Kura Tāwhiti Access Track

Image: Shellie Evans | ©


Wander through majestic limestone rock formations of special significance to Ngāi Tahu. It's one of our best short walks.


  • Distinctive limestone rock formations.
  • Castle Hill buttercup.



Fitness required: Low to moderate
Gradient: Flat 

Track overview

1.4 km

Walking and tramping

20 min return Easy: Walking track

Dog access

No dogs

About this track


Follow an easy access track to the site. From here a network of unmarked but worn tracks go up and around large (up to 30 m high) limestone formations. These formations can be seen from the highway but their size is best appreciated up close.

While this walk is in an alpine region, temperatures in summer can be surprisingly hot, so Kura Tawhiti is best experienced in spring or autumn. Try to time your visit to these magnificent limestone formations during the week to get a more tranquil experience, and avoid holiday weekends where possible, as this is when the walk is most popular.

Getting there

From Christchurch, take SH73 towards the West Coast. Kura Tāwhiti is beside the road about 95 km Christchurch.

Nature and conservation

The area was once under a large, shallow inland sea that began to fill in about 30 million years ago. Pressure over time caused extensive uplift, folding and faulting of the Torlesse and Craigieburn ranges. The limestone rock has been eroded by water into the distinctive sculptured landforms.

Kura Tāwhiti is the first reserve in New Zealand established specifically to protect a plant – the Castle Hill buttercup. With just 67 plants in existence, the Castle Hill buttercup can only be found within the 6-ha reserve. 

History and culture

This area is tōpuni (sacred) to the local Ngāi Tahu iwi, with their long history of this area for shelter and food gathering trips.  

Know before you go

What to expect
  • Change in elevation: +/- 28 m
  • Rapidly changing weather conditions – this walk is in an alpine region.
Be prepared

Ensure you take:

  • drinking water
  • insect repellant
  • sun protection.
Thieves targeting cars at Arthur's Pass

There have been reports of cars being broken into and disabled at track ends.

  • Don't leave valuables in your vehicle.
  • Consider using more public parking sites – ask at the Arthur's Pass Visitor Centre for alternative options.
  • Report any suspicious activity to police on +64 3 363 7400.


Arthur's Pass National Park Visitor Centre
Phone:   +64 3 318 9211
Fax:   +64 4 471 1117
Email:   arthurspassvc@doc.govt.nz
Address:   106 Main Westcoast Road
Arthur's Pass
Postal Address:   PO Box 51008
Arthur's Pass 7654
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