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Hiking the Rakaia Gorge Walkway, Canterbury High Country

Hiking the Rakaia Gorge Walkway, Canterbury High Country

The short and (relatively) easy Rakaia Gorge Walkway takes you to some beautiful viewpoints where you’ll see snow-capped mountains, rolling countryside and the crisp blue waters of the Rakaia Gorge. If you’re driving through the Canterbury High Country and want to get out and stretch your legs I’d highly recommend this scenic hike – keep reading to find out more information on the Rakaia Gorge Walkway!

Starting the Rakaia Gorge Walkway

The sign at the start of the track says the hike will take anywhere from one hour return to four hours return. The one-hour return hike only takes you to the lower viewpoint – it’d still be a good walk but much better views await. The track starts off through the bush, with brief clearings where the views open up. The lower viewpoint is nice, although it was incredibly windy when we were there, so we didn’t linger too long. From there you head along the ridge towards the upper viewpoint. The views on this section of the track are awesome. You see large mountains towering over farmland, with the Rakaia River cutting through making for some great photo opportunities.

Rakaia Gorge Walkway lower viewpoint, Canterbury, New ZealandRakaia Gorge, Canterbury, New ZealandWalking the Rakaia Gorge Track, Canterbury, New ZealandHiking the Rakaia Gorge Walkway, Canterbury, New Zealand

A Detour

You’ll soon leave the views behind and head through the forest. There is a small detour to some old mine entrances (5 minutes) but soon after you’ll be faced with a tougher choice. You can head straight to the upper viewpoint via an alternative track or walk down to edge of the river and then back up again. The second option is obviously harder! You don’t need to go all the way down to the river but it’s a nice detour. The “alternate track” isn’t quite as scenic, as some of the best views of this entire hike are from the last section of track heading towards to the upper viewpoint from the main track. Confused? Basically – it’s a bit harder but the views are better going the normal way and the alternate track is easier but less scenic. We took the alternate track on the way back down making the last section into a loop track and it’s probably the best way to do it.

Rakaia Gorge down by the riverStunning viewpoint on the Rakaia Gorge Walkway, Canterbury, New Zealand

The upper viewpoint

When you reach the final viewpoint and the views leading up to it you’ll be glad you decided to tackle the entire track! The views are incredible, and it doesn’t seem like most people go all the way to the end of the track meaning there wasn’t another person in sight. There isn’t really anywhere to sit up there (rocks make decent seats though) but you can’t help but be impressed with the scenery on offer.

All up the hike took us around three and a half hours and was easy enough. There are some uphill sections but nothing too serious. Make sure to wear good shoes as it can get muddy on the Rakaia Gorge Walkway.

The upper Rakaia Gorge Viewpoint, Canterbury, New ZealandHiking the Rakaia Gorge Walkway, Canterbury High Country, New Zealand

Getting to the Rakaia Gorge Walkway

Most people will visit the Rakaia Gorge Walkway from Christchurch. It takes just over an hour to drive between the two and it’d make a really nice day trip from Christchurch. There is heaps more to see in the area as well, including the Hakatere Conservation Park. There you’ll see some stunning lakes, mountain views and Mount Sunday, one of the most impressive Lord of the Rings filming locations in New Zealand.

Are you planning to hike the Rakaia Gorge Walkway? Let us know in the comments below!

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Jon Algie

A travel blogger from New Zealand who has just returned home after 6 years abroad. Join me as I see as much of the South Island as I can.