Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury NZ

Really spectacular views of the Southern Alps and surrounds from the summit of Mt Potts (2184m), in the upper Rangitata Valley.

Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury

The long tramp up Mt Potts in the upper Rangitata Valley is a real classic, with awe inspiring views from the summit topping off great views from before you even leave your car. I’d first come across Mt Potts on another hiking blog, and despite them not including many interesting photos my interest had already been piqued. It is a high peak at 2184m, and doable from the bottom (600m) on a long day hike, so that meets my criteria for a great physical peak-bagging challenge. It also came highly recommended in the excellent Canterbury Foothills: A Walking and Tramping Guide. With spectacular views of the Southern Alps promised I made it a target for mid spring, with longer days but still some snow up high. It turned out to be one of our best walks to date: highly recommended for fit trampers with basic navigation skills.

Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury
The views on the drive in were already great. I imagine winter is pretty spesh.

Track notes at the end.

Mt Potts Circuit: The Scenery

Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury
Looking up towards point 2140m at the end of the valley. We took the road to the left on the way back.
Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury
A panorama over the Rangitata, Havelock and Clyde Rivers, and of course the Southern Alps behind.
Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury
A prominent mountain in the Southern Alps, possibly Mt D’Archiac (2875m).

Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury

Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury
The Pyramid (1748m) to the right. It looks more like a pyramid from the road.
Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury
Looking roughly north-west. Our return route is visible on the side of the valley below.
Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury
There were some colourful rocks.
Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury
Walking from the low summit to the high summit of Mt Potts.
Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury
Sophia contemplating the epic views towards Mt Arrowsmith from the summit of Mt Potts (2184m).
Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury
Looking roughly north over the Southern Alps.
Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury
Many snowy peaks to the north. A follower on Instagram said this was like looking at a menu at a nice restaurant when you’re starving. I replied that some of these meals might be a bit big for me.
Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury
Looking south-east. The low summit is to the right. Lakes Clearwater, Camp and Emma a distant centre.

Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury

Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury
One of my favourite shots from the day, a panorama from the summit of Mt Potts looking north towards Mt Arrowsmith.

A wobbly video of views from the summit…

Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury
Sophia backed by the Southern Alps and Havelock River.
Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury
Sophia points the way on our descent. Some of these patches of snow were actually very deep drifts.

Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury

Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury
Sophia below. Point 2140m to the right.
Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury
Sophia backed by point 2140m.
Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury
On our way down from the summit towards the saddle below point 2003m.
Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury
Cliffs at the head of the valley.
Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury
I thought the valley walk back would be a bit boring but I was wrong about that. Plus it was a nice change to walk on a vehicle track. (This track was significantly washed out in places.)
Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury
Looking down the valley towards the Ben McLeod Range.


Track Notes

Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury
Most of this walk is on public conservation land, with an easement through private land at the very start. We walked anti-clockwise, and there is no track until you return through the valley on a vehicle track.

We started on the easement track, then entered forest and walked along the edge of a canyon for a short while until the canyon flattens out to allow a crossing of the stream. Meltwater had made the stream rather wild and we ended up crossing on a tree (not exactly recommended, but it was the best of the options at the time).

From there it was out of the forest onto the south west spur, up through shingle/ scree and along the ridge to Mt Potts’ low peak. It is then an easy walk to the high peak where the best views of the day are to be had. We had considered walking back the way we came, but to get out of the gale force winds we decided to return via the valley to the west, and that turned out to be a very nice variation. (Not sure if this would be a safe option in winter or not.) Plus we made quick progress once on the vehicle track in the valley. You can follow this track back to the start, but we took a spur down to the forest and along a fenceline to the easement track near the start. (Staying on the track would possibly have been easier.)

The DOC website has info on the Mt Potts Easement Track in their Hakatere Conservation Park brochure.

Author: Edward Hathway

I'm a clinical psychologist and keen hiker.

10 thoughts on “Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury NZ”

    1. I just checked the time stamp on my photos and reckon it took about 9 1/2 to 10 hours with lunch and photo taking.

  1. Hi Edward, your blog was really useful. My 16 year old son and myself did this day hike on Thursday (21st Jan 2021). We had both bright sunshine and horizontal snow all in one day. Great experience. We walked from the Mount Sunday carpark (due to the little ford being too washed out for our Estima to cross), Cut up the east side of the creek from the road to avoid crossing the creek at the gorge, then bush bashed to the ridge from the DOC boundary fence – which proved hard work. Once on the ridge its a pretty relentless leg burner to the top, but the views and sense of achievement are worth it – 1600m vertical. Scree running down to the ski field road was fun. The walk out on the road was long but easy. 8.5 hrs return.

    1. Hi Dave. Great walk isn’t it. I think next time I’ll also walk up the creek on the other side. Thanks for your feedback 😀

    1. Mmm, apart from the stream at the start I don’t remember coming across any water. There may have been some water in that stream higher up, but looking at some of my photos it looks dry at the point where we descended from the tops.

  2. Hello, I tried doing this track yesterday but didn’t finish because the old ski field road was completely covered with snow up top. When I came back home I checked this website. Also, those red lines on your map, when you went up, was there a track to follow or you just followed your nose? This was pretty much my first hike ever so I wasn’t sure what was ok and was dangerous to do. At least I had a good snow fun, it was over knee high and crazy steep at some parts. Thanks

    1. Hi Andre. That was quite a hike to take on for your first hike! I followed the easement for a short while but then there was no track until I got to the ski field access road. The terrain was fairly easy to walk on: just tussock and scree. Steep in places as you say. It was rocky after the summit for a while, although you could always return the way you came.

      1. Yea, I don’t know what you’d call “hike” but that was my first 3hr+ walk. I always only did short ones. So after that “junction” on your map (the red lines) how did you know where to go? Do you use an app? I did follow the old road then after all I could see was snow I didn’t know where else to go, I would have to go over the gully, which I wasn’t sure if it was the right thing to do but it was quite steep and slippery with the snow. So I went up as much as I could and ended up just having lunch there and coming back. It was a great walk anyway, I enjoyed. Will do it again and finish next time. Thank you

  3. Yeah, I use an NZ topo map app on my phone that shows where you are using GPS positioning. But any map that you can view offline will be enough I think. The view from the summit of this mountain is amazing, but to get up there in spring might require some snow equipment and possibly avalanche knowledge. We slowly built up experience navigating off track and this walk was easy enough after doing a few other walks. It’s a big day out though! 😀

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.