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Hiking to the Top of Little Mount Peel

Hiking to the Top of Little Mount Peel

Looming high above farmland and the foothills of the Southern Alps, Little Mount Peel is a fun mountain to climb in South Canterbury. It seems like one of the easier mountain hikes, but it’s still a mountain, and with about 1000 metres in elevation gain it’s tough in parts. We did the hike to the top of Little Mount Peel recently – keep reading if you’re considering doing the same.

Starting the Walk

There are a couple of different tracks you can walk to get to the top of Little Mount Peel, with the Deer Spur Track being the easiest and by far the most popular. That’s the one we opted for and it starts at the end of Blandswood Road (same car park as Emily Falls). You’ll need to walk up the road for 5-10 minutes before starting on the track.

To the Bush line

The first part of the walk takes you steadily uphill through native bush. Peel Forest is a haven for native trees – as you’ll see at the top it’s an island of wild nature surrounded by farmland. The isn’t too much to see for the first 45 minutes or so. An occasional view pokes its head out, but the real action starts once you emerge from the bush.

Walking in the Sun

Once above the bush line the views open up. At this stage this mostly involves farmland and the Rangitata River. We had perfect weather – nice and sunny with a good array of picturesque clouds.

You can’t see the summit yet — it’s still a long way to go. Enjoy this more relaxing part of the track, because it won’t last!

The Climb

As you get closer to the top the track gets a lot steeper and rougher. It’s nothing too bad – a fairly typical mountain track in New Zealand. It was hot though – a mid-summer afternoon of around 26-degrees on the plains.

We encountered a few other hikers struggling up, making us feel a little better about how hard we (or mostly I) found it. Again, this isn’t especially hard for a mountain summit, but it’s still a mountain summit and you’ve got to expect them to be tough at some point.

With great effort usually comes great beauty, and that’s true here. We were really impressed with the views on offer from Little Mount Peel. You’ve got the contrast of the farmland, the bush and the foothills, all with their own shades of green. Throw in a few distant snow-capped mountains and the pacific ocean and you have the recipe for a scenic mountain hike.

You can see where you’re going in the distance – the summit with a tiny building just below.

The Summit

The last hour or so of the Little Mount Peel climb were tough, but with lots of breaks we eventually reached the summit (1311 masl). From there you can see over another valley, as well as Middle Mount Peel and Big Mount Peel. You could do these as well, but we, and seemingly everyone else up there at the time, were content to stop at the Little Mount Peel Summit.

That little building you could see before is a shelter. There you’ll find a visitors’ book and a tank with drinking water. It says to boil it first, but I asked a guy who goes up there regularly and he said he drinks it all the time. It was lucky, as we didn’t bring as much water as we should have. Obviously, drink that water at your own risk!

The Way Back

From the summit you can either return the way you came or walk down the steeper South Ridge Track. That track looked very steep and it’d be hard on the knees (as if the Deer Spur Track was easy going down).The way down was hard at the start but the track eventually flattens out a little, allowing you to get a good stride going.



  • How long does it take? The information I found online suggested the walk up generally takes from 2-3 hours. It took us just under three hours, but I reckon we would have been quicker if it wasn’t so hot. And we’re not massively fit (although we have done plenty of hikes over the last few years). It’s obviously a lot quicker on the way back.
  • Where is it? The track starts in Peel Forest, which is around 25 minutes from Geraldine and an hour from Timaru. You’ll need to turn down Blandswood Road to reach the car park.
  • What about Middle and Big Mount Peel? Those two summits are quite a bit farther, but doable in a day. It could be cool to do, but I don’t think it’s necessary. The views from Little Mount Peel are good enough (and I’m not that fit).

Are you planning a trip to the mountains of New Zealand’s South Island? Check out our post about the best places to see in the Southern Alps!

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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.