The Rock and Pillar Conservation Area, little more than an hour's drive from Dunedin, is one of Otago's most distinctive upland features; its summit ridge dominated by impressive schist tors or rocky pillars.
The routes described here are for visitors who are both experienced and at least moderately fit.
There are two access routes from the Old Dunstan Road. The Old Dunstan Road is closed in winter (1 June to 1 October) but the rest of the year is open to 2WD vehicles.
The relevant topographical maps for the area are: NZTopo50 series, Sheets CD15 Paerau and CD16 Middlemarch.
1. SH87, 22 km north of Middlemarch
Time: 2 hrs 15 min
Distance: 5 km to conservation area boundary
Car park is signposted on SH87, 22 km north of Middlemarch. To reach the marked route, turn left at the second stile and follow the markers to the conservation boundary.
2. SH87 / Ngapuna Road intersection
Time: 2 hr
Distance: 4.6 km to the conservation area boundary
Parking and toilet facilities are by the Otago Central Rail Trail at the intersection of SH87 and Ngapuna Road, midway between Middlemarch and Hyde. Follow the trail north for 100 m before reaching the beginning of the route.
3. SH87, 9 km north of Middlemarch
Time: 3 hr, 1 hr 30 min to conservation area boundary
Distance: 9.1 km to summit
Seasonal restrictions: This track goes through a working deer farm with new-born deer present from mid-November to mid-December. During this period hinds may pose a danger to people – use alternative access to the Rock and Pillar Conservation Area at this time.
4WD and mountain biking are permitted. Access and parking is at Kilmory Station, 20 m south of Lug Creek. Because of the fragile environment, vehicles and mountain bikes must keep to the track.
4. SH87, 5 km north of Middlemarch
Time: 15 min
Distance: 1.2 km to the conservation area boundary
Signposted from SH87 (Wandle Road), near the McKinnon Road junction, 2WD access to the parking area is through cattle stops on private property. Park at the car park and walk the marked route to the conservation boundary.
5. Gladbrook Road, northern end
Time: 1 hr 30 min
Distance: 3.7 km to conservation area boundary
Access is from Gladbrook Road near March Creek. Cross the stile and follow the markers to the conservation boundary.
6. Rock Road off Gladbrook Road
Time: 1 hr 30 min
Distance: 4.3 km to conservation area boundary
The parking area and route are reached through a farm gate by turning left at the end of Rock Road. Follow the marked route along the fence line to the conservation boundary.
7. Gladbrook Road southern end
Time: 2 hr
Distance: 5.7 km to conservation area boundary
Access is through private property near the southern end of Gladbrook Road. It is signposted, with markers to the conservation area boundary. Note: The track is closed for lambing 1 September-31 October.
8. Old Dunstan Road at Loganburn Reservoir
From Old Dunstan Road access is at a stile adjacent to the Loganburn Reservoir.
9. Old Dunstan Road via McPhees Rock
300 m north of McPhees Creek ford on Old Dunstan Road, a 4WD track leads to McPhees Rock and on to the summit. This track crosses private land to the conservation boundary, respect the landowner's property. Because of the fragile environment, vehicles and mountain bikes must keep to the track.
10. Western Rock and Pillar Conservation Area
Steep, rolling tussock land with views overlooking the Maniototo Plains. Access is from the car park south of Waipiata, via Orangapai Road and Hamilton Diggings Road. The track is open to vehicles from 1 November-1 May. To access by 4WD or on horseback, you need the combination for the lock on both gates at either end of the 4WD track. This can be obtained from the DOC office in Alexandra.
11. Sutton Salt Lake
Time: 1 hr return
Walk a loop track around Sutton Salt Lake - New Zealand's only inland salt lake.