Cow Stream Hot Pools

Cow Stream Hot Pools

Cow Stream Hot Pools is a small thermal spring located in St James Conservation Area. It’s one of a number of hot pools located in the northern reaches of Canterbury with others being found in Lake Sumner Forest Park. The walk from the St James Cycle Trail is short but can get ripped up and muddy in the winter months. The hot pools are accessible up to the terrace just above the pools and are only a short steep walk down to get to the pools from here.During the winter months the large temperature difference makes it comfortable to dip your feet in. The thermal pools are just the right temperature for a relaxing soak. After a days work, what more could you ask for?


20 mins


1.3 km


50 m





Cow Stream Hot Pools vehicle track
Walking back out along the vehicle track out to

42°25′27″S 172°40′28″E

In Detail

To reach the Cow Stream hot pools you’ll either have to four wheel drive, hike or cycle the sixteen kilometres from the road end. If you’re seeking out the comfort of a hut a further thirty minutes along the track lies Scotties Hut, a basic hut maintained by the 4×4 community. There aren’t any signs that point you in the direction of the Cow Stream Hot Pools, apart from a well defined vehicle track just after making a river crossing. Head back to the Edwards River if you need to fill your bottle or bladder. Pack a towel and trunks if you’re heading into these hot pools, you won’t regret the extra weight.

A jet stream in the sky looking out from the terrace above Cow Stream Hot Pools

Getting There

To get to the start of the track to Cow Stream Hot Pools you must follow the St James Cycle Trail. You will either start at St James Homestead or along the vehicle access track off Tophouse Road. It takes approximately 3 hours walking to reach the junction to turn off to Scotties Hut. I would assume that it would take approximately half (1 – 2 hours) by bike or by vehicle access along the cycle trail.

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The track into Cow Stream Hot Pools isn’t marked but rather follows a distinct vehicle track from a T junction in the track after making a river crossing. As you follow the trail there is a point where the trail diverges taking a high road and a low road. Once again there are no markings to indicate which path to follow. Take the high road as this will lead you onto the Cow Stream Hot Pools. The low road takes you down to cow stream and smells very much like sulphur without the comforting warmth. The track can be torn up and muddy in places take car and find a good wooden stick along the river to help keep your balance.

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No matter what the weather may be the spot where Cow Stream Hot pools lie is sheltered in a valley and even a bit of rain shouldn’t deter you from warming your feet. After extended periods of rain the pools may flood and will not be as warm as usual. During the winter months the ground and track is certainly a lot more soft. After a cold southerly you can expect there to be snow right down to ground level in the area. Usually the snow will last only a day before turning the ground beneath it to mud.

Cow Stream Hot Pools

The hot pools are an absolute delight. Travelling in the winter and the sun rapidly setting out west and not packing any decent towels nor togs we settled with just dipping our feet in. The bottom of the pools are covered in silt with little little bubbles. Had the weather been warmer I’m sure we would have jumped in fully. Unfortunately biting bugs do tend to inhabit these warm places. Even in the depths of winter there were a few critters that drew blood. Aside from the hot pools they weren’t anywhere else to be seen. Rub or spray on a little bit of that inspect repellent before you head in.

Cow Stream Hot Pools
Looking from the short steep track down to Cow Stream Hot Pools
Top: The Cow Stream Hot Pools such a peaceful spot to relax at
Middle Left:
Looking down on the hot pools from just above the
Middle Right:
Two happy lads with some soft feet
Mark and Abhi getting the socks back on their feet while they prepare for the walk back on to the hut

Return to St James Cycle Trail

The route to and from Cow Stream Hot Pools comes off the St James Cycle Trail. The walking is not technically challenging. If you are carrying a large pack it’s not a bad idea to drop your pack and bring just the essentials with you for the thermal spring. As mentioned earlier the trail underfoot can be muddy and slippery. especially if you wear sneakers. It’s especially prominent as you get closer to the hot pools along the terrace. There are a number of section that can be quite muddy.

Along the vehicle track that leads too and from Cow Stream Hot Pools
Top Left: Mark followed by Zach navigating a muddy dip in the section of track to and from the hot pools
Top Right:
Making tracks through the bush to avoid some of the major mud puddles created by the 4×4’s
Zach, Mark & Abhi (L to R) along a flat part of the track heading back towards the

Once you’re along the flat and clear of the bush the ground is a lot more solid underfoot and you’ll absolutely be firing up a good pace. There can be some confusion as we found between which track to take as mentioned earlier in the route description. Always remember take the high road. The low road will lead you to some nice camping spots but not the thermal spring known as Cow Stream hot springs.

Cow Stream and the eroding cliff
Looking across at the erosion of the opposite bank, Cow Stream flowing through the middle. The alternative vehicle track can be made out bottom centre

Photos, information captured and collected August 2020
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