While we have many great trails around Christchurch and the Port Hills some real adventures beckon within 90minutes of town. Canterbury is spoiled with the Southern Alps, a range of foothills, several high country basins, and a fantastic network of trails to explore them. We can be getting into some big country here so plan your route, check the forecast and carry appropriate gear for your adventure and the conditions. Here are a couple of my favorites to whet your appetite for adventure.
At 1364m Mt Oxford is a fantastic introduction to our foothills and many Cantabrians' first serious mountain experience. From the Coopers Creek car park you've got several options for loops or out and backs. If you want to keep it runnable, stay low through the bush and take the Ryde Falls track. 13km return from the waterfall or you can get 15km by creating a loop with Link, Korimako, and Wharfedale tracks, or extend your run further by adding more of the Wharfedale track in.
All other paths lead up, straight up 6.5km to the summit and a true VK (vertical kilometer). You can retrace your steps from the top or try for the 20, 35km, or marathon routes by continuing along the ridge to the west. Bring your jacket and a warm layer if you're heading up to the summit- I'm yet to have a calm day up top. Good trail shoes are necessary, the lower trails are prone to becoming very muddy after any rain while higher routes feature plenty of tree roots and then exposed and or lose rock.
Check out the Mt Oxford Odyssey for some great events on these trails each April/
Craigieburn Forest Park
I'm signed up for Valley Ultra again this November so I'll be spending heaps of my weekends on the Craigieburn trails as soon as we are able. Hogsback and Dracophyllum tracks provide gently undulating grades through the bush and open basin. Loops around and up Leith Hill or Helicopter Hill provide a short steep climb with rewarding views. Once the winter snow has melted you can get higher and access the Craigieburn ridgeline via Long Spur or any of the ski fields- fingers crossed that those doing the Valley Ultra get up to the very top this year! Definitely recommend checking out the Edge track in Craigieburn Valley for one of the best pieces of single track in New Zealand. Camp Saddle down to the Edge track has some of the best and most accessible scree to train on- beware scree will destroy chew through all but the most durable of shoes. Trails are accessible from Castle Hill Village, Texas Flat car park on the Cheeseman skifield access road, as well as Broken River and Craigieburn Skifield roads. In short heaps of trails and several weekends of exploring to be had here an hour from town.
Hakatere Conservation Park
Hakatere/Ashburton lakes are fast becoming my favorite playground. Inland from Mt Somers you pass the turnoff to Woolshed Creek (access to Mt Somers trails, fantastic technical running) continuing towards Lake Clearwater eventually entering an open basin ringed by the majestic Southern Alps. Heaps of options from here depending on your appetite. Runnable flatter options include looping lakes Clearwater and Camp, if you're after longer and a bit more climbing you can the 24km loop past Mystery Lake (partly frozen over just before lockdown) or make this even longer by heading to Boundary Creek Hut. You can also join the 3000km long Te Araroa and head towards Lake Heron, and back towards the main road on the Stour River track. If you are after something steeper or just some epic views head up. Mt Barossa, Mt Guy, and Mt Harper offer steep climbs, technical descents, and fantastic views. In summer you'll want some cushioned shoes that drain well (you'll still have some creeks to cross if you're staying low) while if you're climbing you'll want something with some great grip on rocky terrain.
For more information on tracks you can always check out the Doc website and for some running specific trail routes the Wildthings Trail Directory.
Enjoy guys, can't wait to get back out there