Hakatere Conservation Park, Canterbury
South of the Arrowsmith Range and north-east of the Rangitata River stands a high rolling landscape of tawny hills, bare summits, and sweeping tussock terraces formed by the intersection of the Big Hill and Dogs Range where they form a backdrop against the northern shore of Lake Clearwater.
These ranges are a part of Hakatere Conservation Park and offer such a diversity of outdoor opportunities that they would be hard to surpass in many other comparable regions. They are also close to two large population centres, Christchurch and Timaru, and have numerous entry points.
For family groups to experienced individuals, there is a huge amount on offer here.
1 Potts River
Draining much of the Big Hill Range, Potts River rises on the southern flanks of the Arrowsmith region and empties into the Rangitata River after negotiating a deep gorge. The mid and upper sections of the river are easily accessed off the Te Araroa Trail which passes to the south of the range.
2 Potts Hut
The old but very comfortable Potts Hut is sited in the mid-reaches of the Potts River and makes a good hunting base or overnight stop between the South Ashburton and the Potts.
3 Stumpy Saddle
This moderate pass at around 1700m grants easy tramping access between the South Ashburton and Potts rivers. It passes through the heart of the Big Hill Range and thereby also grants access to several 2000m peaks.
4 Boundary Creek Hut
An ex-musterer’s hut, Boundary Creek Hut in the South Ashburton is an excellent destination for family groups or as a base for exploring the upper valley and the Red Mountain Stream basins.
5 South Branch Ashburton River
For a slice of big country and really big mountains, the South Ashburton and its Top Hut can be reached by MTB from the Lake Heron Basin. This large post-glacial valley is very spectacular and is a great introduction to the Canterbury high country. The peaks at the head of the valley contain the highest summit of the Arrowsmith Range – 2781m Mt Arrowsmith.
6 Mystery Lake
For a moderate hike through grand surroundings, a day walk from Lake Clearwater through the high terraces on the flanks of the Dogs Range to Mystery Lake is highly recommended. The lake lies at 1100m in a trough below the range crest and has a great view.
7 Mt Guy
Standing just north-east of Lake Clearwater, Mt Guy (1319m) has a poled route up and over the summit to link with the Te Araroa Trail. The summit can be reached from the lake in around two hours and commands excellent views into the head of the Havelock branch of the Rangitata and all around the Ashburton Lakes basin.
8 Lake Clearwater and Lake Camp
These two recreational lakes are popular with Canterbury boaties (power boats are not allowed on Lake Clearwater) who regularly visit to enjoy water sports in the grand surroundings. Fishing, MTB trips, wind surfing, hunting, and day walks can be enjoyed around the lakes. There is a small village on the shores of Lake Clearwater.
9 Mt Sunday
From Lord of the Rings fame, Mt Sunday, 611m, standing on the floor of the Rangitata River is now a major tourist destination for movie buffs wanting to visit the location of the mythical castle Edoras. The summit can be reached in an hour from Hakatere Potts Road.
10 Range Traverses
Both ranges can be readily traversed all the way to Pito Peak, 2401m, a reasonably challenging climb at the very head of the Potts River.