Packhorse Hut

Packhorse Hut

Packhorse Hut is a serviced, bookable hut on Banks Peninsula. It is a popular hike among many people from Christchurch for how accessible it is, and the beautiful views that the area has to offer. There are many routes that lead to Packhorse Hut although the main, most popular route is from Kaituna Valley. The track winds through a variety of terrain. Through farmland which with the courtesy of the landowners has been made accessible for the public. The walk is a great introductory hike if you’re up for your first overnight hike and don’t have much experience or for young children who are up for their first overnight hike. For a seasoned hiking veteran, there’s a great route onto Mount Herbert from the hut with beautiful views out over Banks Peninsula and Lyttleton Harbour.


2 hours


4.2 km


450 m





Looking out over Packhorse Hut and Kaituna Pass on the way up Mt Bradley

43°42′07″S 172°41′33″E

In Detail

Although DOC states that it takes two hours to reach Packhorse Hut, Mum and I found that it took far closer to an hour and fifteen minutes walking at a moderate pace, stopping to take photos and eat snacks along the way. Two hours would be more realistic with young children if you are wanting to stay the night but return to and from Packhorse Hut if you have a moderate level of fitness about half of what is stated on the sign. The hike is easily doable in a pair of sneakers although after some rain it can be quite slippery with mud building up along the track, especially during the months of winter and spring.

My Mum crossing one of a few stiles on the way back from our time at Packhorse Hut

Kaituna Valley

Kaituna Valley Track is one of the four ways that you are able to reach Packhorse Hut and is probably one of the easiest ways to reach Packhorse Hut. It is likely to be one of the most popular due to many of the other tracks being closed during lambing season (between 8th August and 15th October). The track is easy to follow and fairly short for a hike. Although there is a noticeable amount of elevation to be gained it is constant.

Mum making her way back down the track towards

Getting There

From Christchurch getting to the start of the track is a relatively short drive away, especially if you are to do it as an overnight hike. From Christchurch make your way onto State Highway Seventy Five. This will usually have you coming through the suburb of Halswell one way or another. Follow it out past Tai Tapu and then you are out on the open road. The turn off to Kaituna Valley can be easy to miss. The turn-off is on a right-hand bend (coming from Christchurch) and will lead you down a narrow sealed road. Follow the road until you reach yet another small sealed road called Parkinson’s Road. It’s at the end of this road that you’ll find a grassy patch next to a farmers paddock, a stile and a DOC sign marking the start of the track.


The walk up to Packhorse Hut begins near the end of Parkinsons Road in Kaituna Valley. Cross two stiles and you are on your way up a gentle slope and through more farmland up to Packhorse Hut. The track is gently sloping upwards and easy walking with orange poled markers showing the way. Further up the track once you get under the bush the climbing starts to kick in but it is still quite gradual. There are a couple of stream crossings that can be a little tricky to jump without getting your feet wet. Finally the major climbing is done as you get closer to Packhorse Hut as you break out of the regenerating bush and look out over Kaituna Valley.

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The walk into Packhorse Hut is relatively sheltered along most of the way. Packhorse Hut is really the only exposed part of the hike. For the rest of the hike, you are mostly undercover. During the wintertime, it can be a great track to tackle with the days being shorter and no alpine experience necessary to complete the trail. After very cold conditions snow can be found along the surrounding mountains and Packhorse Hut.

Kaituna Valley Packhorse Hut Track

The walk up to Packhorse Hut begins at the end of Parkinson’s Road where you’ll cross a stile shortly followed by another stile. Don’t stray too far off the track around this area as much of the track, in the beginning, leads through operating farmland. Cross the second stile and there is a small ascent to yet another gate marked by a tree. The route is poled by orange markers over the vehicle track that you follow. The track then leads into the bush veering slightly to the right on the way up passing a small plantation of gum trees. The slow but gradual ascent up to Packhorse begins here and doesn’t really tail-off until close to the saddle. There then comes a small section of pine trees that you come to pass through before the main section of the trail up through regenerating native bush begins.

Top: The DOC sign marking the start of the walk up to Packhorse Hut
Bottom Left:
Making a start on the walk, following a farm track up towards the
Bottom Right:
Walking through a small pine plantation of the walk switched up the mood during the walk.

Stream Crossings

Along the way up there are quite a number of streams that you’ll find that you have to cross. If you wear a pair of waterproof sneakers or boots it can make these small stream crossings a lot easier. Even walking poles can be a great aid for balance as you navigate these sections of the track. The final stream crossings mark the nearing of the end of the forest and the beginning of more farmland.

Top: After a bit of rain the ground can be quite muddy in places making it pretty slippery to navigate some stretched
Middle Left:
Pine trees that ebb and flow between the regenerating native bush alongside the track
Middle Right: A DOC sign keeping you on the right track on the way up to Packhorse Hut
Trying to tackle the final stream along the walk without completely drenching our feet

Tussock and Views

Shortly after crossing the final stream comes the climbing. Views out over Kaituna Valley finally make the climbing worthwhile. You can look back out over the valley towards where you parked up the car. When the cloud isn’t hanging too low, you can see out over Lake Ellesmere and the South Pacific Ocean. As you climb you’ll be able to see Mount Bradley to your right as you ascend. At the base of the mountain is Packhorse Hut. There’s is one small muddy patch around some tree cover close to the hut. From here it’s not far before you’ll reach Packhorse Hut.

Top: Rays of light falling poking through the clouds down on Kaituna Valley
A very old Scenic Reserve sign put up by the Land and Survey Department
: Closing in on Packhorse Hut, Mum making her way up the track, Mount Bradley in the background

Packhorse Hut

Packhorse Hut is a great hut that is well looked after by the Department of Conservation due to its high usage. The hut has a total of 9 bunks, 3 as Maori Style bunk beds whilst the other 6 are designed in bunk bed fashion. Inside there is a fireplace a large picnic table for eating and cooking meals. Surrounding the tables are a number of benches giving you plenty of space to put your legs up and rest. Outside there’s a well-stocked woodshed that gets kept topped up by DOC. Close to the hut is a toilet with a view. As mentioned earlier in the article, if you’re intending on staying at Packhorse Hut you must book through DOC’s online system.


9 Bunks


Mattresses, Fire Place, Toilets, Water, Washing Basin

Top: Looking out onto Packhorse Hut while Mum does her best to keep warm amongst the clouds
Middle Left:
The dining and area and benches inside Packhorse Hut
Middle Right: Looking over five of the nine bunks at Packhorse Hut
Bottom: A loo with a view, not far from Packhorse Hut


The Hut was originally part of a number of other buildings that were built as a part of Harry Ell’s vision of a number of roadhouses that would preserve the natural state of the port hills allowing visitors to enjoy the beautiful views of Christchurch and Lyttleton Harbour. Four of the roadhouses exists to this day and include the Sign of the Takahe, Sign of the Kiwi and Sign of the Bellbird, and finally, the Sign of the Packhorse the hut visited in this blog.

Top: The DOC sign with times and distances for many of the other walks to reach Packhorse Hut
Bottom: Looking out over the Remarkable Dykes shown in the background

Return Journey

The return journey back to the car was even shorter than the time that it took to get up to Packhorse Hut. Follow the same route that you took to get up to the hut on the way back down, letting your legs carry you down the descending trail. There are some parts of the trail that let you pick up some reasonable pace. Take care in the winter months, especially after rain. The track can become a lot more slippery, meaning a good chance that you could end up slipping if you aren’t careful.

Top: Crossing the second stream on the way back down to the car
Stepping stones to the other side of the stream were the way to get across the river without wet feet
Mum making her way back over the wooden stile into the small patch of pine forest