Craigieburn Forest Park extends
from the Waimakariri River to the Wilberforce River
and contains braided rivers, beech valleys, tussock
grasslands, alpine screes, and rugged mountain peaks
over 2300m high. There are tracks and huts throughout
the park but all the best day walks are concentrated
in a small corner close to State Highway 73.
Amenities here include picnic sites, a shelter,
camping areas and the Environment Education
Centre. Two skifield roads give access up to
the upper valley basins.
A small separate part of the
Forest Park is the area of beech forest, known
as Thomas Bush, located behind Castle Hill Village.
[The following information
is reproduced from the Department of Conservation pamphlet 'Craigieburn Forest Park: Day Walks
available from here.]
About 110km from Christchurch on State Highway
73 towards Arthur's Pass is a signposted side-road
to the Craigieburn picnic area on the Broken
River skifield road. Access to the Craigieburn
Valley is another 1km further along the highway.
Both skifield roads have locked gates further
up valley during the summer.
The forest is mostly mountain
beech which has easy to identify small leaves
that end in a point, like a 'peak'. It is thought
that millions of years ago much of the forest
that covered the ancient landmass of Gondwanaland
looked like the forest of Craigieburn. Fossils
of beech trees have been found in Antarctica
and descendents survive in Chile, Australia
and New Guinea.
Above the bush line there is
alpine scrub and tussock grasslands. Scree plants
are sparse but well suited to an incredibly
harsh environment of bright light, temperature
extremes, moving shingle and drying winds.
summer you might find skinks (a type of 'snake-like'
lizard) on the mountainside, plus the occasional
spider, scree weta, armour plated grasshopper,
black scree butterfly, kea and the scarce New
Old experimental tree plots
are noticeable on the lower slopes around Craigieburn.
Pine seedlings- wildings- from the now abandoned
trials are now spreading through Craigieburn
Forest Park. Wilding pines and some of the trial
plots are being removed.
The summer climate of Craigieburn is usually
hot and dry, but in winter snowfalls are common.
In all seasons the weather is changeable, and
special care should be taken on routes above
the bush-line. Tell someone of your intended
route and expected time out and make sure you follow the Outdoor Safety Code. Note there is no cellphone coverage in the Castle Hill Basin area although there
is an emergency phone at Castle Hill Village (located in the red telephone box near the Castle Hill Drive- Trelissick Loop intersection at the village entrance).
Visitors to the park might see these naturally
inquisitive birds. They are the world's only
mountain parrot. Please do not feed kea, but
let them look for their natural foods (berries,
roots, shoots and insect larvae). Feeding attracts
kea to areas of human use, such as carparks,
picnic and camping areas, where they may damage
cars, tents and personal gear. Remember, kea
are fully protected.
Both the Broken River skifield road and the
Craigieburn skifield road are short interesting
drives in summer. Both are unsealed, narrow
There is an attractive picnic area beside
Cave Stream on the Broken River skifield road,
just off the main highway. Known as the Craigieburn
Picnic Area this sunny sheltered spot has an
open shelter, picnic tables, information signs
and grass river terraces for camping.
From the shelter there is a circuit road
that passes Jacks pass and the Environmental
Education Centre, and continues onto the lookout
carpark on the saddle. This carpark is the starting
point for two short walks.
Within Craigieburn Forest Park is a network of roads and dual purpose tracks popular for mountain biking. Biking is permitted only on ski field access roads and the bush tracks sign-posted 'open to cycling use. Be aware at all times of other vehicles on these roads. These are shared-use tracks. Follow the mountain bikers code: respect others, respect the rules, respect the track.
Two ski clubs operate fields within the Park- Broken River and Craigieburn Valley. Visitors
are very welcome during the winter months, though
the roads can get snowed under and drivers should
be equipped chains.
This walk begins from the Environmental Education
Centre and ends by the lookout carpark. It passes
through an area that was used for trial planting
by the Forest Research Institute from 1956 to
the mid 1970's. Return to the carpark by walking
back along the road.
This pleasant walk through mountain beech
forest begins at the Centre. You can have a
close look at different stages of beech tree
life and what grows on the trees- lichens, mosses
and a small insect which secretes honey dew
(a small droplet of sweet liquid that birds
feed on). Between late December to February
the red flowers of native mistletoe can produce
patches of blazing colour in the tree canopy.
Common native forest birds living in this area
are titipounamu/rifleman, makomako/bellbird,
tomtit and graywarbler.
From the lookout carpark follow the track
to the summit. From Bridge Hill there are panoramic
views of Castle Hill Basin and the Torlesse
Range in the east; look for the distinctive
Torlesse Gap 'notch' in the ridge. The Craigieburn
Range in the west rises to a high point of 2,195
metres at Mt Enys.
Dracophyllum Flat Walk (Walking time
1-2 hours return)
A popular picnic site, this sheltered clearing
is covered by red-brown Dracophyllum, native
tussock and a host of small herbs and ground
covering plants. The track leaves Jacks Pass
and gradually descends to Broken River, which
is crossed on a pole bridge. The clearing is
5 minutes up through mountain beech.
This excellent circuit track to Lyndon Saddle
and Lyndon/Helicopter Hill begins by the shelter
at the Craigieburn picnic area. The track crosses
Cave Stream and grassy terraces, and then sidles
steeply through dense regenerating mountain
The saddle has a four way junction and the
track to Lyndon/Helicopter Hill climbs along
a steep ridge with open screes between the beech
forest. In parts the track is not clearly marked,
but the route is obvious.
The top of Lyndon/Helicopter Hill (1262 metres)
is covered with tussock and low herbs and grasses
with some stands of exotic pine trees on the
lower slopes. This is a superb viewpoint for
the Craigieburn and Torlesse Ranges and the
limestone landscape of Castle Hill Basin.
Back at Lyndon Saddle an alternative track
leads down though low glacial terraces with
some tall attractive beech forest, and reaches
the Broken River skifield road. It is about
20 minutes down the road and back to the shelter
following the meandering Cave Stream.
Lyndon Saddle to Craigieburn Valley Road (Walking time 30 minutes one way)
From Lyndon Saddle the track sidles across
an open Dracophyllum and tussock covered face
and drops through beech forest to the Craigieburn
Valley track, then down to the road.
If you can arrange transport to pick you
up on the Craigieburn skifield road this is
an easy crossing walk, about 2 hours one way.
Otherwise you can walk down the Craigieburn
Valley skifield to the main highway and back
along to the Craigieburn picnic area (about
3-4 hours circuit).
Craigieburn Valley Track (Walking time 1-2
hours one way, 2-3 hours return)
The track begins beside the Craigieburn Valley
skifield road, 1.5km from the highway, and follows
through mountain beech forest until it emerges
in alpine tussocks near the skifield huts and
carpark. From 1948 until the road was built
in 1961 this was the only access to the Craigieburn
Valley skifield. All the material for the early
huts and tows were carried by club members up
this track. Return down the skifield road.
Apart from magnificent views, this tussock
and scree saddle offers many interesting botanical
specimens. Growing among the rock are tiny plants
that have adapted to the harsh environment-
including celmisia, gentians and edelweiss.
This is a mountain tramp and people should
be prepared for extremes of weather. Take a
topographical map and compass. Access to Camp
Saddle can be from various directions, but crossing
from Broken River to Craigieburn Valley skifield
road is the easiest route.
Broken River Skifield Road to Camp Saddle (Tramping time 1-2 hours one way)
The Broken River road is the easiest way
to get to Camp Saddle. From the locked gate
and carpark where the road crosses Camp Stream,
walk 1km to the signposted track (opposite the
ski club tractor shed). A wide four-wheel drive
track narrows as it climbs steadily towards the
Camp Saddle to Lyndon Saddle (Tramping
time 1-2 hours one way)
From Camp Saddle continue south-east along
the well-define ridge. After an hour descend
steeply down a scree slope. Stay on the left
of the scree to join an unmarked track through
the beech forest to Lyndon Saddle. It is much
easier to go down scree than scramble up, so
this trip is better done as a descent.
Craigieburn Valley Track to Camp Saddle (Tramping time about 2 hours one way)
From the Craigieburn Valley skifield carpark
continue along the four wheel drive road to
the bottom of the ski tows. From there cross
a small stream and follow the Craigieburn Valley
track through beech forest until it emerges
onto a scree and scrub slope. Here you can see
Camp Saddle clearly. Scramble up through the
tussock and soft scree to the Saddle. This is
also an easy descent route.
During the summer months there is walking
access up to the skifield basins of Broken River
and Craigieburn. These areas are harsh and alpine,
and should be treated with respect. Take a topographical
map and adequate clothing for the extremes of
Fit trampers will be able to gain access
up onto the main ridge and rocky peaks, which
give superb views of the backcountry from Arthur's
Pass to Mount Cook. Less fit walkers will enjoy
the lower bush and tussock slopes. All buildings
are private skifield property and should not
Broken River Skifield Basin (Walking
time, locked gate to huts 2-3 hours return)
From the locked gate you can walk up the
skifield road all the way to the accommodation
huts, and up to the rope tows. There is also
a bush track beside the inclinator (goods lift)
which zig zags directly up to the huts, and
a pleasant return can be made down the vehicle
Tramping time skifield basin and main ridge
4-5 hours return.
From the Broken River skifield huts there
is a vehicle track that sidles up to the tussock
basin, and there are obvious routes up onto
the main ridge and onto Nervous Knob. There
are superb views down into the Hamilton-Harper
Craigieburn Skifield Basin (Tramping
time 5-6 hours to main ridge return)
From the locked gate it is an easy walk up
the road to the lower Craigieburn skifield huts
(about 30 minutes).
The access road continues up the steep valley
and fit trampers can reach the 1923 metre Hamilton
Peak. It is possible to traverse the ridge to
Nervous Knob and down to into the Broken River
skifield basin, but this is for experienced
trampers and climbers only. You must arrange
transport to make this crossing.