Rock tors above Big Top Hut

Image: John Barkla | DOC

Introduction

The Rock and Pillar Range, little more than an hour from Dunedin, is one of Otago's most distinctive upland features - its summit ridge dominated by impressive schist tors or rocky pillars.

Track overview

Walking and tramping

Expert: Route

Seasonal restrictions

The Old Dunstan Road is closed in winter (1 June to 1 October).

Dog access

No dogs

About this track

Description

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. Rockvale Track

Walking category: Tramping track
Mountain biking grade: Advanced/Grade 4
Time (walking): 2 hr 15 min, 5 km to conservation area boundary
Distance: 4–6 hr, 15 km from conservation area boundary to Rock and Pillar Ridge Road junction via Rock and Pillar Range North Track

The car park is signposted on SH87, about 22 km north of Middlemarch. To reach the marked track, turn left at the second stile and follow the markers to the conservation boundary.

2. Last Creek Track

Walking category: Tramping track
Time (walking): 1 hr – 1 hr 30 min
Distance: 3 km to conservation area boundary

At the intersection of SH87 and Ngapuna Road, follow the Otago Central Rail Trail north for 200 m before reaching the beginning of the track. Follow the markers that begin on the fence line.

3. Kinvara Road

Walking category: Tramping track
Mountain biking grade: 
Time/distance: 3 hr, 10 km to summit (on foot), 1 hr 30 min, 6 km to conservation area boundary

Access and parking are at Kilmory Station, 20 m south of Lug Creek. Kinvara Road climbs up to the ridge top where it joins with the Rock and Pillar Ridge Road and the Rock and Pillar North Track.

Suitable for 4WD. Vehicles must keep to the road to preserve the environment.

This road passes through a deer farm. Newborn deer are present from mid-November to mid-December, and hinds may pose a danger at this time – use alternative access to the Rock and Pillar Conservation Area.

4. Glencreag Track

Walking category: Tramping track
Time/distance:
45 min, 1 km from car park to conservation area boundary
2–3 hr, 5 km from car park to Big Hut

This track is signposted from SH87 (Wandle Road). The access road (a 4WD road through private property) begins near the junction with McKinnon Road. From the car park, walk the marked track to the conservation boundary. A marked track continues from here to Big Hut. It is a 1,000 m climb – do not attempt it in winter without winter alpine equipment and experience.

5. March Creek Track

Walking category: Tramping track
Time:
1 hr 30 min
Distance: 3.7 km to conservation area boundary

Access is from McKinnon Road near March Creek. Cross the stile and follow the markers to the conservation area boundary.

6. Brookdale Track (symbol: tramping)

Walking category: Tramping track
Time: 1 hr 30 min
Distance: 4.3 km to conservation area boundary

The car park and track are reached through a farm gate by turning left at the end of Rock Road. Follow the marked track along the fence line to the conservation area boundary.

7. Stonehurst Track

Walking category: Tramping track
Mountain biking grade: Advanced/Grade 4
Time/distance:
2 hr, 5.7 km to conservation area boundary
4 hr, 13 km to Old Dunstan Road

Parking is near the southern end of Gladbrook Road. Follow the marked track via a farm road to the conservation boundary, or access from Old Dunstan Road at a stile next to the Loganburn reservoir.

Entry from Gladbrook Road is closed for lambing 1 September – 31 October.

Suitable for 4WD, hose riding, and mountain biking. 

8. Sutton Salt Lake Scenic Reserve Walking Track

Walking category: Walking track
Time: 1 hr
Distance: 3.5 km loop

Sutton Salt Lake is New Zealand's only inland salt lake. It has no outlet, so the lake has concentrated the salts from surrounding soils.

To get here, go south from Middlemarch about 9 km along SH87, then 2.5 km along the unsealed Kidds Road.

9. Rock and Pillar Ridge Road

Walking category: Tramping track
Mountain biking grade: Intermediate/Grade 3
Time/distance:
2.5 km to McPhees Rock, 3 km to conservation area boundary
13 km Old Dunstan Road to Summit Rock
3.5 hr, 12 km Old Dunstan Road to Big Hut
15.3 km Old Dunstan Road to SH 87 to Kinvara Road junction

A 4WD road 300 m north of McPhees Creek ford on Old Dunstan Road leads to McPhees Rock and on to the summit. The road to the conservation boundary crosses private land, so respect the landowner’s property.

Mountain bike and 4WD enthusiasts could consider the 25 km day trip from old Dunstan Road to Kinvara car park via McPhees and Summit rocks.

Suitable for 4WD, horse riding, and mountain biking. Vehicles and mountain bikers must keep to the road to preserve the environment. Old Dunstan Road is only open to vehicles 1 October – 31 May.

10. Western Rock and Pillar Conservation Area (symbols: tramping, mountain biking, 4WD, horses)

Walking category: Tramping track
Mountain biking grade: Advanced/Grade 4
Distance: 2.5 km to conservation area boundary

Steep, rolling tussockland with views of the Maniototo Plain. Access is from the car park south of Waipiata, via Orangapai Road and Hamilton Diggings Road.

Suitable for 4WD, horse riding, and mountain biking. To access by 4WD or horse, you need the combination for the locks on the gates at either end of the road, available from the Kā Moana Haehae/Alexandra DOC Office.

This track is open to vehicles 1 November – 30 April. There is no public access from the Western Rock and Pillar Conservation Area to the main Rock and Pillar Conservation Area.

Know before you go

Weather: The Rock and Pillar Conservation Area is very exposed. Wintery conditions can occur at any time of the year, and the area is subject to snow, expecially during winter.

Leaning Lodge Hut is closed until further notice. For further information contact the Otago Tramping and Mountaineering Club: otmc@ihug.co.nz.

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

Kā Moana Haehae / Alexandra Office
Phone:   +64 3 440 2040
Fax:   +64 4 471 1117
Email:   alexandra@doc.govt.nz
Address:   43 Dunstan Road
Alexandra 9320
Postal Address:   PO Box 176
Alexandra 9340
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