New Zealand Queenstown

Beginners Guide to the Mt Crichton Loop Track, Queenstown

The Mount Crichton Loop Track is a relatively easy 8km hike located just 15minutes along the iconic Queenstown to Glenorchy scenic drive. 

My favourite part about this walk is that it’s practically hidden to tourists. It’s a little bit off-the-beaten track, so it’s never very busy. When I did this walk I only passed a few people over the several hours that I was there. The downside to this walk is just that it’s hard to access without a car. You could Uber, or hitchhike, but the easiest way to get there is by car. The car park is located just a 15 minute drive out of Queenstown and the trailhead is just a few metres from there. 

The Facts;

  • 2-3hours return 
  • 8km distance 
  • Medium fitness required
  • Gradient: fairly flat 
  • Elevation gain: 370 meters 
  • There is a toilet located at the carpark and by Sam Summers Hut (half-way point)

Getting to Sam Summer’s Hut;

The walk is signposted to take 2-4 hours but I was done in a little over 2 hours with some photo stops and a small fall. From the carpark there is a short path leading across the main road towards the trailhead. Once at the trailhead you can see both the start and finish points, so it’s up to you which direction to go. I recommend going straight ahead over the bridge and doing the walk clockwise. This way you can avoid the steepest parts of the trail on the way up and on your way down you’re gifted with the best views. There are a few crossroads along the walk with little signage, but it’s still easy enough to follow. Despite the walk being quite unknown to some, it is very well managed and maintained. 

The walk towards Sam Summers Hut is mostly surrounded by green vibrant bush as you trail alongside the 21 Mile Creek. Almost the entire walk sits on a cliffside looking down over the river and the occasional cascading waterfall. 

After about 2-3kms, a little while before the hut, you’ll reach the tailrace tunnel. The tunnel, which resembles a chasm, is a deep narrow gap in the rock that miners once chiselled and blasted away to allow water and debris to flow straight down into the creek. You can walk through it! It’s quite thin, but I was able to get to the other side without needing to squeeze my way though. On the other side there’s a short path that leads down to the riverbed. 

Once you reach the Sam Summers Hut and bathroom you’re essentially at the halfway point. Sam Summer’s Hut is also quite interesting. It was built around 1930 and was home to Sam on and off for 30years during the time of gold mining. Today the hut can be used as very basic accommodation for hikers (maintained by DOCs). 

Getting back;

The second half of the walk was my favourite. Just by the hut you’ll find the Twelve Mile Creek Falls (this waterfall isn’t officially named, but it is one of the main drawing points for this track). Once you cross the creek the trees open up a lot more, offering endless mountainous views and valleys – some that even reminded me of the “dead marshes”. The trail still follows along the cliffside, and the pathway is a lot more rocky. The first half of the track is relatively flat, but the second half is more like an unsealed road. 

Trust me, I know – this is where I stacked it! Let’s just say I learnt the hard way that you’re supposed to tuck in your laces when you’re wearing hiking boots.

The trail then reaches an overlook of Lake Dispute. Here you can either continue on the Mt Crichton Loop Track or you can follow the fenceline down to the lake. From here the walk takes you back down to the trailhead, and then it’s just a short 5-10 minutes back to the carpark. 

And you’re done! How did you find it?

What to bring;

  • Hat & sunscreen; though you’ll probably be sweating on the way up, the descent has very little to no coverage from the elements. 
  • Hiking shoes; it could easily be done in normal runners, but given the rocky nature of the second half of the track I would recommend something a little sturdier. Consider the weather and time of year as the trail could be icy. 
  • Bug spray; the Mt Crichton and Glenorchy area is pretty populated with mosquitos and sand flies. 
  • Water; the walk does only take about 2-3hours, but it’s still a good idea to bring some water with you for the journey.

You can see more from this journey on my Instagram highlights here.

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