Mt Oxford Loop, Oxford Forest Conservation Area, Canterbury NZ

A varied loop walk with great views from the summit of Mt Oxford, plus beautiful beech forest and a nice waterfall on the return leg.

Mt Oxford Loop, Oxford Forest Conservation Area

After arriving in New Zealand I’d been waiting for a bit of snow before climbing Mt Oxford, one of the more accessible mountains from Christchurch. After a warm and sunny week in early winter there was just enough left to add to the aesthetics on high ground, including the upper reaches of beech forest, but plenty still on surrounding higher peaks. I’d heard the views from the summit were good, and they were, but the nicest surprise was some of the most beautiful beech forest I’ve seen in New Zealand on the upper slopes of the return leg. There’s also a short side trip to the attractive three tier Ryde Falls.

Doing the loop from Coopers Creek Car Park is a long walk, a little under 20km and 1200m of ascent and descent, much of it in forest. I think it’s best walked anti-clockwise because you get good views from the summit west as you gradually drop back down towards the nicest bits of forest. And if you are tired after reaching the summit then you can return the way you came for a shorter day.

Track notes at the end.

Mt Oxford Loop: The Scenery

Mt Oxford Loop, Oxford Forest Conservation Area
Walking early on through beech forest.
Mt Oxford Loop, Oxford Forest Conservation Area
The Torlesse Range viewed as got above the bushline.
Mt Oxford Loop, Oxford Forest Conservation Area
The Mount Huttt Range. Apparently they had opened up the ski fields there. Not much snow left on Mt Oxford however.
Mt Oxford Loop, Oxford Forest Conservation Area
A bit hazy to see clearly, but the coast is just discernible in the distance.
Mt Oxford Loop, Oxford Forest Conservation Area
Looking back over the Canterbury Plains as we neared the summit.
Mt Oxford Loop, Oxford Forest Conservation Area
Looking roughly east from very near the summit.
Mt Oxford Loop, Oxford Forest Conservation Area
The Puketeraki Range
Mt Oxford Loop, Oxford Forest Conservation Area
The Lees Valley and distant peaks. You could see what I think was the Kaikoura Range off to the right (east) out of frame. It was certainly a very prominent but distant mountain range whatever it was.
Mt Oxford Loop, Oxford Forest Conservation Area
The Torlesse Range.
Mt Oxford Loop, Oxford Forest Conservation Area
Looking past point 1300m to distant peaks, possibly in the Craigieburn Range.
Mt Oxford Loop, Oxford Forest Conservation Area
A bit snowy on top.
Mt Oxford Loop, Oxford Forest Conservation Area
A cloud inversion in the Lees Valley.
Mt Oxford Loop, Oxford Forest Conservation Area
As my first proper winter in NZ I am experiencing these lovely ice forms on plants for the first time. I’ve visited Queenstown in winter a couple of times but on those occasions it was not really snowy or icy enough to create these effects.
Mt Oxford Loop, Oxford Forest Conservation Area
A bit of snow and ice on high ground.
Mt Oxford Loop, Oxford Forest Conservation Area
Frozen plants on the tops.
Mt Oxford Loop, Oxford Forest Conservation Area
A cloud inversion clearing in the Lees Valley.
Mt Oxford Loop, Oxford Forest Conservation Area
Puketeraki Range
Mt Oxford Loop, Oxford Forest Conservation Area
A veery wide panorama of the Puketeraki Range. The highest point, Chest Peak, is the first of the high peaks, and the range stretches off camera to the north. You tend not to see so many forested hills like this in the area. It reminded me just a little of Eastern Australia’s mostly forested hills.
Mt Oxford Loop, Oxford Forest Conservation Area
The Torlesse Range. We climbed Castle Peak, to the left in this pic, a few weeks earlier, when there was almost no snow on the mountain.
Mt Oxford Loop, Oxford Forest Conservation Area
Descending off the mountain.
Mt Oxford Loop, Oxford Forest Conservation Area
A wide panorama of the Torless Range (to the left) and other high peaks in the distance.
Mt Oxford Loop, Oxford Forest Conservation Area
Very attractive beech forest.

Mt Oxford Loop, Oxford Forest Conservation Area

Mt Oxford Loop, Oxford Forest Conservation Area
One of Sophia’s shots of sparkly snow in the beech forest.

Mt Oxford Loop, Oxford Forest Conservation Area

Mt Oxford Loop, Oxford Forest Conservation Area
Sophia in a small clearing in the forest.
Mt Oxford Loop, Oxford Forest Conservation Area
Snowy still in parts of the beech forest.
Mt Oxford Loop, Oxford Forest Conservation Area
The beech forest on the upper sections of our descent was amongst the most beautiful I’ve seen.
Mt Oxford Loop, Oxford Forest Conservation Area
Lichen perhaps? nice anyway.
Mt Oxford Loop, Oxford Forest Conservation Area
The distinctive black trunks of beech trees. The blackness comes from some kind of moss I think.
Mt Oxford Loop, Oxford Forest Conservation Area
The three tiers of Ryde Falls. I had to use my phone to take this, and it only just fit it all in. A bit cramped. Snow melt from beech trees further up the mountain had dripped onto my mirrorless camera and temporarily damaged it. I didn’t dare turn it on again until the next day, but was happy to see that it had recovered.

Here’s a couple of short videos of Ryde Falls…

Mt Oxford Loop, Oxford Forest Conservation Area
Lots of ferns on the way down.


Track Notes

Mt Oxford Loop, Oxford Forest Conservation Area
Obvious and signposted tracks the whole way, except on the tops where the route is occasionally poled. Navigation should be pretty obvious though. We walked anti-clockwise and I think this is the best direction for views.

We walked the loop anti-clockwise. Near the start you have to cross Coopers Creek, and that may involve wet feet if you don’t have gaiters and waterproof boots. The tracks through the forested sections are obvious. Some sections were a bit boggy when we did it, although that didn’t stop people walking the Ryde Falls Track in their nice sneakers, including a woman with a young baby on her back. Ryde Falls is a 500m side trip (1km return) off the main loop. The route above the bushline is poled, and navigation is simple in good weather. And you can also climb the mountain from View Hill, passing through that nice area of beech forest on the way, and continue if you like to do the loop clockwise.

You can find more information about walking tracks in the area on the DOC website.

Author: Edward Hathway

I'm a clinical psychologist and keen hiker.

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