Peak Hill

Peak Hill

Peak Hill is a hike near Lake Coleridge that winds up a dominant ‘sugarloaf’ hill from the lakeside of Lake Coleridge. It’s usually walked in a day returning via the same summit track. This time however we tried something a little different, descending via the nor-western ridge of Peak Hill, following a beaten up farm track around the base of Peak Hill, back to our starting point. The Peak Hill track is becoming more well-known as a hike in mid-Canterbury, attracting both tourists and locals. If you are after a scenic winter hike with views look no further.


4 hours


8.75 km


775 m



Looking out from the edge of the lull where our campsite was towards Lake Coleridge as the sunset

In Detail

It is unclear whether you are actually allowed to camp in the area surrounding Lake Coleridge. There are a number of old signs that show that camping is forbidden in the area. As you climb up to the first gate you will find a sign, that has been modified by someone, to show that camping is actually allowed. There is nowhere on the DOC website which states that camping is forbidden in the area, hence we planned this as an overnight hike. Do not attempt to camp anywhere on the private land that you cross at the start of the hike. If you do intend to camp on DOC land, leave no trace, no one should be able to find your campsite after you have left. I will ensure that if DOC clarifies the rules around camping on Peak Hill, this post will be updated.

Sunrise over our campsite just below the summit of Peak Hill

Getting there


The route that we hiked ascended the south-western face of Peak Hill towards the summit. On the second day, we descended then completed the route back to our starting point around Peak Hill. The signboard at the start of the track indicates that camping is forbidden and shows only one route up Peak Hill. The topographical map of the area, however, marks a second route that can be followed down from the summit along to a fence line and back to the starting point. The marked track follows the well-worn South-Western ridge. The mapped route along the North-Western ridge is much rougher, you follow animal tracks down a fence line to another old DOC sign. From here on you follow a tight, overgrown vehicle track, back to the starting point.

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Day 1

The first day’s plan was to reach the summit by sunset, pitching the tent as fast as possible, before the last glimmer of light was lost. We didn’t leave Christchurch until around 1 pm and sunset was at 5 pm. Faced with such a little window of light we headed straight up to the summit making it within two hours. The first part of the climb was steep and had us worn out by the time we hit the ridge. The second part of the hike was mellow. We were greeted with sweeping views over the Rakaia River and Lake Coleridge beneath us as we made our way towards the summit of Peak Hill.


2 hours


2.75 km


668 m

Our tent nestled in the tussock as the sun set


We parked the car next to a small DOC sign in a grassy pull-off bay on the side of Algdius Road. It would have been easy to miss if there wasn’t another car parked in the same place. From the roadside, we crossed a stile and began hiking across a small stretch of farmland to Peak Hill Conservation Area. The route was marked along the edge of the fence line to another fence where we began our steep ascent.

Looking back down the very first section of the track towards the car

A Steep Climb to the Ridge

As soon as we crossed the second stile the track began to wind steadily upward. A network of smaller tracks has been carved out into the side of the hill, alongside the main track. We climbed and climbed, our calves definitely felt pain but the views did not disappoint as we continued climbing. Sharp Speargrass is hidden in amongst the tussock and small shrubs that cover the hillside. Any time anyone brushed up against it you would hear a loud whine the spears are very sharp and painful. We found the track to be extremely unstable and slippery in places. We did our best not to slip by using the shrubs to give us a firm foot placement.

Top: Looking out over Lake Coleridge as we climbed the ridge
Bottom: Angus with a big grin as we near the ridge of Peak Hill

Ridge to Summit

The ridge along to the summit was quite different from the climb up to it. The terrain was much smoother yet much more exposed. We were able to get better views and appreciate our surroundings a lot more, whilst not worrying about sliding back down the hill. The views didn’t disappoint, all along the ridge, we could look out along the Rakaia River and out over Lake Coleridge in the east. With the light fading in the west and cloud rolling up into the valleys ahead of us it was as if Mother Nature was unfurling her wings.

Walking along one of the many exposed ridges as we head towards the summit of Peak Hill

Beware, there were a couple of times we struck false summits, leaving us scratching our heads and questioning how far it was to the actual summit before we made it to the top. All the while we tried to just enjoy the journey and our surroundings. While I fretted over where we would find a campsite before sunset and our golden hour of light finally ended.

Angus and Abhi Take a short breather as they near the summit of Peak Hill just as the golden hour sets in

Peak Hill Campsite

As we were climbing I was keeping an eye out for a campsite. Somewhere that would be sheltered from the wind and flat enough to allow us to have a good nights sleep. It wasn’t until we reached the summit that we decided on a small lull in the hill. From our campsite, we had views out towards the head of the Rakaia and the Wilberforce rivers. It wasn’t long before we had the tent up and the light completely disappeared. It was time for the camera to go away and for dinner to be cooked.

Top: Angus preparing food for dinner
Middle Left: Angus checking out the ingredients for a gourmet dinner of two-minute noodles
Middle Right:
Angus lifting the lid of the boiling water ready to kick the meal into action
Abhi getting his gloves on in the dark as night sets in

Day 2

Our second day on Peak Hill had us clearing out our campsite, just below the summit, admiring a beautiful sunrise after a reasonably peaceful sleep. We followed an unmarked route down Peak hill, for the most part, following the fence line until we were confronted with a small DOC sign that marked Peak Hill Conservation Area. It was then yet another fence line that we followed, along a beaten-up vehicle track. At times the trail would have had us walking far too close to the electric fence and barbed wire. It was slightly easier going in places but it was a lot longer in terms of distance, compared to the route we took the previous day.


2 hours


6 km


106 m

Top: Angus walking up towards the summit ridge of Peak Hill as sunrise kicks in
Bottom: Walking back down to our campsite below the summit of Peak Hill

Winter is a special time to be up on Peak Hill. The sun rises later in the day, making it much easier to catch that early morning sunrise, that you don’t usually make it out of bed for. Not a lot of snow had fallen in the surrounding mountains when we hiked up Peak Hill, however, there was still enough to sugar-coat some of the higher peaks.

Top: Angus admiring the sunrise from the ridgeline
Bottom: Abhi looking out over the Rakaia River back towards the ocean

Descending Peak Hill via the Fenceline

Our day of hiking started with climbing the mere five or so metres that it was to the summit from which we began our descent through the tussock and small shrubs, searching all the while for a more well-defined track. At times we would jump the fence and continue our descent all the while ensuring we kept it in close sight. The views were unreal looking towards the head of the Rakaia, Mathias and Wilberforce Rivers with large snow-capped mountains surrounding you.

Top: Angus followed by Abhi as they made their way down
Middle: The fenceline leading down Peak Hill that we crossed multiple times
Bottom: Angus descending the nor-western ridge of Peak Hill

Although there was never any defined track for this part of the hike, it would have to be my favourite part. On one side you would have Lake Coleridge, to the other you would have the braided Rakaia River and all the beautiful mountains that lead to the head of these rivers. In the distance, you can almost make out the ocean the rivers connecting the mountain to the sea.

Top: Angus interweaving amongst the shrubs as we descend Peak Hill, ‘Mordor’ in the background
My best shot of capturing both ‘Mordor’ and the head of Lake Coleridge

Tight Farm Tracks around Peak Hill

The final leg of our journey saw us leaving the fence line to follow a rumpty beat-up vehicle track around the side of Peak Hill back towards the carpark. Parts of the track were reasonably well-formed, while others were blocked with large patches of Matagouri. In an attempt to avoid the Matagouri we diverted up the side of the hill, dropping back on onto the track further on, to continue with our journey back towards the car.

Top: One of the three signs DOC signs that seemed a bit contradicting as we made our way back down Peak Hill
Bottom: Looking back up the fence line from where we had come

At the end of the hike, as we were crossing the final barbed wire fence, I got caught up and ended up tearing my arms, leg and hand leaving me with some good cuts. Be sure that if you are going to cross a barbed-wire fence you and are confident in doing so, my advice would be throwing your pack over before jumping the fence yourself.

Top: Looking out over the Rakia River, this time from a much lower elevation
Bottom: Angus followed by Abhi as we finally near the beginning of where we had begun our hike from

In the Area

Although you take a completely different route to get to this hike, Mt Lyndon is a comparable hike that is well worth taking the time to check out. They are not too far from each another, as the crow flies, and both offer fantastic views out over the mountains in the area.


  1. I wondered if camping was allowed.. The signs that I have always seen said no… but hopefully not as I would love to camp up there! I”m going next week so I’ll check again lol

    1. I did a thorough look over the DOC site and they provided very little information about the hike. They also didn’t state anywhere on their website that you are not allowed to camp up on Peak Hill. To further that they don’t even acknowledge that there is a track that leads down the other side of the hill. Until DOC can clearly state that camping is not allowed in the area then I would make the most of the opportunity while there is still the opportunity!