A front-row seat from which to view the spectacular Craigieburn Range. By Lisa Ainley
There are reminders of the past around Castle Hill Village before you face the present and begin the climb up the hill
In the mid-1860s’ West Coast gold rush there was a hotel on the coach road (now SH73). Traces of it can be seen from Castle Hill Village. The village is less than 5km from Castle Hill’s limestone rock formations, a natural, historical and cultural wonder of the South Island.
And, from the village, the marked trail to Leith Hill begins on Trelissick Loop.
Initially, it’s a short gradual descent to Thomas River. If the river is low you might even keep your feet dry. The track then ascends to an open terrace between the bush and the river. Turn left at the junction onto the Leith Hill Loop Track, which crosses open ground before dropping into native bush with a slight descent to the river.
The now undulating trail wends in and out of bush and climbs 300m over the next couple of kilometres.
After crossing below a large erosion area known as ‘The Depression’, the track descends back into the bush.
The fun starts here, for the track is left behind and the route heads upwards.
Keep The Depression to your left and head straight up literally following your nose through a mixture of scrubby open ground and patches of scree (or in snow during winter) on the quad-burning climb to the top.
Don’t be fooled into thinking the cairn and flat area at the top signal the summit. Continue west until you can go no further without descending. This is the true 1384m summit of Leith Hill, and from here you can marvel at the grandeur of the Craigieburn Range.
Return is to the bush line to rejoin the Leith Hill Loop. This descends slowly past the junction with Magic Ponds Track to join Kids Bike Loop. Follow this track for 400m to the terrace and the junction with the Leith Hill Loop Track you started on. From here, return the same way to the track start.