Hakatere Conservation Park and Mt Somers Conservation Area, Canterbury
A high, gaunt series of ranges standing as a buffer zone between the Canterbury Plains and the high country basins of the Ashburton Lakes region, the Taylor Range, its satellites and Mt Somers Range are popular recreational features which are mostly within Hakatere Conservation Park.
Some of the lower country here, like Mt Somers and its encircling walkway, are easily accessed for day and weekend trips. The western flanks of the Taylor Range, where isolated lakes and rolling hill country predominate, is also easy ground. However, the tops of the range are high by foothill standards, reaching 2333m at Mt Taylor with numerous lower summits in the 2000-2200m range, thereby offering a challenge for aspirant climbers and keen trampers – particularly in winter.
Some sections of the range are remote and will require two to three days to reach and climb to a summit.
– Pat Barrett
1 Mt Taylor
Canterbury’s highest foothill at 2333m, Mt Taylor is a good challenge for the fit requiring a 1400m ascent from Double Hut at the western foot of the mountain in the Swin River South Branch. Summit views are amazing as it sits on the intersection of the Taylor, Mt Somers, and Old Man ranges. Traverses to the north or south are possible from the summit.
2 Old Man Range
This eastern outlier of the Taylor Range can be traversed from Mt Taylor for about 5km of ridge top travel to reach Old Man Peak, 2221m. A descent is possible from here into the North Branch of the Ashburton River.
3 Mt Somers
An easily accessible summit, 1688m Mt Somers stands on the edge of the Canterbury Plains and is reached by a track and poled route via the eastern and southern ridges for an excellent view of the plains and even Aoraki/Mt Cook.
4 Mt Somers Walkway
One of Canterbury’s most popular tramping destinations, the Mt Somers Walkway has two large comfortable huts, a well marked track, waterfalls, pools, interesting rock formations, canyons, forest, and great views. The complete walkway can be done in two or three days from either Woolshed Creek or Staveley.
5 Woolshed Creek Hut
The largest and newest hut in the area, Woolshed Creek Hut (26 bunks) makes an excellent overnight excursion for those not planning to do the entire Mt Somers Walkway. It is set beside Woolshed Creek and offers opportunities for swimming, canyoning, rock climbing, or just exploring historic relics and the magnificent high country.
6 Manuka Hut
Tucked under the cliffs of the Manuka Range, directly beneath the Mt Somers Range at 800m elevation, the old musterer’s shelter of Manuka Hut is isolated yet accessible via the Lake Emily trails off Hakatere Heron Road. The hut is close to Manuka Lake and the interesting landscape associated with this part of the Lake Heron Basin.
7 Stour River West Branch
This high country watershed has a long mountain bike trail which takes riders from Lake Emily to the Ashburton Gorge Road west of the track to Woolshed Creek Hut.
8 Lake Heron
Lake Heron is the largest of the lakes in the Ashburton Gorge region and is an important wetland and bird sanctuary. The Taylor and Mt Somers ranges form an impressive mountain wall on the lake’s eastern side and are especially beautiful when daubed with winter snow. Motor boats are not allowed on the lake so paddling a canoe is a good option particularly into Harrisons Bight where there is also excellent trout fishing.
9 Range Crossings
Both the Taylor and Mt Somers ranges could be traversed from Clent Hills Saddle (Te Araroa Trail) in the north through to Quaker Saddle in the south, or Peache Saddle on the Winterslow Range a little farther to the east.