Sugarloaf Hills

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The Sugarloaf Leg of the Christchurch 360 Trail runs from the Halswell Quarry Park to  the Mt Cavendish Gondola station.

The track is approximately 18.2 km long, and could take a typical walker as much as 12 hrs.

If you want a convenient spot to split the leg in two, the Sign of The Kiwi is a good place. This forms two legs of 9.6km (6hrs) and  8.6km (5hrs 45 mins).

Description of Route

You can find a Google Map of the route here.

The trail starts at the Withers Carpark at the Halswell Quarry Park.

Take the track that heads up west behind the old stone house. This trail climbs up and around the west of the old quarry. It circles around it to the south, then at the eastern end of the quarry the track heads off to the right. The track then opens into a large park area. Climb the stile, and head east across the park to the reserve strip with a zig-zag path that exits onto Kennedys Bush Rd. Continue along Kennedys Bush Rd to the very end, where there is a gate and stile. Climb the stile, and continue up the Kennedys Bush Track. The track climbs up to the Summit Road.

Cross the Summit Rd, and follow the track that heads east and along near the Summit Rd, skirting to out near the bluffs, and climbing up the hill alongside the road through the Hoon Hay Scenic Reserve. The Crater Rim Walkway then descends to rejoin the Summit Rd near the intersection with Worsleys Rd. Cross the Summit Rd here, and follow the track along the western side of the road. When you get to a small shingle carpark, cross the Summit Rd again, and follow the Crater Rim Walkway east of the road.  Keep following the Crater Rim Walkway all the way to Dyers Pass and the Sign of The Kiwi.

Sign of the Kiwi

Sign of the Kiwi. Photo credit: Jeremy Taylor

Cross Dyers Pass Road very carefully. It is difficult to see any traffic coming from either side of the saddle.

Take Mitchells Track to the south of the Sugarloaf peak. There are a couple of lookout deviations that are worth checking out. Follow this route east until you reach the Summit Rd again. Here you rejoin the Crater Rim Walkway.

The route then turns towards the north-east generally, climbing the hills just above the Summit Rd. It then climbs up to the top of Mt Vernon, before zig-zagging down to meet the Summit Rd again at another carpark.

Runners on the Summit Rd. Photo credit: Jeremy Taylor

Runners on the Summit Rd. Photo credit: Jeremy Taylor

The Crater Rim Walkway continues on along the Summit Rd before climbing and skirting around Witch Hill. The track meets the Summit Rd at another car park,  before continuing on, following along the Summit Rd on one side then the other.  The track goes around the Tors Scenic Reserve to the north, between the tors and the road. Keep following the Crater Rim Walkway, and you will get to the Bridle Path saddle. The stone shelter here is the Pioneer Womens’ Memorial.

From the Bridle Path car park, continue on the Crater Rim Walkway to the east. Where it forks, the Christchurch 360 Trail follows the Gondola Track, not the Mt Cavendish Bluffs track. The latter carries on under the Cavendish Bluffs, and emerges at the carpark at the end of this segment, so it might be considered as an alternative route. The Christchurch 360 Trail follows the Gondola Track so that walkers can make use of the Gondola as a means of accessing the trail.

Continue up the Gondola Track, up to the Gondola upper station. Here you can get a ride down the hill to get back into the city, if you wish. Otherwise, carry on down the hill to the east to the car park, where you will find the sign marking the end this leg of the Christchurch 360 Trail and the start of the Godley Cliffs leg.

Access Points

You need not tackle the entire leg in one go, if you do not have the time or the strength. There are a number of places where the Sugarloaf Hills leg runs closely to the road network, and there are several places where you will be able to park up and start the walk at intermediate points.

Here are natural segments for the walk, with approximate walking times between these points.

Start:

2.1km 1.5hrs

End of Kennedys Bush Rd: There is streetside parking just past the roundabout at the end of Kennedys Bush Rd.

4.3 2.75hrs

Summit Rd, at top of Kennedys Bush Track: There is a small shingle area where cars can pull off the road.

1.7km 1.3hrs

Summit Rd, car park near Worsleys Rd:

1.6km 1.2 hrs

Summit Rd, car park near Sign of The Kiwi:

1.1km 1.1hrs

Summit Rd, car park east of Mt Sugarloaf, at the top of the Bowenvale Valley:

2.7km 1.9hrs

Summit Rd, car park east of Mt Vernon, at the top of the Rapaki Track:

3.7km 2.5hrs

Bridle Path Track saddle: There is no vehicle access here at the moment due to Summit Rd closures to vehicles, but you can walk up the 2.3km (1.5 hrs) Bridle Path track from the carpark next to the Gondola lower station.

1.3km 1.1hrs

End: There is a carpark on the Summit Rd just to the east of the Mt Cavendish upper Gondola station.

Hazards

Traffic: The Christchurch 360 Trail passes alongside some narrow rural roads; keep alert for traffic that may pass by when you are on such roads. There are places where it is necessary to cross roads. Please use caution at all times around traffic.

Cycles: The Christchurch City Council will not allow us to promote the Christchurch 360 as a cycling route, because a route promoted as a cycling route might be perceived by some users as having an implied suitability for cycling that could reduce their level of safety awareness, and as the Christchurch 360 Trail does not follow streets that meet standards required for cycleways, cyclists may be exposed to unacceptable risks. Because of that, we are not permitted to mark or recommend a cycle route option for the Christchurch 360. If you choose of your own initiative to follow the Christchurch 360 on your bike, please ride safely and responsibly, and follow the road rules.

Rockfall: Several points on the trail are subject to the risk of rockfall. The chances of rockfall that could injure you are small, but it would be wise to not linger in areas with rocky bluffs above the trail. Move as swiftly through these areas as you can, and if you are concerned about the risk of rockfall, take an alternate route.

Bluffs: The trail passes near bluffs. There are spectacular vistas from these spots, but please exercise caution around the edges of cliffs, especially when the wind is blustery.

Mountain Bikers: Some of the trails are shared-use with walkers and cyclists. Check signage to see if cycles or walkers have right-of-way. Note that even if cycles are expected to give way to walkers, sometimes this is easier said than done; please exercise caution and show consideration to other track users.

Dehydration: There are few opportunities to obtain fluids on the summit of the Port Hills, and it can be especially hot in summer. Ensure you pack sufficient water for the journey.

Hypothermia/Exposure: You will rarely be very far from civilisation, so the risk of severe hypothermia is low. However the weather can change quickly, so carrying a windbreaker or raincoat is sensible.

Things to see

You can find a Google Map of Things To See here.

Sugarloaf Hills

This section of the trail starts at the Halswell Quarry Park beside what was once the quarry’s single men’s quarters. Built in 1922, it accommodated a dozen men. But in the economic depression of the 1930s, the single men were laid off to give married men employment, resulting in George Withers and his family of eleven living here from 1933 to 1935. Now an information centre it was reopened after post-earthquake repairs at the beginning of October 2017.

Halswell Quarry

Halswell quarry as a park

Kennedys Bush Track

From Halswell Quarry Park the trail emerges onto Kennedys Bush Road. The road was constructed in 1863 to provide access to the bush areas at the heads of Hoon Hay and Lansdowne Valleys. It was named after Thomas Kennedy, who came to New Zealand in 1835. Before he and wife Sophia took up a bush section on the road and set up a business selling fence posts and firewood, he had worked as a whaler, a gardener, labourer and farmer. The road beyond the Quarry Hill subdivision is generally referred to as Kennedys Bush Track.

Kitchener’s Knoll

A short distance above the subdivision, the track, on the left, is overlooked by a prominent knoll. In his book The Port Hills of Christchurch Gordon Ogilvie describes how the ‘star’ of Britain’s First World War recruitment posters, Lord Kitchener, disinterestedly watched the ‘Battle of Halswell’. It was staged on 23 February 1910 as part of Kitchener’s inspection of the Lyttelton Harbour defences and entailed volunteer infantry men defending the Kennedys Bush track ridge against other volunteers, including cavalry advancing from the direction of Halswell.

Mt Ada and the crater rim

After reaching the Summit Road, the trail crosses it to skirt around Mt Ada, named for Harry Ell’s wife (Adelaide). The fires of February 2017 swept up, over and around Mt Ada. The 360 trail at this point joins the Crater Rim Track, which runs for close to 25 kilometres from Coopers Knob to Godley Head. As its name suggests, the track follows the rim of what was once the Lyttelton Volcano, the harbour now being its flooded crater. It is estimated that the volcanic activity began some 12 million years ago, and became extinct five to six million years ago.

Ohinetahi Reserve

Between Mt Ada and Hoon Hay Scenic Reserve, sloping steeply to the right is part of Ohinetahi Reserve. Owned and managed by the Summit Road Society,  the land was acquired through three purchases in in 1992 and 1993. The reserve (most of which is covenanted under the Queen Elizabeth the Second National Trust) now covers 138 hectares. The Society itself was formed in 1948 with its aims including enhancing the natural beauty of the Summit Road on the Port Hills, planting and caring for trees, plants and shrubs within reserves adjacent to the Summit Road and opposing development that would detract from the open space character of the Summit Road.

Hoon Hay Reserve

The trail then goes through Hoon Hay Scenic Reserve, including a side track over the summit of Trig V, which provides spectacular views down the harbour. The park takes its name from the Christchurch suburb of the same name. The suburb, in turn, was named after Hoon Hay farm in the Derbyshire village of Hoon, from where early settler Captain Harvey came. Hoon Hay itself  derives from the Anglo-Saxon haughum gehalg  – the enclosure under the hill.

Coronation Hill and the Sign of the Kiwi

The reserve on Coronation Hill was set apart in 1912, commemorating the coronation of King George V the previous year. In 1915, Harry Ell proposed to build a tollhouse on the hill but the Summit Road Scenic Reserve Board refused to support it. Ell, however, was not to be thwarted. With money borrowed from friends and sympathisers he began building his ‘Toll Cottage’. In 1922 it was renamed the Sign of the Kiwi and is now operated by the city council as a café. Following severe damage in the 2011 earthquakes, it was finally re-opened in February 2017

Sign of the Kiwi

Sign of the Kiwi

The cattle stop in front of the Sign of the Kiwi on the Summit Road was where the toll gate operated, marked on the South side by the stone post with metal hinge bolts. The obelisk on the north-east side of the Kiwi features on the Summit Road Society’s logo.

Dyers Pass Road

From the ‘Kiwi’ the trail crosses – at the pass – Dyers Pass Road, named for Governors Bay landowner John Dyer (1828-1876). The road follows one of the oldest routes over the hills as it was used by Maori to travel to their villages and palisaded pa at Governors Bay. It was first used by Europeans as a horse track and the road formation was undertaken by the Provincial Government in 1862-63.

Sugarloaf

After crossing Dyers Pass Road the trail follows Mitchells Track which contours around the southern side of Sugarloaf. There are many hills in New Zealand named, both officially and unofficially, Sugarloaf. With a height of 496m high, Sugarloaf on the Port Hills is one of eleven with that name approved by the NZ Geographic Board. It derives its name from its physical appearance. Sugar was once supplied as a solid block in the shape of a cone with a rounded top. On top of the hill is a transmission tower. Installed in 1966, the tower is 121m high and, by way of six antenna, it transmits TV and FM signals to Christchurch and mid-Canterbury. Mitchells Track is named for one of its builders, George Mitchell of Governors Bay.

Scott Reserve

The reserve is named for John Flinders Scott (1876-1941), an Opawa farmer, who pioneered horticultural development in the Horotane, Avoca and Bowenvale Valleys. Each of these valleys became important orchard and market garden areas in Canterbury after the First World War. The reserve land was donated in 1942 by Scott’s wife, Margaret Greig, in memory of her husband. The official title is John Flinders Scott Reserve

Bush Head habitat restoration area

Mt Vernon

Mt Vernon is the high point of Mt Vernon Park, the bulk of which was purchased in 1985 after a successful campaign to raise funds with strong support coming from individuals, businesses, schools and local authorities. Covering around 225 hectares, it is owned and administered by the Port Hills Park Trust Board. The summit provides views of the various long spurs (Cashmere, Huntsbury, etc.) that run down towards the city. These spurs were created by volcanic lava flows. Looking to the harbour side Quail Island with Te Poho Tamatea in the foreground can be seen. The latter, also known as Tamatea’s Breast, overlooks Rapaki Village from the end of the flat ridge angling off the main Port Hills summit ridge. Tamatea was a Waitaha explorer some 600 years ago. Caught in a storm, it was from this point that Tamatea called down fire to save himself and his followers.

Witch Hill

The hill and Rapaki Rock are part of a scenic reserve donated by brothers Richard May Downes Morten (1877-1950) and Arthur Roscoe Vernon Morten (1878-1931). Rapaki rock is a popular climbing area. A memorial seat of basalt rock, commemorating soldiers from St Martins and Rapaki who died in World War I, sits atop Witch Hill. One of those remembered is Anthony Wilding, killed in Europe in 1915. Wilding was Wimbledon singles tennis champion four successive times, 1910-13. The seat was damaged in the 2011 earthquakes. It has since been repaired but without the memorial plaque. The hill was possibly named as such for the Maori tapu on it.

The Tors

After Witch Hill, the trail crosses the Summit Road and on re-crossing it, the trail enters The Tors Scenic Reserve. This reserve was also donated by the Morten brothers. It is noted as containing scarce veronicas (formerly hebes), prostrate kowhai, Banks Peninsula blue tussock Cyathodes juniperina (regionally local), Leptinella minor (regionally endemic) and Convolvulus verecundus subsp. waitaha. From the north-eastern tor the trail descends to a shallow saddle and then rises to give the walker their first stunning view of the Port of Lyttelton.

Port of Lyttelton

Port of Lyttelton from the Crater Rim

Pioneer Women’s Memorial

This conical shaped shelter constructed of volcanic rock with a shingled roof commemorates the pioneer women of the Canterbury settlement. It sits at the top of the Lyttelton side of the Bridle Trail over which the early pioneers crossed the Port Hills. Here, at the summit they  “gazed with awe but with courage upon the hills and plains of Canterbury where they would make their homes.” The Bridle Trail continues down the Christchurch side into Heathcote Valley.

Pioneer Womens

Pioneer Women’s Memorial

LPG Pipeline

A short distance beyond the Pioneer Women’s Memorial the trail passes over an LPG pipeline, indicated by warning signs stating ‘high pressure oil pipeline buried nearby’.  LPG is an abbreviation for liquefied petroleum gas and the pipeline, operated by Liquigas Limited,  runs from the Port of Lyttelton to the company’s depot at Woolston. The depot, built in 1981, is the primary LPG bulk storage facility for the upper half of the South Island north of the Waitaki River and as such is critical for supplying LPG to customers, who include large industrial as well as commercial and domestic users.

The Gondola

Beyond the pipeline the trail climbs to skirt around the southern side of the summit of Mt Cavendish. On the summit is the Christchurch Gondola, a cable car which descends a length of 1,000 metres to its base at the head of the Heathcote Valley. It was opened in October 1992 after a long and expensive (costing $11.5 million) consent process. The debate partly centred around whether a commercial enterprise should be built on a scenic reserve that had been gifted to the city in 1910 when it was transferred to the Crown by the Morten brothers (see also above, Witch Hill). Upon construction of the gondola the reserve was landscaped with 16,000 native tussocks. The gondola includes 19 ‘cars’ and has a capacity of 812 travellers per hour. This section of the trail ends in the saddle between Mts Cavendish and Pleasant at the upper end of Major Hornbrook Track. Opened in late 1985, Major Hornbrook Track leads down to Lyttelton.

 

Thanks to Stuart Payne for text and photos.

Flora & Fauna

Flora

Fauna

Bellbird/Korimako Anthornis melanura: 

The bellbird’s loud, melodious song can be heard in bush along the coast and waterways and in trees and patches of bush in the Port Hills. Bellbirds are easier to hear than see, as their dark olive plumage makes it easy for them to blend in to the surrounding foliage.

Bellbirds feed on nectar, insects and fruits, and they play an important role in pollinating native plant species.

The bellbird is endemic to New Zealand.

Fantail/Piwakawaka Rhipidura fuliginosa:

This friendly native is recognised by its long tail, acrobatic flight and tinny cheep. Fantails feed on insects in bush and shrub and are found in many different habitats. If you walk through bush and there are fantails nearby, they will come and check you out. Photos are difficult, however, as fantails seldom stay in one place for more than a moment.

There are two morphs. The most well-known, the pied morph, is dark brown, with a cream-coloured belly and black and white bands. The black morph is dark brown all over, with no banding and a white spot behind each eye. About a quarter of South Island fantails are black.

Silvereye or Waxeye/Tahou Zosterops lateralis:

The silvereye is slightly smaller than a sparrow, with an olive head, grey and buff body and a distinctive white ring around each eye. Young birds do not have the white rings. They have a quiet, high-pitched call.

The silvereye was first recorded in New Zealand in the 1830s and has since spread throughout both islands. Silvereyes tend to flock in flowering bushes. They eat insects, nectar and fruit.

New Zealand Pigeon/Kereru Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae:

A much larger bird than the common rock pigeon, the New Zealand Pigeon has an iridescent green and purple head and back, bright white bib and belly and red bill and legs. When in flight, their wings make a distinctive heavy whirring sound

The kereru feeds on fruits and is an important disperser of the seeds of native plants.

In Christchurch, the Kereru is found mainly in and around the Botanic Gardens and Riccarton Bush, but they can occasionally be found in patches of bush in the Port Hills, especially near Victoria Park and the Cashmere Hills.

Pukeko Porphyrio porphyria:

Pukeko are often seen alongside waterways and in paddocks. It has blue and black plumage, a red bill and shield and long red legs. Pukeko eat mostly vegetation, but will eat eggs, invertebrates and other small animals.

Pukeko chicks are black and fluffy, with their parents’ large feet.

Services

Public Toilets

  • Halswell Quarry
  • Sign of Kiwi
  • Gondola top station
  • Gondola base station

 

Food & Refreshments

  • Sign of Kiwi
  • Gondola top station

 

Accommodation

 

Public Transport

Visit metroinfo.co.nz for bus trip planning, route maps, and timetables.

The bus that runs closest to the start of the leg at Halswell Quarry is the 100 bus, which terminates its run by looping around the Larsens Rd, School Rd, Kennedys Bush Rd, and Glovers Rd block. This bi-direction route runs west wide of the CBD, before swinging east to the north of the CBD and ending up at The Palms mall in Shirley. It could be used to get onto the Orange Line route, where you can change buses.

The Orange Line route runs between Halswell and Queenspark, bi-directionally, via the central bus exchange.

No buses run along the Summit Rd, but the 28 and 535 Buses visit the carpark at the Gondola lower station, and you can ride the Gondola up to the top of Mt Cavendish near the end of the leg.

Bus 28 is a bi-directional route between Lyttelton and Papanui, via the central bus exchange.

Bus 535 is a bi-directional route between Lyttleton and Eastgate mall.

Nearby Points of Interest

Sister City Gardens

Sign of the Bellbird

Victoria Park

Dry Bush

Memorials to Lost Boys

Rapaki Track

Bridle Path Track