The Mount Crichton Loop Track is a 7-8 km loop track 15 minutes from Queenstown.
With mountain views, rivers, a little bit of history, and a couple of waterfalls, I feel like this is an underrated walk in Queenstown.
This post will give you all the details about the Mount Crichton Loop Track walk (there’s plenty of photos too).
TABLE OF CONTENTS
DETAILS ABOUT THE MOUNT CRICHTON LOOP TRACK
You’ll see in the description below, but I genuinely loved this walk. For a little under 8km, there’s so much variety. I’ll keep this description short and sweet, I gush a lot further down.
When2: September 2020
Difficulty3: Easy. There’s some incline, but it’s spreadout across the well maintained track.
Walk Distance4: My Strava recording came in at 7.82km (starting from the car park). You’ll see Maps.me has the track at a little under 7km but I didn’t veer off track at all so be prepared for a 7.5-8 km walk.
Incline5: Strava registered 343 metres of elevation gain. There’s no long steep climb at all on the track so everyone should manage this ok. You can see the elevation profile on the map below.
Walk Duration6: It took me 1 hour and 48 minutes to complete the loop, walking at a decent pace, but stopping for photos constantly. The DOC signs suggest it takes 2-4 hours, but that’s obviously conservative. If you take longer than 3 hours I’d be very surprised.
MOUNT CRICHTON LOOP TRACK MAP
The map above is from Maps.me and includes the elevation profile. You can see the majority of the track on Google Maps, but I prefer the details Maps.me.
HOW TO GET THERE
You’ve got just the two options to get there, driving or hitchhiking. Although if you’re super keen, you could bike too.
Driving, it’s a matter of driving southwest along Lake Wakatipu for 11-12km from Queenstown. The parking lot is signposted and is on the left (from the Queenstown direction). As you’ll see above, the car park is large. There’s a toilet there too.
If you’re hitchhiking, you’ll want to stand in this area on the edge of town. I had luck standing there (it’s a bit awkward with bus stops and yellow lines, but it worked ok). There’s space to safely stand roadside near the trailhead for your hitch back too.
MY EXPERIENCE ON THE MOUNT CRICHTON LOOP TRACK
Anyway, I hitched out from Queenstown and found that the car park was larger than I expected. A good sign?
The trail from the car park leads you down to the road which you’ll need to cross. The cars go quick along this road so make sure to check both directions. Once on the other side of the road continue on for 100 metres until it’s time to make a decision.
Which way to walk around the Mount Crichton Loop?
Having looked at the elevation profile, I decided to walk in the clockwise direction. The elevation is a bit more up and down to start but the steady descent back looked good. I’m not sure which direction is more popular but enjoyed the clockwise route.
So I cross the bridge over Twelve Mile Creek and am already impressed by the views. Turning right after the bridge we make our way along the river. The signs warning of mine shafts and steep drop-offs excite me.
The walk up the river is through a light canopy of trees, in the summer they’ll keep the sun from punishing you. And while you’re going up from the get-go, there are flat and even short descents in between.
And then all of a sudden I understand what they mean by steep drop-offs. I’m standing on the edge of the cliff looking at the river way below. It was so sudden, but I was loving it.
The mountains in the distance are coming into view from time to time now.
The track is easy to walk along, but it’s not perfectly smooth with some small rocks and the like jutting out from the track. The kind that if you don’t see the rock and end up kicking it, your toe may hurt.
At about the 2.6km mark you’ll see the super cool sluiced canyon, a remnant from the gold mining area (see photo above). It looks super cool. You’ll then come to a junction that has a sign telling you more about the canyon and the Tailrace Tunnel.
Turn right to the tunnel, it’s super cool! And you can walk through it which leads to a path down to the river if you desire. The tunnel is another part of the gold mining era. I thought the crazy cut in the rock was a work of nature!
Heading back to the junction and continuing on, the creek (it’s more a river) plays a major role for the next few hundred metres with water surging through the valley.
Then there’s a random toilet. I was thrown off, and didn’t realise there’s a historic hut nearby called Sam Summers Hut.
It’s left in the original form from back in 1930 and you can stay in it for free. The catch? There’s only space for a few people.
Nearby, you can get close to the edge of cliffs to see water raging below you.
To continue on the track, walk around the side of the Sam Summers Hut where you’ll see the bridge across the Twelve Mile Creek Falls (unofficial name).
From here, the walk takes you through the snow-lined forest.
You’ve still got a kilometre of incline to go after the bridge, before gradual descent that offers plenty of nice viewpoints along the way.
This descent is a lot more exposed, so in the middle of the summer, you’ll feel the heat (another reason to walk down this way – walking up would be hot work).
There’s an awesome viewpoint where you can see Lake Wakatipu and Lake Dispute. It’s at the turn off for the walkway to Lake Dispute. If you really wanted you could add on a few kilometres and walk down to Lake Dispute and back. I kept plugging along the Mount Crichton Loop Track, loving all the views.
And fun fact, you aren’t walking a loop around Mount Crichton at all. That’s one of the mountains just to the west!
Eventually, you’ll find yourself back at the bridge where you can cross over to the car park, or get your hitch back into town.
I honestly loved this walk. I might be overselling it?
But I liked this walk more than Moke Lake!
If you do both of the walks, please leave a comment below which one you liked most 🙂
If you’re looking for more inspiration throughout the country
Closer to Queenstown, this is a must-do walk when you’re here
I wasn’t a massive fan, but maybe you’ll like this track?