Last Updated: 8th Jan 2024

Intermediate - Experienced

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I've done it Done

Cass-Lagoon Trail

Arthurs Pass, Canterbury

Submitted by Mike Steel

Last Updated: 8th Jan 2024

Intermediate - Experienced

Save Trail Save

I've done it Done


Grunt Factor: 61 ?

Gnarl Factor: 57 ?








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Trail Map

Type of Run

Back country - remote

Point to Point (one way)

Undulating, some big hills

Native bush


Open ridges/tops

Run Makeup


Moderate Single Track

Technical Single Track

Average Uphill Gradient: +10.4%

Average Downhill Gradient: -8.9%


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Estimated Times to Run







The Cass-Lagoon track is a popular 2-3 day tramping track that's also a very pleasant trail run. It follows well-marked trails connecting two sheltered valleys, passing over two alpine saddles, with forest, alpine scrub and stream sections, numerous huts, and increasingly open and wild running in Cass stream near the end. Being east of the divide, and with no major river crossing issues, it can be run for much of the year.

The track heads up through beech forest and then breaks out to give superb views nearer to Lagoon saddle, before descending into the Harper River system. It's a pleasant run down through here - the trail in this section is part of the Te Araroa Trail, however you leave this when Hamilton Creek joins in - cross a left over a bridge and head a short distance up Hamilton Creek to the spacious Hamilton Hut.

From there, the trail grinds its way up valley, which becomes increasingly steep as it leaves Hamilton Creek (this is the one place you won't be running!) then eases off before Cass Saddle. From here it's a delightful descent on fast trails down to the Cass river, with some river crossing and running on faint trails across river stones to follow. Eventually a marker guides you over a stopbank onto a 4WD track to follow an obvious long straight line of pine trees that leads to your bike (or second car).

Tarns, views of the southern alps, mixed terrain, sheltered valleys, two low-alpine saddles

If you know of any public toilets near the trail start or on the route, please login and then let us know so we can update this section.

Parking at the Cora Lyn end seems relatively safe since it is off the main road and near a house.

16 km

18 minutes




If you instead run from the Cass end, be careful not to get slightly lost at one particular point (several people have!) - it's where the Harper River and Long Creek join (take a map) - so if you are heading UP the Harper River you need to turn right at this junction. Also, whichever direction you are heading make sure you don't start running down the Harper river after the junction with Hamilton Creek (consult the map if in doubt).

Very patchy.

Long-sleeved thermal top, Seam-sealed waterproof jacket, Personal Locator Beacon (PLB), Whistle, First aid kit, Extra food for emergencies, Survival blanket, Cellphone, Compass, Map

Plenty of water the whole way in streams and at huts

Can be impassable due to heavy snow - you can see if Cass saddle (highest point) is clear of snow from SH73 near Cass. Also near there, check the level of the Cass river - it's usually pretty low but after heavy rain it could be an issue.

Trail Legend

Findal Proebst

Findal Proebst

has completed Cass-Lagoon Trail once in the last year.

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Trail Reviews

Such a good day out. Amazing conditions despite the average weather report. Track to ourselves. We are blown away by people being able to do this in 5 hours..... We fast walked the hills, ran the flats and downhills. Took lots of stops for photos. Some areas weren't super runnable with more technical terrain. Lost markers at some points down from cass saddle and near the end of the cass river resulting in a bonus 3km. Looking forward to beating our time once our trail experience improves.

Stewie Stuart

December 2, 2023

Thoroughly enjoyed this run. So much of it was runnable! Great variety and the excessive number of huts was delightful. There was a fair amount of treefall which added maybe 15 minutes of delay. We were a party of three. One person tried to hitch back to the start, and as a hedge we also sent one person on a bike. The hitchhiker failed completely so good job we had stashed the bike!

Matt Halverson

October 9, 2022

Great variety with formed trails and river bed travel. The section between Cass Saddle and Hamilton hut was absolute trail running bliss (I did it in the reverse direction to the description). Highly recommended!

Tom Brennan

April 25, 2022

Great run if you can sort the logistics. Did it in reverse on tired legs. Lots of river bed running. Lots of huts along the way to break it up. Good honest climbs. The track near the top of lagoon saddle on the Bealey side was very boggy.

Jeremy Wheeler

October 30, 2021

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