Mount Oxford

Mount Oxford

Mount Oxford is the highest peak in the Canterbury Foothills. It is a popular hike amongst hikers through all seasons of the year for the shelter it gets from the elements. The majority of the track is covered by beech trees when you walk the track in a loop. Oxford Forest has a large network of trail around the mountain with there being a network of trails around the mountain. If you don’t feel you have the fitness to climb Mount Oxford, an easier option could be to pack lunch and insect repellent and enjoy the tiered Ryde Falls.


7 hours


20.8 km


1410 m





Beech Trees covered in Old Man’s Beard. Paul followed by Edward and Alvin head towards the summit of Mount Oxford

In Detail

The route described in this post is one of the longer routes over this classic Canterbury peak, Mount Oxford. Sitting at only an hours drive from Christchurch it is easily accessible. It takes approximately 7 hours to complete the loop described in this post, so be prepared for a long day out in the bush. With views across the Canterbury foothills, across to the Torlesse Range and out towards Banks Peninsula. Without a doubt, the views from the summit of Mount Oxford won’t let you down. It’s the perfect plan B trip to have lined up if the weather takes a turn for the worse.

Gap in the clouds as the boys walk along the tops towards the summit of Mount Oxford

Getting There


The route that we took over Mount Oxford would be one of the longest routes however it did mean we were able to walk the track as a loop. There was something new to look forward to, right until the very end. There is a carpark at the end of Mountain Road, where we left the car. The first part of the walk had us following the Ryde Falls track. Later returning from the falls via the Korimako Track then following the unnamed track up to pt 1124 and then onto 1130 and then up to the summit of Mount Oxford following the Mount Oxford track back down to Mountain Road. I have detailed a number of alternative routes at the bottom of this post.

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Ryde Falls Track

The start of the track is near Birchwood lodge where there is a flat grassy area with a well-used portaloo at the start of the track.   Our hike started off following the Ryde falls track.  Although there were some patchy showers at times the bush provided good cover. The track was muddy in places, we did our best to avoid the mud as much as possible. It wasn’t long before we stopped caring about how much mud we had on our boots.

Looking out over Oxford Forest towards Mt Oxford
Top: Looking out over Oxford Forest towards Mount Oxford
Bottom: Climbing up to one of the few clearings along the track to Ryde Falls from Mountain Road

Ryde Falls

Two hours from the start of the track got us to Ryde Falls. We dropped our packs at the track junction and headed down the track to explore the falls. It was a good feeling knowing that we had already covered some distance. The track had been reasonably easy as far as the falls, apart from the mud. In summer I would hope that the mud would have dried up. The falls have a small yet spacious campground in a clearing near the stream. The campsite looked to be the perfect spot for a small campfire.

Top: Ed and I hanging out of the tree checking out Ryde Falls beneath us
Middle: The lowest of all the falls at Ryde Falls, Paul and Ed perched up next to the tree in the top right
Looking through the trees at the tiers of Ryde Falls layering on top of one another, Paul and Ed on the look out

Ryde falls were beautiful, to reach the top tier of waterfall required good balance and good foot placement.  The swimming holes at the bottom of the waterfall looked really attractive, especially on a warm summer’s day to cool off.   I have heard of there being some really good canyoning route around the area. Definitely a good spot for exploration up and down the waterfall and along the creek.

Ed hanging out by a tree close to the falls while I poke my face out of the bush

Mount Oxford Track

We had left our packs again at the turn-off to Ryde falls. The next part of our journey had us following the Korimako track to a junction joining tracks to Mount Oxford, Ryde Falls and the Wharfedale.  The climbing got steep from there on in, ascending 340m within 1.5km. The climbing was definitely a good workout for our calf muscles.  It was difficult to appreciate how high we had climbed when the bush sheltered the views around us.

Climbing through the enchanted forest

The sun began peeping through the forest as the incline started flattening out. Our surroundings transitioned as we climbed, the dense forest changed to trees with old man’s beard hanging from them. It was a small but significant achievement that we could be proud of.

Looking up towards the summit of Mount Oxford from the bushline
Top: A rotting tree sits bent invading the trail while Ed leads Alvin following the never-ending trail of orange triangles
Middle: Alvin and Ed admire the old man’s beard sitting amongst the trees
Bottom: Cloud clearing from around the tops of Mount Oxford

Not long after reaching the track junction to Wharfedale hut we were out in the open. Finally, we could make out our relative location and see our progress. It was a relief, after spending so much time in the bush climbing without much reward. Although there was a lot of low clouds there were a few times in which the cloud did clear and we were able to see out over the Canterbury Plains towards the sea.

Top: The boys heading past the junction to Wharfedale Hut and straight on through to the summit of Mount Oxford
Bottom: Ed followed by Alvin on the final part of the climb towards the first clearing towards the summit of Mount Oxford

Along the tops

The orange triangles gave way to orange pole markers and the shelter of the trees gave away to a cooler breeze. Clouds would float low in the sky, often limiting our visibility which at times still did not give us an appreciation for how far we had travelled from. When the cloud did give away to patches of blue skies they would soon fade into a never-ending monotone. The scenes were mysterious in a way with nothing surrounding you but the tussock and rolling clouds. Snow coated the ground in places and had us filling our drink bottles and eating plain flavoured snow cones until our mouths froze numb.

Top: Matt walks on thirstily looking for somewhere that he could possibly fill up his drink bottle
Bottom: The boys enjoying their natural flavoured snow cones

Back to the Carpark

The descent from the summit was relatively straightforward once the cloud had passed. It was easy to see the route down towards Mountain Road carpark. The views of the Canterbury Plains were incredible. As we made our way down from the summit of Mount Oxford you could see Castle Hill Peak, across the Canterbury Foothills and out over the Canterbury Plains. The setting sun made the first part of the descent a little chilly, however, it wasn’t long before we were able to get back into the sun and warm up a little more.

Top: Matt scouting out the trail back down to Mountain Road car park
Bottom: Descending in the golden hour down Mount Oxford

On the Mount Oxford Track, trees emerged a lot later, around 660m elevation. We were fortunate enough to have scenic views almost all the way back down to the carpark. It was pleasant being out in the open as we travelled down and back to the carpark. There wasn’t nearly a lot of light left in the sky being so soon after the winter solstice. The descent didn’t feel nearly as steep to the ascent that we took on. By the end of the hike, we had come to the conclusion that it may have been easier to do the final leg of the hike rather than turning it into a loop.

Top: Golden hour flooding the light around Mount Oxford as we descend to Mountain Road car park
Bottom: Ed descending the Mount Oxford track as the sun gets closer to dipping behind the Torlesse Range