- Car park to Gabriel Hut, 2hr; Gabriel Hut to Jollie Brook Hut, 90min; Jollie Brook Hut to car park, 5-6hr
- Gabriel Hut, four bunks; Jollie Brook Hut, seven bunks; Cold Stream Hut, six bunks
- Sisters Stream car park, Lake Sumner Road
- BV23, BU23
Download the route notes, maps and GPX file
Jollie Brook Circuit, Lake Sumner Forest Park
After seeing The Hobbit, my Dad and I were aching to get back into Middle Earth’s majestic backcountry. With our fitness levels at an all-time low after weeks of inactivity and Christmas mince pies, the Lake Sumner area held plenty of promise.
Starting at the Sisters car park, a leisurely stroll took us through the wide open Hurunui Valley, up and over river terraces to the cosy four-bunk Gabriel Hut.
Another 30-minutes from the hut, struggling through wind-throw from past storms, we reached Lake Sumner, bathed in sunlight and almost overflowing because of the rain from a couple of days ago. We found a nice spot to camp on the banks of the beach right at the outlet of the lake. We took the chance for a cool dip and tried our hand fly fishing, but with no luck.
The morning dawned bright and beautiful and after breakfast in the tent, away from the swarming sandflies, we packed and walked back to Gabriel Hut and the track junction heading to Jollie Brook.
A nice amble through the trees next to the tinkling sound of Gabriel Stream eventually led to Gabriel Saddle. We had a small break in a clearing and enjoyed the views through the tree tops while being entertained by a couple of friendly bush robins.
The track threaded its way through Jollie Brook Stream flowing low and steady at first, but eventually gathering momentum and depth as we crossed it on a swingbridge to reach Jollie Brook Hut, established in 1972. Although it’s a major improvement from Gabriel Hut, the sandflies soon drove us on.
The forest track opened up along grassy flats next to Jollie Brook Stream. We had numerous crossings, zigzagging across the river getting wet boots and legs, but because of the hot sun this soon became a relief. We stopped under the shade of a beech tree, by an escarpment of stones and ruins of an old hut.
Shortly after we arrived at the junction to Cold Stream Hut. Rather than walk to the hut, we decided to camp under some shady trees next to Jollie Brook. It was a beautiful evening, and the setting was perfect. After dinner and just as the sun was setting we spied a small deer amongst the trees just behind our camp.
The good run of weather continued but because of the thousands of sandflies we were forced to have a hurried breakfast inside the tent. We soon left the biters behind as we continued the zigzag down the Jollie Brook once more.
The valley gradually narrows into a gorge, but it was an easy jaunt through it and then we’re back onto the wide open spaces of the river flats. We crossed the Jollie Brook several more times and then we reached at the Hurunui River.
We bush bashed our way along an overgrown track alongside the river until we reached the familiar site of the swingbridge leading to the Sisters car park – a full circuit completed.
This is a perfect track for novice trampers, or people like us who haven’t been tramping in a while and who want an easy and enjoyable walk.
– Samantha Mythen