Craigieburn Forest Park extends from the Waimakariri River to the Wilberforce River - with braided rivers, beech valleys, tussock grasslands, alpine screes and rugged mountain peaks topping 2300 m.


It is a place of extremes with the sheltered valleys and lower slopes clothed almost entirely in mountain beech, whilst forces of erosion have crumbled the mountain tops to create Craigieburn’s characteristic rock screes.

Place overview


  • Climbing
  • Hunting
  • Skiing and ski touring
  • Walking and tramping


  • Picnic tables

Find things to do and places to stay Craigieburn Forest Park

About track difficulties
About hut categories


Two ski clubs operate fields within the park – Broken River and Craigieburn Valley. Visitors are very welcome during the winter months, though the roads can get snowed under and drivers should be equipped with chains.


There are opportunities for climbers in the park.

Dog walking

Dogs are presently allowed in the front faces of the park, but must be kept on a leash at all times. Kiwi and ground-feeding birds are very vulnerable to dog disturbance. Contact the Arthur's Pass Visitor Centre if at all in doubt about where to take your dog in the park.

Four wheel driving

The two ski field roads give 4WD access to the upper valley basins.

You need to be aware and take account of other road users, including mountain bikers, at all times.

Scenic driving

Both the Broken River ski field road and the Craigieburn ski field road are short interesting drives in summer. Both are unsealed, narrow and winding.

There is an attractive picnic area beside Cave Stream on the Broken River ski field road, just off the main highway. Known as the Craigieburn Picnic Area, this sunny sheltered spot has an open shelter, picnic tables, information signs and grass river terraces for camping.

From the shelter there is a circuit road that passes Jacks Pass and the Environmental Education Centre, and continues onto the lookout carpark on the saddle. This carpark is the starting point for two short walks.

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    About this place

    Nature and conservation


    The forest is mostly mountain beech/ tawhairauriki, which has easy identifiable small leaves that end in a point, like a ‘peak’. It is thought that millions of years ago much of the forest that covered the ancient landmass of Gondwanaland looked like the forest of Craigieburn. Fossils of beech trees have been found in Antarctica and descendants survive in Chile, Australia and New Guinea. Above the bush-line there is alpine scrub and tussock grasslands. Scree plants are sparse but well suited to an incredibly harsh environment of bright light, temperature extremes, moving shingle and drying winds.


    During summer you might find skinks (a type of ‘snake-like’ lizard) on the mountainside, plus the occasional spider, scree weta, armour plated grasshopper, black scree butterfly, kea and the scarce New Zealand falcon/kārearea.


    Kea. Photo: C Rudge.
    Kea are an attraction of the Craigieburn Forest Park

    Visitors to the park might see these naturally inquisitive birds. They are the world’s only alpine parrot.

    Please do not feed kea, but let them look for their natural foods (berries, roots, shoots and insect larvae). Feeding attracts kea to areas of human use, such as carparks, picnic and camping areas, where they may damage cars, tents and personal gear.

    Remember, kea are fully protected.

    Pest plants and animals

    Old experimental pine tree plots are a feature on the lower slopes around Craigieburn. Pine seedlings – wildings – from the now abandoned trials, are spreading through Craigieburn Forest Park. Wilding pines and some of the trial plots are slowly being removed.

    Getting there

    Craigieburn Forest Park is in Canterbury, beside highway 73 between Christchurch and the West Coast.

    About 110 km from Christchurch on Highway 73 towards Arthur’s Pass, is a signposted side-road to the Craigieburn Picnic Area on the Broken River ski field road. Access to Craigieburn Valley is another 1 km further along the highway. Both ski field roads have locked gates further up valley during the summer.

    Know before you go


    The summer climate of Craigieburn is usually hot and dry, but in winter snowfalls are common.

    In all seasons the weather is changeable, and special care should be taken on routes above the bush-line.

    Weather forecasts are available from the Met Service, or from DOC Visitor Centre at Arthur’s Pass +64 3 318 9211.


    No fires are permitted within the Craigieburn Forest Park, except in designated fireplaces. Check with DOC concerning restricted or total fire bans.

    Pamphlets and maps

    • Craigieburn Forest Park: Day Walks
    • Cass Saddle – Lagoon Saddle Route Guide 12
    • NZTopo50 maps BV20, BV21, BW20, BW21

    Further information

    There is an emergency phone at Castle Hill village, about 10 km on the main highway towards Christchurch.

    For walking advice, maps, weather information and informative displays contact the DOC Visitor Centre at Arthur’s Pass.

    Arthur's Pass car break-ins: There have been reports of cars being broken into and disabled at track ends. Don't leave valuables in parked cars and consider using more public parking sites - enquire at the Arthur's Pass Visitor Centre for alternative options.  


    Arthur's Pass National Park Visitor Centre
    Phone:   +64 3 318 9211
    Address:   State Highway 73
    Arthur's Pass
    Full office details
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