Walking for fitness on the Port Hills...
Some time ago I posted about the routes around Christchurch I use for my fitness walking regime. I try to go for a tramp every second week over the Summer months but in the intervening weeks I usually go for a 2-3 hour walk on Saturday morning.
I either go for a walk along the beach or go for a walk along one of the Port Hills tracks. I live in the shadow of the Port Hills so I am about 5 minutes from some excellent walks.
On the Harry Ell Track
The Harry Ell track starts near the Sign of the Takahe on the cashmere hills and winds its way all the way out to Gebbies Pass. My most popular day walk is to start at Victoria Park and walk up to and around the back of the TV transmission tower on Sugarloaf Peak. This is approximately 11 kms of 1-2 hours.
I usually park at one of the car parks near Victoria Park, usually the one just down from the playground.
|Victoria Park: the car park opposite the dog workout area|
The track starts right next to the car park, it winds its way up and along the hills, through native bush until you connect with the main Harry Ell Walkway.
|Victoria Park: Start of the track heading to the Sign of the Kiwi|
|Victoria Park: nice shad provided by the native bush|
As you can see there is some thick native bush along the track as well as some remnant beech and Totorara trees. The track surface is well done, usually dry and fairly level.
|A shaded viewing platform and seating, Victoria Park|
|Mature Kaheketake and Miro trees at Victoria Park|
|Victoria Park: head downhill to access the Harry Ell Track|
Just past the viewing platform you take a side track do to the right hand side of the ridge, this connects with the main Harry Ell walkway.
|...Harry Ell Track is down there!|
The main walkway runs just above the Dyers Pass Road, and gradually climbs up to Dyers Pass and the Sign of the Kiwi rest spot. Back when I was stationed at Addington Barracks we used to run up this track 2-3 times a week, it is a nice walk/run as it is shaded on the lower slopes from the sun.
|On the Harry Ell Track near Victoria Park|
|View of Worseleys Spur and Christchurch from the Harry Ell Track|
You cross the uphill entrance to Victoria Park after about a kilometre, the next section is more exposed to the sun especially since the Christchurch Bushfire last year. More about that soon...
|Cross the uphill entrance to Victoria Park and keep climbing|
|Harry Ell Walkway track markings|
|Start of the burn over zone on the Harry Ell Walkway|
Once you break out of the remaining tree cover the full extent of the fire damage becomes obvious. The bush fire last year burned right over Worsleys Spur, across Hoon Hay Valley and up this side of Dyers Pass Road. It was fairly devastating: most of the mature exotic forest in Hoon Hay Valley was destroyed as well as the upper reaches of Victoria Park. Thankfully the Fire Brigade got it under control before it destroyed all of the native bush.
|The Worseley Spur MTB Adventure park from the Harry Ell Walkway|
|Water fountain on the Harry Ell Walkway|
|Dyers Pass road running alongside the Harry Ell Walkway|
Here you can see the burn over that occurred on this side of Dyers Pass Road. This used to be mature pine forest and thick native bush, all destroyed by the fire.
|Heading into the worst fire devastation on the Harry Ell Walkway|
|Cut-up fire damaged trees lining the Harry Ell Walkway|
There is still a patch of the original forest left near the top of the track, you can see in the photo's below how the bush used to protect you from the sun.
|What the bush used to look like on the Harry Ell Walkway|
|Junction of Harry Ell Walkway and Summit Road|
Once you reach Summit Road you turn left and walk up the roadside for about a kilometre to a carpark at the head of the Victoria Park MTB tracks. From here you follow a side track up a ridge which eventually deposits you at the Sugarloaf car park and the next section of the track.
|Heading up the Summit Road to Sugarloaf|
|Turn off for Thompson's Track, Summit Road|
At the top of Thompson's track you turn due right and climb the lower slopes of Mt Sugarloaf to the car-park just under the transmission tower itself. There are some really spectacular views from up her, well worth the walk to see them.
|Car park before the climb to Sugarloaf begins|
|Sugarloaf TV tower as seen from the car park on Summit Road|
|Climbing the Latters Spur Track to the Sugarloaf car park|
|CCC Latters Spur Track sign near Sugarloaf|
|View of Canterbury and Christchurch from the Latters Spur Track|
|The car parking area close to Sugarloaf transmission facilities|
Option One/Two: Cedrics Track to the Sign of the Kiwi
Once you get to the Sugarloaf car park you have three options: up, down or around.
Up is the most obvious, keep walking up the TV transmission tower access road, it is about 15-20 minutes to the top where there are some stunning views of Lyttleton Harbour and the distant Banks Peninsula.
Option two is to go down: Cedrics Track descends from this point downhill on the right of Sugarloaf. This will eventually lead you back to Dyers Pass right next to the Sign of the Kiwi. This option is all downhill and takes about 30 minutes walking or around 1.5 kilometres.
|Sugarloaf carpark: head right to access the track to the Sign of the Kiwi|
|The track from the Sugarloaf car park to distant Sign of the Kiwi|
|View down to Dyers Pass from Sugarloaf car park|
|The track junction of Thompson's Track and the main track to Sugarloaf|
Option Three: Round Sugarloaf to the Sign of the Kiwi
The third option is my favoured one, I keep walking along the Sugarloaf Track on the far side of the car park, this will eventually take you to Thompson's Track which runs around the back of Sugarloaf.
Thompson's Track is a nice walk as it is an area of mature native bush with a very remote feeling to it. This is as close as you are going to get to real Kiwi bush without driving to the Canterbury Foothills.
|Sugarloaf car park: Cedrics Track heads around to the left|
|View of Christchurch from the northern flank of Sugarloaf|
|View out to Pegasus Bay from the northern flank of Sugarloaf|
|Sugarloaf: Cedrics Track, part of the Summit Walkway|
|On the North West flank of Sugarloaf, the track goes the right of the rocky knoll|
You eventually reach a spot with a stunning view of Lyttleton Harbour, Mt Herbert and The rest of Banks Peninsula. The track sidles down to a track junction connecting Cedrics Track, Thompson's Track and the Summit Walkway.
|First view down to Lyttleton Harbour from Cedrics Track|
|Down into the Haratakeke on the Lyttleton side of Sugarloaf|
There are two tracks on the Lyttleton side of Sugarloaf: Gilpins and Thompson's Tracks. I alternate which of them I follow. Be aware that the rock fall risk is very much higher on Gilpins as it passes beneath some bluffs at one point.
|Turn off to Gilpins Track on rear side of Sugarloaf|
|View of the native bush on the Lyttleton side of Sugarloaf|
|View down to Governors Bay from high on Sugarloaf|
|Car park at the first car park past Sugarloaf|
At the car park in the photo above look for the start of Thompson's Track which is just down the Lyttleton side of this saddle. If you continue north on the Summit Walkway you will eventually reach the Bridal Path between Lyttleton and Christchurch.
|Crater Rim Walkway /Summit Walkway sign on the Port Hills|
|Council marker setting out start of Sugarloaf Reserve|
|Heading onto Thompson's Track with Sugarloaf in the background|
|Thompson's Track: sometimes muddy but generally easy walking...|
|Jon walking Thompson's Track|
|Slow climb on Thompson s Track, Lyttleton side of Sugarloaf|
|Closer view of Governors Bay from Thompson's Track|
|Nice set of stone steps on the Lyttleton side of Sugarloaf|
|Sugarloaf: a side track out to a lookout over Lyttleton Harbour|
|View down onto the Sign of the Kiwi from Thompsons track|
|View of the Lyttleton side of Sugarloaf|
|Mt Herbert and Diamond Harbour as seen from Sugarloaf|
|Gebbies Pass and Governors Bay as seen from Sugarloaf|
|Sugarloaf transmission antennae from the Lyttleton side|
Just past the lookout spot you arrive at a point with a clear view of the varied goings on down at the Sign of the Kiwi. This tearooms only reopened recently and has a high volume of customers every time I pass by. I hear the scones are particularly nice.
|Closer view of the car park and facilities at the Sign of the Kiwi|
|The downhill MTB adventure park damaged in the wildfires earlier this year|
|Junction of Thompsons Track and the main track to the Sugarloaf car park|
|Christchurch 360 marker near the Sign of the Kiwi car park|
|End of the walkway leading to the Sign of the Kiwi|
|Trail markers and map of the Port Hills Trail network at Dyers Pass|
|Heading back up to the Harry Ells Track|
|Burn over area as result of wild fires next to Harry Ell Walkway|
|Fire damage on the top end of Woolsley Spur|
|Regrowth on the fire damaged trees on the Harry Ell walkway|
When you reach the uphill road into Victoria Park you can follow the Harry Ell track down to Cashmere of follow the road to Victoria Park. As I normally leave the car at the park I almost always turn right here.
|The track way continues on the far side of the Victoria Park access road...|
|...but Im going uphill into Victoria Park on the road|
|The memorial to the 19th, 20th and 22nd Battalions of the 2nd NZEF|
The visitor centre at Victoria Park used to be the old tearooms. This is the place where famously the teenager murderers Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme took Parker's mother before murdering her. There was a movie made in the 1990's about this called Heavenly Creatures.
|The 1930's era Victoria Park tearooms...|
|The old Victoria Park tea rooms reconfigured as a visitors centre|
Words not to be spoken here are "...would you like another scone mother...."
|Victoria Park, near the picnic area and play equipment|
The park and playground near the visitor centre must have featured in many peoples lives over the years. We often came here as kids to play in the stand of native bush to the right of this photo. An excellent spot for a picnic.
|A memorial cairn to Queen Victoria at Victoria Park|
|The road heading down to Cashmere, the Sign of the Takehe and Christchurch|
A really excellent fitness walk, I estimate it would about 12 km's return and takes about 1-2 hours to complete. By far the nicest section is that through the native bush on the Lyttleton side of Sugarloaf.
I recommend you go for a walk there sometime....