In case you haven’t heard already, a little film series known as the Lord of the Rings trilogy (as well as the less well-loved Hobbit trilogy) was filmed in New Zealand. There are heaps of filming locations all over the country, and Mount Sunday, a little rocky hill thing surrounded by snow-capped mountains, is one of the most impressive. We hiked to the top of Mount Sunday recently and can’t recommend it enough – keep reading for more information on this great short walk.
Driving to Mount Sunday
One of the highlights of hiking Mount Sunday is the journey to get there. Hakatere Potts Road, which cuts through the Hakatere Conservation Area, is surrounded by mountains and small lakes and towards the end follows the Rangitata River. It has quickly jumped into my (imaginary at this point) top 5 scenic roads in New Zealand. If you’re coming from Christchurch, you’ll want to head towards Methven / Mount Somers (it’ll take around 1.5 hours to get to the start of Ashburton Gorge Road, which later becomes Hakatere Potts Road). From Mount Somers (where the turnoff is located) it’s 48 km to Mount Sunday. I’m sure you’ll be stopping as much as we did to take in the views so plan longer than you’ll need for this journey.
Hiking Mount Sunday
The first section of the Mount Sunday Track takes you down a gravel road. The views are awesome, especially in winter / spring when there is plenty of snow on the mountains. You’ll eventually cross a bridge and then start your ascent of Mount Sunday. It’s obviously an uphill walk but it’s short and easily manageable for most people.
Once at the top you’ll get a nice view of the surrounding mountains. There are lots of big rocks to sit on but there is absolutely no shade up there (or anywhere else on the track) so you might want to protect yourself from the sun. When we hiked Mount Sunday we saw a few other people on the track but only one at the top. I thought this place would be way more popular, but I guess it’s still a bit of a hidden gem.
It takes around an hour (likely longer as you’ll want to spend some time at the top) to hike the Mount Sunday Track – good shoes are advised as it can get a little slippery on the way down.
Mount Sunday from the road
Just before the start of the track you’ll get some good views of Mount Sunday. You can also keep driving past the car park for a different angle.
I don’t have a photographic recollection of the Lord of the Rings movies, so I couldn’t remember what Edoras actually was. It turns out it’s a city in Rohan, a kingdom of men, and was mostly seen in the Two Towers. After visiting Mount Sunday, you can see why it might be a location used in a movie – you can’t beat that scenery!
Other Things to Do in the Area
Hakatere Conservation Park is beautiful part of New Zealand and I encourage everyone to visit. It’s more “off the beaten path” than places like Queenstown, Wanaka and the Mackenzie Basin but the scenery is every bit as impressive. We spent a day in the area and visited lots of small lakes (Lake Emily was the best) and viewpoints and made countless roadside photo stops.
Are you excited to hike Mount Sunday? What other Lord of the Rings filming locations have you been to? Let us know in the comments below!
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