High Country Getaway Write a review
Designed for Kiwis.
A quick and convenient getaway to South Canterbury’s awesome high country. You've been to Queenstown, Wanaka, and Mount Cook. But, chances are, you've not been here. Few have.
We access some remote and truly splendid territory far up the Rakaia River before shifting to the equally splendid rugged mountain terrain of the Hakatere Reserve. You will hike above the turquoise waters of the Rakaia River and admire the hugely impressive gorge from a vantage point that can be accessed only by foot. You will take in vast views of the snowcapped peaks of the Arrowsmith and Butler ranges as you look out over the confluence of the Mathias and Rakaia rivers. Our 4x4 van allows us to start you off hiking in some very remote and stunningly beautiful terrain. You will stay two nights in comfy 4-star digs in Methven, followed by two nights in a welcoming 4-star B&B in Staveley.
All rooms have their own facilities. Why rough it when you don’t have to? Join us to get into some spectacular high-country scenery. We look after everything. It is a great way to unwind and reset. Guided is good! Take a break, relax, and truly enjoy.
“High-Country Getaway” Hiking Tour Includes:
High Country Getaway itinerary Request full itinerary
We pick you up and literally head for the hills. An hour later you are already above the sparkling waters of the magnificent Rakaia River. We have found a little extension to this hike so that you first descend to the river and then pick up the trail that hugs the eastern bluffs. The path weaves its way amongst trees and clearings to provide you with everchanging views. Our delicious picnic lunch is enjoyed from a vantage point overlooking the upper gorge. We loop back and then retrace our steps. The changing angle of the sun means you get 50 shades of turquoise from the gorgeous clear river below you. We enjoy a cold beer in the late afternoon sun at the end of the hike at a pub overlooking the river before carrying on to lively little Methven. Our hotel is a comfortable, modern building featuring unobstructed views from its terrace across to Mount Hutt. Dinner in the hotel dining area.
Logistics: Independent arrival, Christchurch. You can fly in the day before and stay the night or arrive the morning of departure. We can either pick you up from a downtown hotel at 09:00, or at 09:30 from Christchurch airport. Drive time: 1 hour to the trailhead. Further 20 mins to Methven. Overnight in 4-star hotel in Methven. Walking distance: 14 km. Overnight, picnic lunch and dinner included.
This morning starts with a spectacular 40 km drive up the south-west bank of the Rakaia river before literally coming to the end of the road at Glenfalloch Station, where we have permission to hike on their land. Our track winds beneath the steep slopes of the Palmer range, whose lofty ridges tower above us on our left while the broad river valley opens up vast views on our right. The aptly named "Ragged Range" acts as a beacon as we head towards the mountains. The path alternates between grassy pastures, rocky outwashes from the deeply scarred sides of the adjacent ridges and rolling hills covered in enormous golden tussocks. Our picnic spot looks out over the confluence of the Rakaia and Mathias rivers. The view is of pristine mountains and rivers. It is immense and humbling. You can’t help but feel privileged to be here. After some rest and reflection we head back to take in the views looking the other way. Tired hikers can choose to go back with our 4x4 support vehicle, which will have brought our gourmet picnic. We return to Methven in the van. You might want to get dropped off at the pub (you can choose between the Blue or the Brown pub) for a cold libation, given that it is less than a 10 minute walk to the hotel.
Logistics: Drive time: 1 hour in, 1 hour out. Walking distance: An easy 15 km, or less if you prefer. About 4.5 hours. Overnight, breakfast, picnic lunch and dinner included.
The ancient volcano that is Mount Somers awaits us today. You have two options, the easy and rewarding Coal Miners track or the tougher but exhilarating Rhyolite high route. They both will get you to Woolshed Creek for lunch in a beautiful open alpine basin that also features a shallow canyon with waterfalls and rock pools where you can have a very refreshing dip on a hot summer day. A short optional hike takes you over the canyon on a fun little swing bridge to some thick forest of native trees and ferns. The path proceeds to a lovely cool waterfall immersed amongst velvet green moss and waving fern fronds. The track out follows a gentle slope through beech forest and a chorus of Bellbirds. A tiny, charming, open-air museum recounts the boom and bust story of the Blackburn mine that eventually managed to operate from the 1930s through to 1968. The twisted remains of some coal hoppers that derailed on the way down to the valley are visible to this day. After our hike, we have a short drive to Staveley village where our hosts Sharon and Steve await us at their lovely B&B. Their gracious, modern home has all mod cons, with underfloor heating, large glassed-in shower boxes, and double glazing. Every room has a private outdoor terrace with views onto the mountain. A delicious home-cooked meal is served up and accompanied by some stellar Kiwi wines provided by HIKE NZ.
Logistics: Drive time: 30 minutes to the trailhead and 20 minutes to the B&B. Walking distance: 10 or 14 km, about 4 to 4.5 hours. Overnight, breakfast, picnic lunch and dinner included.
After breakfast we transfer you into the Hakatere Conservation Reserve, an area of rugged mountain landscapes and sparkling rivers and lakes. Once again, we have arranged access to private land, this time on Arrowsmith Station. We start on the edge of sublime Lake Heron, whose placid waters mirror the Clent Hills to the east. We eventually rise up on a bluff to overlook a veritable sea of tussocks before turning to walk up the banks of the Cameron river. An easy amble up the river flats is punctuated by a short sharp climb up onto a river terrace to gain access to a farm track that then gently climbs up the north flank of Pyramid Peak. As we walk, the snow-capped, jagged peaks of the Arrowsmith Range come in to view, while far below us the headwaters of the braided Cameron River meander. Our picnic lunch features yet another breathtaking view towards the Main Divide. The return journey has the sun at our back and Lake Heron and the Clent hills are lit up by the afternoon light. This is the perfect finale to four days of epic New Zealand landscapes.
Logistics: Drive time: 30 minutes to trailhead, return 30 minutes. Walking distances: 16 km. About 4.5 to 5 hours. Overnight, breakfast, picnic lunch and dinner included.
The tour ends today with a transfer back to Christchurch, either to the airport, or to wherever you left your vehicle. If you are not in a hurry, we are happy to break up the journey with a stop at Washpen Falls where you can enjoy a delightful 2-hour loop walk through this private reserve. The path takes you through a volcanic canyon of caves and boulders and thick native bush alive with birdlife. A slight climb takes you past trickling waterfalls on your way up to a wonderful lookout across the Canterbury Plains. The path then descends through native forest to Washpen Falls and its crystal-clear waters. An easy 1-hour transfer to Christchurch follows. Either stay the night or head home this afternoon.
Logistics: Drive time: 1.15 minutes to Christchurch airport. Another 20 minutes to get downtown. Walking distances: 5 km. 1.5 to 2 hours. Breakfast, included.
We rate all our tours on a scale of 1 to 5 in terms of the physical difficulty of the hikes. Activity level 1 is easiest, and activity level 5 is the most difficult.
This tour is rated: Activity Level 3+ = Moderate Plus: Please note that we can make the hikes on this tour even easier if you wish by offering some easier but no less scenic alternative hikes or by availing ourselves of the 4X4 van to shorten some of the hikes. Just ask for the easy version and we shall provide.
In general: This is a moderate tour for fit hikers who will find the walks a satisfying workout, while less-fit hikers will find them challenging but do-able and have a great sense of achievement at the end of the trip.
Terrain: Rolling to hilly terrain with ocassional steep ascents and descents. The "+" indicates that they also involve more rugged, rocky, or steep terrain than the standard 3-rated tours.
Actual walking time: Between 3 - 6 hours per day
Distances: Usually 8 - 16 km (5 - 9 mi) per day. Max distance 18 km (11 mi).
Surfaces: Trails are a mix of compact earth or dirt track, gravel roads, and rocky, uneven trails.
Footing: Good, but you have to pay attention to where and how you place your feet. Proper hiking shoes/boots with thick soles and good treads are required. Sport sandals, running shoes and tennis shoes are not adequate.
This tour specifically. The first two days are on well formed trails and farm tracks. These hikes would be classified as Activity level 2 - 3. The Mount Somers can be an easy level two with just one challenging climb on a well established trail or a more challenging hike on the high route. The Arrowsmith hike is over uneven river beds and grass lands before getting on to a well formed 4X4 track. The Washpen Falls hike is easy.
Hiking Poles: Highly recommended but not required. If you usually hike using poles you will regret it if you don’t have them.
Perspective and our impression: Our most common comment about 3+ hikes is “More challenging than I expected but I am glad I did it.” This tour is appropriate for “sporty and fit” first-time “hikers” who enjoy walking and have good balance. People with hip and knee issues might find a 3+ tour challenging because of the terrain and the duration of the hikes.
Moderate Plus Tours: If you have hiked with us in Europe here are some other Moderate Plus Tours that we do as “Customwalks” that might give you some further insight: Amalfi is the easiest of this group, then Dolomites Lite, followed by the Cinque Terre, Sardinia, and Greece Meteora & Zagori.
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