Introduction

Enjoy magnificent views over Banks Peninsula, the Canterbury plains, Southern Alps and Pacific ocean on this track, which is about an hour's drive from Christchurch.

Track overview

35 km one way

Walking and tramping

2-3 days Advanced: Tramping track

Mountain biking

Various options Intermediate: Grade 3
Advanced: Grade 4

Seasonal restrictions

Part of the main track is closed for lambing from 15 August – 15 October each year. The section of track from the Waipuna Saddle to Montgomery Reserve is closed for lambing 1 Sept - 25 Oct.

The Pettigrews Road farm track for mountain bikers is closed for lambing 1 Sept - 25 Oct.

Year-round access is available to the Packhorse Hut and Rod Donald Hut for walkers.

Dog access

No dogs

About this track

Description

Te Ara Pātaka/Summit Walkway links Gebbies Pass in the Lyttelton crater to Hilltop in the Akaroa crater. It follows a long high ridgeline that includes Mt Herbert/Te Ahu Patiki, the highest point on Banks Peninsula.

View from Te Ara Pātaka.
Views from Te Ara Pātaka
Image: Janey Thomas ©

The track can be completed as a one-way walk most of the year (part of the track is closed during lambing).

Return walks to Packhorse Hut via Kaituna Valley Road, and to Rod Donald Hut via Port Levy Saddle are possible year round.

Gebbies Pass to Packhorse Hut

Time: 2 hr
Distance: 5.8 km 

This is the easiest track to Packhorse Hut. It starts near the crest of Gebbies Pass Road on the Lyttelton side, where there is a small car park.

From the car park, the marked track crosses open paddocks before entering pine forest. It then climbs to open land and fantastic views high above Lyttelton Harbour. From there it skirts below the Remarkable Dyke volcanic rock formations. The track ends at the historic Sign of the Packhorse Hut, which is well situated for views.

This section of the track is maintained by the Christchurch City Council.

Mountain biking is allowed on this section.

Packhorse Hut. Image: Harley James ©

Packhorse Hut

Category: Serviced
Facilities: 9 bunk beds, heating, mattresses
Bookings required

Kaituna Valley to Packhorse Hut

The Kaituna Valley Packhorse Hut Track provides alternative access to Packhorse Hut. It's open year round.

Packhorse Hut to Mt Herbert/Te Ahu Patiki summit

Time: 2 hr 15 min
Distance: 6.5 km 

The track crosses the Sign of the Packhorse Scenic Reserve with many young, regenerating lancewood trees. It emerges from the reserve into open country.

Towards Mt Bradley.
Towards Mt Bradley
Image: Janey Thomas ©

It then climbs steeply up the side of Mt Bradley before heading east and skirting below the mountain's rocky massif. The rough track here is through gorse, bush and regenerating scrub.

The track emerges at a fence line on the pass between Mt Bradley and Mt Herbert. Cross the fence and carry straight on to join a farm track. The Mt Herbert shelter is a short distance along and has a toilet and water.

From the shelter, return to the farm track. After approx. 400 m, turn up a smaller track that leads through gorse to the Mt Herbert summit (919 m). On a good day the views from the summit are stunning in all directions. On a cloudy day it can be misty and confusing so be prepared.

Mountain biking is not allowed on this section.

Mt Herbert/Te Ahu Patiki summit to Port Levy Saddle

Time: 2 hr
Distance: 6 km

From the summit of Mt Herbert, head east through tussocky grassland to reach the summit of Little Mt Herbert (913 m). Both summits have cellphone and radio transmission towers. Watch for track markers along the flat top between the two summits, especially in the mist. There are many cattle tracks in the tussockland that can lead you off course.

From Little Mt Herbert, carry on east heading down through tussock to pick up a farm track. Continue through pasture punctuated by pine forest and old stands of remnant totara, to the Port Levy Saddle on Western Valley Road. There is a car parking area here.

Mountain biking is allowed on this section.

Port Levy Saddle to Rod Donald Hut

This section of track is open year round.

Time: 50 min
Distance: 2.5 km 

From Port Levy Saddle car park, cross Western Valley Road and follow the marked track along the ridgeline. Keep an eye out for markers - the track departs from the wider farm vehicle track from time to time.

The side-track to Rod Donald Hut is signposted at the distinctive stooped totara trees on Waipuna Saddle. The hut is a 25 min (1 km) walk off the main Te Ara Pātaka track. Follow the marked farm track down through grassland, then turn and descend through gorse and regenerating natives.

The Rod Donald Hut is on private land belonging to the Rod Donald Banks Peninsula Trust and protected by a QEII covenant.

Mountain biking is allowed on this section.

Rod Donald Hut.

Rod Donald Hut

Category: Serviced
Facilities: 9 bunk beds, heating, lighting, mattresses
Bookings required

Rod Donald Hut to Hilltop Hotel via Montgomery Reserve

This section of track will be closed from the Waipuna Saddle to Montgomery Reserve for lambing 1 Sept - 25 Oct.

Time: 5 hr
Distance: 15 km

Once back at Waipuna Saddle, cross the stile. Follow the track along the ridgeline to the spectacular totara graveyard - an area littered with uprooted totara logs and stumps. It's a stark reminder of the grand forest that once stood here and was cleared to make way for pastoral farming.

Fallen totara litters the track from here on, but there are also many examples of living old growth remnants and young re-growth.

Continue next to Mt Fitzgerald Reserve and through Mt Sinclair and Whatarangi Totara reserves. When the track forks on an open saddle, take the right fork and climb up on the farm track to the peak of Montgomery Reserve.

Mountain bikers: carry straight on to follow a farm track exiting onto Pettigrews Road. Respect that this track crosses private land, and ensure gates are left as you find them. The farm track will be closed for lambing 1 Sept - 25 Oct for lambing. During this period there will be no entry/exit for mountain bikers from this end of Te Ara Pātaka. 

Walkers: on entering the reserve turn right beside the fence line, then left to enter the bush below. The next 500 m involves a steep descent on a rocky track. We recommend tramping poles or walking sticks for those with stiff knees. The rest of the track through the reserve is easier, on a well defined forest path.

Near the end is a massive forked lowland totara tree. It's 8.5 m in diameter and could be up to 2000 years old.

Emerge from the reserve onto Summit Road. Cross the road, turn right to walk along the road verge 300m until you reach the Hilltop Tavern on SH 75.

During the lambing season -  1 Sept - 25 Oct - the section of track beyond Montgomery Reserve will be closed.

Mountain biking is allowed on this section, but bikers must enter/exit via Pettigrews Road. No mountain bikes are permitted in the Montgomery Reserve.

Getting there

Te Ara Pātaka is best accessed by car. Allow 50 minutes to drive from Christchurch to Gebbies Pass, or 1 hour 15 minutes to Hilltop as the roads are steep and windy.

If parking at Hilltop, leave vehicles at the furthest end of the car park from the tavern itself.

Akaroa shuttle buses will call at the Hilltop Tavern. Bookings are essential.

Alternative access

Te Ara Pātaka can also be accessed via a number of connecting tracks including Kaituna to Packhorse, Diamond Harbour to Mt Herbert/Te Ahu Patiki,Orton Bradley to Mt Herbert.

Pettigrews Road entry/exit for Mountain bikes.

For more information on these, see the Rod Donald Banks Peninsula website.

The track can be picked up at Port Levy Saddle, via Western Valley Road. This road is unsealed, as well as winding, rough, steep and narrow - drive carefully. It may only be passable by 4WD after heavy rain.

Mountain biking

Mountain biking is allowed on some sections of Te Ara Pātaka:

  • Gebbies Pass to Packhorse Hut - grade 4
  • Mt Herbert/Te Ahu Patiki summit to Port Levy Saddle
  • Port Levy Saddle to Hilltop Hotel but note, bikers must enter/exit via Pettigrews Road. No mountain bikes are permitted in the Montgomery Reserve - grade 3

Bookings

Packhorse Hut and Rod Donald Hut must be booked in advance.

Book online or contact the DOC office.  

Know before you go

The track is suitable for people with moderate backcountry skills and experience. It's rough and steep in places.

The track is exposed to all weathers. It can be windy, cold and prone to low cloud in poor weather.

Water is only available from the huts and Mt Herbert shelter.

The track crosses private farmland - respect this and keep to the track.

Before you go into the outdoors, tell someone your plans and leave a date to raise the alarm if you haven't returned. To do this, use the New Zealand Outdoors Intentions process on the AdventureSmart website. It is endorsed by New Zealand's search and rescue agencies and provides three simple options to tell someone you trust the details about your trip.

Contacts

Ōtautahi / Christchurch Visitor Centre
Phone:   +64 3 379 4082
Address:   Co-located with the Christchurch i-site
28 Worcester Boulevard
Christchurch 8140
Email:   christchurchvc@doc.govt.nz
Full office details
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