Peak Hill Track, Canterbury NZ

A popular walk up Peak Hill (1240m) to excellent 360 degree views over Lake Coleridge, various mountain ranges, and braided river valleys.

Peak Hill ascent, Canterbury NZ

I’d read good things about the shortish walk up Peak Hill, and it’s fairly obvious on a map that the views will be good. One blogger claimed that it is the best of Canterbury’s foothills. The walk itself is just okay, with a steep, and on the day we did it, fairly muddy climb up to a ridge, which then leads to the summit. The views gradually improve as you go, and I recommend continuing past the summit to a rocky knoll at 1096m, to get a little more intimate with those peaks across the lake. From the summit of Peak Hill there are 360 degree views of all kinds of topography and landforms. I think I’ve seen better, but my pictures of these views proved popular with family and friends (on Facebook), so I guess the majority has spoken.

Peak Hill ascent, Canterbury NZ
This is the north end of the Mount Hutt Range on the drive out. I loved the deep ravines cut into rock. I would have taken a close up but couldn’t be bothered to get my camera back out: this taken with my phone.

A fellow hiking blogger described this walk as the Roys Peak of Canterbury, but less crowded. (Roys Peak is a super popular walk in Wanaka, and has fabulous views but isn’t a great walking experience for the most part). It’s not a bad comparison, but don’t let it put you off if Roys Peak is not your thing. We were there first and had the mountain to ourselves until we started our descent, even after an hour taking pictures!

It did attract a few people who clearly weren’t regular hikers though. In fact, on our way down we came across a small group of Chinese walkers who were wearing their best street clothes, including one lady in a white coat, fetching mustard beret, and carrying a leather handbag! They stopped about half way up the initial climb and came down, possibly put off by how muddy my gaiters were as I passed by. I don’t think they had researched this walk very well.  Track notes at the end.

Peak Hill ascent: The Scenery

Peak Hill ascent, Canterbury NZ
At the beginning of the steep, and on this day rather muddy and slippery, initial climb from farmland. The Mount Hutt Range as backdrop.
Peak Hill ascent, Canterbury NZ
Ascending along the ridgeline here after the steep initial climb. There’s great views for the rest of the walk.
Peak Hill ascent, Canterbury NZ
The Rakaia River, and behind the Canterbury Plains.
Peak Hill ascent, Canterbury NZ
The Rakaia Valley
Peak Hill ascent, Canterbury NZ
Panorama of the north end of Lake Coleridge.
Peak Hill ascent, Canterbury NZ
Panorama of the north end of Lake Coleridge.
Peak Hill ascent, Canterbury NZ
You know the views are good when Sophia bothers to get her phone out and take her own pictures.
Peak Hill ascent, Canterbury NZ
Sophia taking pictures from nearby the summit.
Peak Hill ascent, Canterbury NZ
A panorama from the summit looking north.
Peak Hill ascent, Canterbury NZ
Looking up the Wilberforce Valley.
Peak Hill ascent, Canterbury NZ
Sophia standing on point 1096m, our turnaround point and where we had lunch.
Peak Hill ascent, Canterbury NZ
Sophia having lunch. Red Hill, which we climbed the week before, is to her left in the background.
Peak Hill ascent, Canterbury NZ
I took so many shots of this scene and have included about five I think. That’s overkill I know but I’m indecisive and don’t want to accidentally leave out the best one.
Peak Hill ascent, Canterbury NZ
Looking north towards the Wilberforce Valley.
Peak Hill ascent, Canterbury NZ
A wide panorama of Lake Coleridge.
Peak Hill ascent, Canterbury NZ
A wide panorama of the Rakaia Valley.
Peak Hill ascent, Canterbury NZ
Rakaia River and Mount Hutt Range
Peak Hill ascent, Canterbury NZ
The Rakaia River, Mount Hutt Range (left) and Dark Hill Range (right). The Dark Hill Range is more impressive from further away, or at least I thought so when I saw it from Red Hill last week.
Peak Hill ascent, Canterbury NZ
I liked the colours and textures in this landscape, including the red fuzzy alpine plants in the foreground, and the green fields in the mid ground.
Peak Hill ascent, Canterbury NZ
I took a bunch more photos when the sun started to come out and turn the lake blue.
Peak Hill ascent, Canterbury NZ
Looking south east as we descended.
Peak Hill ascent, Canterbury NZ
The Craigieburn Range.
Peak Hill ascent, Canterbury NZ
Here’s a portrait version of a shot I also took in landscape.
Peak Hill ascent, Canterbury NZ
I very much liked this spot, and this was probably the best lighting and colours on the day.
Peak Hill ascent, Canterbury NZ
We climbed Red Hill last week. You can approach from the Porter River, behind the mountain in this view, but end up on the left to climb some of the ridge to the summit. I realise looking at the mountain from this angle that it would have been dangerous to stray too far from the ridge on the snow field, as it drops away to almost vertical. I did not sense this so obviously when I was up there, and I clearly have a bit more to learn about safe winter tramping.

Peak Hill ascent, Canterbury NZ

Peak Hill ascent, Canterbury NZ
Sophia visible on a ridge, taken on our way down.
Peak Hill ascent, Canterbury NZ
I took a lot of photos of this spot, which captured my imagination for some reason.
Peak Hill ascent, Canterbury NZ
I liked the lumpy hills popping up in the foreground, with the substantially higher Craigieburn Range in the background.
Peak Hill ascent, Canterbury NZ
With the sun out on our way back I took another shot of the south end of a much bluer Lake Coleridge.
Peak Hill ascent, Canterbury NZ
I was told by a former colleague that Sophia looks a bit Nepalese here. They said it must be the Ed Hilary effect (of living and climbing in NZ). I laughed. She does look a bit darker than usual. I think that is a function of my photography. The Mount Hutt Range and Rakaia River in the background.
Peak Hill ascent, Canterbury NZ
We stopped by the shore of Lake Coleridge on our drive home.


Track Notes

Peak Hill ascent, Canterbury NZ
An official track/route to the summit, then easy navigation to point 1096m. The initial climb is steep and a pretty rough track.

There’s a fairly obvious track the whole way to the summit, then easy navigation in good weather to a point beyond the summit at 1096m metres. It’s a rocky knoll to the north of the summit.

The first part of the walk is through a paddock, then it’s a steep and potentially muddy and slippery climb to the beginning of the summit ridge. Walking along the ridge is easier than the initial climb. This area can be exposed to the wind so we were happy to have chosen a calm day. More information on the DOC website.

Note that on the map above there is a route marked to complete a loop, however I’ve read about this elsewhere and they said the route is not maintained and is overgrown in places. It didn’t sound very good so I don’t recommend it.

Author: Edward Hathway

I'm a clinical psychologist and keen hiker.

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