Top of Helicopter hill
Image: Kate Aston | Creative Commons
Time: 20 min return
This pleasant walk through mountain beech forest begins at the Environmental Education Centre. You can have a close look at different stages of beech tree life and what grows on the trees - lichens, mosses and a small insect which secretes honey dew (a small droplet of sweet liquid that birds feed on). Between late December to February the red flowers of native mistletoe/pikirangi can produce patches of blazing colour in the tree canopy. Common native forest birds living in this area include rifleman/tītīpounamu, bellbird/korimako, tomtit/miromiro and grey warbler/riroriro.
Time: 10 min one way
From the lookout car park follow the track to the summit. From Bridge Hill there are panoramic views of Castle Hill Basin and the Torlesse Range in the east; look for the distinctive Torlesse Gap ‘notch’ in the ridge. The Craigieburn Range in the west rises to a high point of 2194 metres at Mount Enys.
Time: 1 hr return, 1.2 km
This walk begins from the Environmental Education Centre and ends by the lookout car park. It passes through an area that was used for trial planting by the Forest Research Institute from 1956 to the mid 1970s. Return to the car park by walking back along the road.
Time: 45 min one way, 1840 m
A popular picnic site, this sheltered clearing is covered by red-brown Dracophyllum, native tussock and a host of small herbs and ground covering plants.
The track leaves Jacks Pass and gradually descends to Broken River, which is crossed on a pole bridge. The clearing is 5 minutes up through mountain beech.
Time: 1 hr 30 min one way, 2.3 km
Beginning by the shelter at Craigieburn picnic area, the track crosses Cave Stream and grassy terraces before sidling steeply through regenerating mountain-beech forest to Lyndon Saddle.
Time: From Lyndon Saddle to Helicopter Hill summit - 30 min one way, 500 m
From Lyndon Saddle the track climbs along a steep ridge with open screes between the beech forests. The top of Helicopter Hill (1256 m) is covered with tussock and low hebes and grasses. From here there are spectacular views of the Craigieburn and Torlesse ranges and the limestone landscape of Castle Hill Basin.
You will also pass patches of felled pine trees that are gradually being cleared from the hill, as this is a major take-off site for wind-blown pine seed to be dispersed across the Castle Hill Basin. Please help by pulling out any pine seedlings you come across.
Time: 1 hr 30 min one way, 2.7 km
From Lyndon Saddle, this track leads down through low glacial terraces with some tall attractive beech forest to reach the Broken River ski field road. From here it is a 20 minute walk down the road, next to the meandering Cave Stream, to the Craigieburn picnic area.
Time: 15 min one way, 625 m
From Lyndon Saddle the track sidles across an open Dracophyllum and tussock-covered face and drops through beech forest to the Craigieburn Valley Track. Here you can either turn left towards Craigieburn Valley ski field, or right to reach the start of the Craigieburn Valley ski field road, (15-20 minutes).
Be aware of avalanches
Time: From junction on Craigieburn Valley ski field road to ski field huts 1-2 hours, 4.5 km
Circuit return via ski field road 2-3 hours
The track begins beside the Craigieburn Valley ski field road, 1.5 km from the highway, and follows through mountain-beech forest until it emerges in alpine tussocks near the ski field huts and car park. From 1948 until the road was built in 1961 this was the only access to the Craigieburn Valley ski field. All the materials for the early huts and tows were carried by club members up this track.
About 110 km from Christchurch on State 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.
Check the latest weather forecast before you leave, either through MetPhone (0900 999 03) or by calling the Arthur's Pass Visitor Centre +64 3 318 9211.
Wasp populations reach high numbers from January to March – wear light coloured clothing and carry antihistamine cream/tablets as a precaution.