Hakatere Conservation Park – Mount Guy
The Hakatere Conservation Park is a beautiful area of Canterbury, a couple of hours drive inland from Christchurch. Situated between two mighty rivers, the Rakaia and Rangitata, you’ll find a little bit of everything. It has beech forests, open tussock, huge mountains, rivers, lakes and wetland habitats. It is an area of natural importance which harbours a huge variety of native plants and wildlife.
During my stay, I van camped at Lake Camp campground a huge, freedom camping area with great views over the lake and the Harper mountain range beyond. This was probably one of the best freedom campsites I’ve stayed at in NZ (including a lovely new set of toilets, and ample bins for rubbish).
Upon arrival, I enjoyed an afternoon in the sun including a 40-minute leisurely walk around the lake and a swim.
Mount Guy is adjacent to Lake Clearwater and can be accessed easily from Clearwater village. The hike up Mount Guy is around 4.3kms one way and the climb is around 700m up to the summit at 1319m. I was up and back in around four hours, including a decent break at the top.
I drove the short distance from Lake Camp to Clearwater village. The village is an interesting jumble of holiday homes but there are no shops or facilities. I parked at Lake Clearwater picnic tables and headed East around the lake on the four-wheel-drive track at around 8.30 am.
After a couple of Kms, and having crossed a little bridge over the lake outlet, I took the trail to Mount Guy, off to the right and over the stile. It was around 2Kms and 700m up to the summit from here.
The marked track started in beautiful golden tussock land on an initially gentle gradient. That didn’t last long though, and I was soon huffing my way up the mountain. The trail stayed to the right of a little gully and was easy to follow.
About halfway up it got a little rocky, slippy and steeper and I arrived at what I had been thinking was the summit. This turned out to be just a rocky outcrop but offered incredible views of the lakes, mountains, the Rangitata River, and the Southern Alps beyond.
The final stretch
From the rocky outcrops, the gradient became easier, and it was a comparatively gentle stroll to the summit, which was marked by a large cairn.
I reached the summit at 10.15 am, and the views were splendid! Across the Canterbury plains to the East coast in one direction and across the Southern Alps in the West. Looking closely, I could make out where Te Araroa trail winds it’s way North to South, and I followed it back to the mountains, remembering the Clent Hills saddle we’d climbed over before descending down to Double hut.
From the top, you can easily see how much exploring there is to be done in the area. You could easily spend a week or more here. There are several ways you could descend from Mount Guy, but I retraced my steps down the marked track, back to the lake. I got back to the stile at around 12.15 pm.
I continued walking around Lake Clearwater – which was approximately another 8Kms. I followed the marked trail over mostly flat terrain, which follows the four-wheel-drive track. By this time the wind had got up, so it was very blustery, hence the reason Lake Clearwater is so popular with windsurfers…. I watched them scooting back and forth across the lake.
I returned back to Clearwater Village via the tiny campsite, at 2 pm windblown and happy. The trail up Mount Guy and around the lake makes a great day’s walk – great views, not too strenuous and gives you a good taster of everything else there is to explore in this beautiful area.