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Hiking to Lake Emily, Hakatere Conservation Park

Hiking to Lake Emily, Hakatere Conservation Park

Hiking to tiny Lake Emily, set amidst golden tussocks and surrounded by snow-capped mountains, is one of the highlights of any trip to the Hakatere Conservation Park. This region of the Canterbury High Country is part of the wider Ashburton Lakes area and has that perfect combination of stunning views and thin crowds. Thinking about hiking to Lake Emily? Keep reading for everything you need to know!

Hiking to Lake Emily

We had Lake Emily on our list of places to see in the Hakatere Conservation Park but had no idea we had to hike there. There’s a very rough 4WD track leading to the lake but our car had no chance of getting there. Instead we parked up and continued on foot. The first part of the track heads slowly uphill — it’s muddy in parts so wear decent shoes. We assumed Lake Emily would be just over the ridge but once we got to the top we could only just make it out in the distance. The views at the top are awesome and if you’re in a hurry you could probably call it a day there. We continued down to the lake, walking along the 4WD track and taking heaps of photos of the wide-open spaces.

We eventually made it to Lake Emily and were glad we didn’t turn back early. The views are stunning and it’s so quiet — we only saw one other person the whole hike and it felt like we were way off the tourist trail. That’s the beauty of New Zealand — even though people say it’s getting overcrowded etc it’s easy to find hikes that you’ll have almost all to yourself.

On the way back, we ran out of water and had the hot sun beating down directly on our faces — it was a small price to pay for those views though! You can also continue further along the track than we did — options include Manuka Hut and Stour Bridge car park. It’s part of the Te Araroa Track, a group of linked walking tracks that connect the entire length of New Zealand.

Getting to Lake Emily

The drive to Lake Emily (and the rest of the road towards both Mount Sunday and Lake Heron) is an attraction in itself. It’d make for an awesome day trip from Christchurch or a detour when driving towards Tekapo / Mount Cook. There are some other cool places to stop — highlights for us were Lake Heron, Lake Emma, Lake Clearwater, Mount Sunday and of course the Lake Emily Hike!

Are you planning a trip to Lake Emily and the Hakatere Conservation Area? Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below!

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Jon Algie

I'm a South Island local -- born in Timaru and raised in Dunedin. I left the island in 2006 and returned 10 years later. Having seen a good chunk of the world I realised how special this place is -- the most beautiful island in the world! Seven years (and almost 400 posts) later I'm still helping locals and tourists alike plan their trips around the South Island.