Lagoon Saddle

Lagoon Saddle

Lagoon Saddle is a section of the popular Cass Lagoon Saddle track in Cragieburn Forest Park. The hike into Lagoon Saddle Hut provides exceptional views over Arthur’s Pass National Park without having to ascend copious numbers of metres. The track also provides good access for climbing to the summit of Mount Bruce. With both the huts being so small they are not often used. The hike covers a wide range of different terrain, starting in the bush, leading to a small pine forest plantation and then out into the tussock. Lagoon Saddle is an ideal hike if you’re short for time and looking for a quick getaway into the wilderness.


2 hours


5.25 km


458 m



Making our way through a muddy patch along the Cass Lagoon Track looking out over the Waimakariri

43°02′47″S 171°36′06″E

In Detail

This post only documents a small portion of the Cass Lagoon track that we walked. We turned the classic two-day tramp into a small overnight hike, only going as far as Lagoon Saddle Hut. If you have walked into Bealey Spur before it is on the ridge opposite this one and provides some exceptional views over Arthur’s Pass National Park without the large climb. The hike up Mt Bruce could easily be cut out shortening and decreasing the difficulty of such a hike. The views and different types of scenery that you are able to experience in one day are incredible. If you go on to make a summit of Mt Bruce you’ll most likely encounter some snow throughout winter and spring. If you intend to stay at Lagoon Saddle A-Frame Hut you should carry sleeping mats as none are provided in the hut, only Lagoon Saddle Hut next door.

The boys finding there way through the forest and the tussock on the return journey

Getting to Cass Lagoon Saddle Track

From Christchurch find your way onto State Highway Seventy Three (SH73) and follow the road right the way until the turn off is close to the old Bealey Hotel. Alternatively, you can take Old West Coast Road as suggested by Google Maps however the road is not as well maintained. Follow the narrow Cora Lynn Road with windbreaker trees on the left. Follow the road right, the way to the end, leaving gates how you found them. There is a toilet at the start of the track should you be in need.

Lagoon Saddle Route

The track into Lagoon Saddle A-Frame Hut and Lagoon Saddle Hut is a relatively easy track to follow. The track starts off on a smooth ascent passing Bealey Hut and then ascends through native forest. Partway through there is a mixture of pine forest that you pass through just before breaking out into the tussock lands. The track progressively gets boggier as you get closer and closer to Lagoon Saddle. Beyond Lagoon Saddle the track is downhill through the patchy forest until you reach Lagoon Saddle Hut and Lagoon Saddle A-Frame Hut.

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Weather isn’t usually too much of an issue if you are planning on hiking this track. A good portion of the track is undercover as you ascend and both the huts are under tree cover too. There would be tracks that have better tree cover that is probably more favourable options if the weather is looking poor. We did the Lagoon Saddle Hike during the springtime when snow was still noticeably present. No matter how much snow had fallen, with a sturdy set of walking poles you would be able to tackle this hike with some caution given.

Cass Lagoon Saddle Track

Only 5 minutes into the track you’ll end up reaching Bealey hut making it almost one of the closest huts to a road end. The hut makes for an ideal place to take shelter if you had completed the circuit and waiting for a ride home. The walk begins through a beech tree forest, climbing gradually. The track follows a large Z like ascent on its way up. The track is well-formed and maintained through this section with it being relatively easy to follow. Towards the end of the forest, there is a pine forest plantation that you pass through before breaking out into the tussock lands.

Cass Lagoon Saddle Track DOC signpost at the start of the walk
Top: DOC sign at the start of the track – 3 hours to Lagoon Saddle Hut
Bottom: Matt walking through the bush at the start of the upwards climb on the Cass Lagoon Track


As you break out of the forest you can finally appreciate the time spent climbing. Looking back east towards the carpark you can see down the Waimakariri River and looking towards the west you can see out to Arthur’s Pass village and Turkey Flat. Where tussock meets the forest, the ground becomes softer.  Just after leaving the forest, the mud build-up along the track tends to get progressively worse. Branches have been placed in a particular section in an attempt to avoid plunging deep into the mud, however many make little difference. There were a few notable slips and falls amongst the team along the way that left us with mud cover and stench.

Looking across to Bealey Spur along the Cass Lagoon Saddle Track
Walking through the tussock on the Cass Lagoon Saddle Track
Top: Kevin followed by Finn and Matt making there way along the track through the tussock
Looking out over Bealey Spur and the mountains which drain into the Waimakariri River
Kevin followed by Finn making there way further along the track through the tussock

The track slowly winds around the base of Mount Bruce on a steady yet unnoticeable ascent along the way. Once you reach higher ground around the saddle the track becomes much more firm. As you dip into the cover of the forest there isn’t much further to the hut. During the springtime, we found that it did not seem uncommon to find patchy snow covering the ground and surrounding trees.

Left: Passing through a section of forest along the Cass Lagoon Saddles Track
: Matt Descending down through the bush towards Lagoon Saddle Hut

Lagoon Saddle & A-Frame Hut

These two huts each with 2 bunks/mattress’ that are less than 50 metres apart.  Our intention had been for two of us to sleep in Lagoon Saddle Hut and the other two in A-Frame Hut.  Instead, we squeezed all four of us into A-frame Hut with two mattresses transported from Lagoon Saddle Hut.  It was a squeeze, however, being squished up we were able to keep a little warmer. The reason we vouched for staying in the A-Frame Hut was because of the warmth and comfort factor that it provided over Lagoon Saddle Hut. Ensure that you keep a window open during the night to avoid major condensation build-up if you stay at the A-Frame Hut.


2 bunks


Toilet, Mattresses, Fireplace,



Return Journey

The next day we returned along the same route that we had come, retracing our steps.  In places, the snow was a little icy but most of the time it was easy enough to kick a step and continue on walking. Through the small clearing in the bush pictures below, we found that in places you could end up getting ‘plugged’ where you could end up to your crotch from the snow being so deep. Having a pair of pants that dry reasonably quickly makes the walk back to the car a lot more comfortable.

Approaching the final section of forest before reaching Lagoon Saddle
Top: Starting off through the forest there were some patches of snow that had yet to melt
Following the orange tree markers along through the bush
Matt finding traction in the snow as we made our way through a sheltered and shadowed clearing

Mount Bruce

With the snow being so patchy we made an attempt on Mount Bruce as a side trip on this trip. Even with the weather being average and low cloud hanging around.  We dropped our bags at the bottom of the hill and just picked our own routes to the summit.  I would recommend either marking a POI if you’ve got a GPS or leaving an obvious marking wherever you leave your gear. A Bright yellow pack liner on a stick and planting it in the ground is one way to achieve this. On the way back it took longer than expected to locate our gear left piled up in a heap offtrack.

Looking up towards the summit of Mount Bruce from Lagoon Saddle
At the foot of Mount Bruce looking up towards the summit as Finn and Kevin make a start on the ascent

The ascent was reasonably easy going and had us climbing and gaining a bit of altitude.  Unfortunately, by the time we had reached the summit, there was nothing but cloudy skies. I’m sure you could get stunning views from Mt Bruce on a good day making it a more worthwhile side trip. The slope makes for a great spot to get in some self-arrest practice.

Looking over Lagoon Saddle from part way through the ascent of Mount Bruce
Beginning the descent from the summit of Mount Bruce through the cloud
Descending from the summit of Mount Bruce looking over the Waimakariri River
Top: Looking down over Bealey Spur and over the Waimakariri River as we climb our way up Mount Bruce
Middle: The beginning of the descent down from Mount Bruce as Kevin makes his way down Mount Bruce
Kevin making a descent of Mount Bruce as we duck beneath the low cloud

Lagoon Saddle to the Car Park

After locating our gear, getting back to the car was a breeze.  The return journey provided us with better views down the Waimakariri and out over the flats.  The descent back to the car takes significantly less time than the time that it takes to get into the huts.

Looking out over the Waimakariri River on the Cass Lagoon Saddle Track
Looking back down towards the carpark on the Cass Lagoon Saddle Track
Top: Finn waiting up ahead of us as we make our way through a boggy section of the track
Rounding the bend as we pass through even more tussock
Finn looking out over the fields and the Waimakariri as we begin making the descent back down to the car

Lagoon Saddle Crew

A group photo from just around the hut, shout-out to Finn, Matt and Kevin who made this trip possible. And to Kevin for capturing this candid photo of the group enjoying their dinner next to A-Frame Lagoon Saddle Hut.

Finn, Nathan (the Author) Kevin and Matt (from L to R)


  1. Such a great blog !!! Cool to see other younglings hiking

    1. Nathan James says:

      Thank you, I love showing off how awesome hiking can be. Especially in New Zealand where there aren’t so many young people that hike.