruce Circuit, Craigieburn Forest Park
Blind Spur and Bealey Spur. There’s a walk up Bealey Spur that we are still to do.
Mt Bruce Circuit, Craigieburn Forest Park
Sophia down there as we ascended to Mt Bruce.
Mt Bruce Circuit, Craigieburn Forest Park
Sophia climbing up steep snow covered scree sections. This was easier walking than over tussock, at least with our walking poles.
Mt Bruce Circuit, Craigieburn Forest Park
Sophia backed by peaks in Arthur’s Pass National Park.
Mt Bruce Circuit, Craigieburn Forest Park
Very near the summit here. That’s Packard Peak (2066m) at the back (I think).
Mt Bruce Circuit, Craigieburn Forest Park
Almost at the summit. Packard Peak (2066m) in the Grey Range at the back.
Mt Bruce Circuit, Craigieburn Forest Park
Sophia on the summit of Mt Bruce backed by the Black Range, and behind these the Craigieburn Range, with the Grey Range to the right. These scree slopes mixed with colourful forest and tussock are very exotic for me: we have nothing like this back in Australia. I took more photos in other directions (more variety of angles possible) but I very much liked this aspect.
Mt Bruce Circuit, Craigieburn Forest Park
Sophia taking pictures of the Southern Alps from the summit of Mt Bruce.
Mt Bruce Circuit, Craigieburn Forest Park
Sophia and the Southern Alps. Blind Spur and Bealey Spur in the mid ground.
Mt Bruce Circuit, Craigieburn Forest Park
Our lunch spot.
Mt Bruce Circuit, Craigieburn Forest Park
Blind Spur, Bealey Spur and the Waimakariri Valley. The Southern Alps in the background.
Mt Bruce Circuit, Craigieburn Forest Park
The Grey Range
Mt Bruce Circuit, Craigieburn Forest Park
Mid Hill to the right, and the Grey Range left.
Mt Bruce Circuit, Craigieburn Forest Park
The Black Range, and behind the Craigieburn Range.
Mt Bruce Circuit, Craigieburn Forest Park
The ridge we took on our descent.
Mt Bruce Circuit, Craigieburn Forest Park
The end of the Black Range to the right.
Mt Bruce Circuit, Craigieburn Forest Park
Sophia and me on the summit. Photo taken by Earl, the only other tramper on the mountain that day.
Mt Bruce Circuit, Craigieburn Forest Park
On our way down.
Mt Bruce Circuit, Craigieburn Forest Park
Sophia posing on a pointy bit.
Mt Bruce Circuit, Craigieburn Forest Park
On our way down.

Mt Bruce Circuit, Craigieburn Forest Park

Mt Bruce Circuit, Craigieburn Forest Park
Looking back up at the summit.
Mt Bruce Circuit, Craigieburn Forest Park
We walked some of the way along this part of the ridge before descending steeply to the bush line.
Mt Bruce Circuit, Craigieburn Forest Park
Looking into the Broad Stream Valley with the Black Range behind.

Mt Bruce Circuit, Craigieburn Forest Park Mt Bruce Circuit, Craigieburn Forest Park

Mt Bruce Circuit, Craigieburn Forest Park
Mt Bruce to the right, although the summit is higher up and behind.
Mt Bruce Circuit, Craigieburn Forest Park
A panorama of the Waimakariri River Valley.


Track Notes

Mt Bruce Circuit, Craigieburn Forest Park
The route we took followed the Cass Lagoon Saddle Track from the end of Cora Lynn Road until a bend in the track above Lagoon Saddle, then it’s straight up to Mt Bruce summit. From there we descended along a ridge until we dropped down to the bush line to rejoin the track.

The route starts on an 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.

Author: Edward Hathway

I'm a clinical psychologist and keen hiker.

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