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Lava - H.ELL Loop, Canterbury

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Lava - H.ELL LoopIntermediate

Submitted by Tony Sharpe

Info Info
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Trail Information







Urban fringe


Very hilly

Native bush
Plantation/exotic forest
Open tussock/grasslands
Open ridges/tops


2:00 (Slow)
1:30 (Moderate)
1:00 (Fast)



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NOTE: As at Jan 2020 the lower section of the Lava Flow Track has been rerouted a spur to the NW, it is obvious when going down but if approaching from the valley floor take the earlier bridge that connects the Hidden Valley Track and head up the new section. The old bit is still there, but is no longer maintained.

This one is for the technical uphill junkies. It is a steady slow climb for the first 1km up the Bowenvale Valley Track to get your blood following. Carry on up valley, past the East Side Bush and Hidden Bush turnoffs, before reaching the foot to the Lava Track. This is a shared use MTB/ Foot track, be very aware, serious downhill riders will be hurtling down here at death defying speeds as you head up. Best not wear headphones.

Once onto the Lava Track, the hard work begins as you slog your way up a very steep 1km to reach the crest of the hill under the Summit Road. Did we mention this is steep? You'll have very quickly nabbed over 400m of vertical already. But don't get too relaxed, you aren't done with the steep up bits just yet, the last short slog up Sugarloaf awaits.

From the top of the Lava Trail hook onto the shared use trail that runs under the Summit Road and stretch those legs for 1km of undulating trail heaven. Watch for MTB's again, they have right of way on this stretch too. After a bit, cross the Summit Road at the obvious turnoff before the Sugarloaf and ascend a small rocky knob beside the Crater Rim Trail. Jump over the stile and head straight up to the transmission tower on Sugarloaf summit and take a moment to enjoy the views.

From Sugarloaf head down the access road and on to to the Sign of the Kiwi via the Crater Rim Trail and cross over to the Harry Ell Track for a nice fast section of slight downhill on big wide trails. Halfway down Harry Ell, just before you hit the access road to Victoria Park, a side trail veers off uphill. Take this up to a major junction of trails and jump onto the Latters Spur track into the bush. A short way along there is another junction where you turn right and head down East Side Bush track through the forest on some sweet sweet trails back down to the valley floor. Here you will regain familiar territory on the Bowenvale Valley track and unwind the last 1km back to the car park.

Then head to Brickworks or Protocol bars for a hard earned refreshment!

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Features of interest

Run up one of the steeper trails on the Port Hills and then enjoy the benefits of the great views on the top section.

Discover the historic Harry Ell track on the way back down, and the infamous East Side Bush track where the Heavenly Creatures murder took place.

Make Up of Run

Untracked / Route only: 5%

Technical Single Track: 40%

Moderate Single Track: 20%

Easy Single Track: 35%

Route Data


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Overlapping Runs

The following trails overlap with this run to some degree. You may wish to combine them but please note that to qualify for FKTs on these runs you should record a separate Strava activity for each

The Bowenvale Elevator

The Bowenvale Elevator

Length: 11.20km

Rapaki Sugarloaf Return

Rapaki Sugarloaf Return

Length: 15.00km

Sign Of The Takahe - Rapaki

Sign Of The Takahe - Rapaki

Length: 13.00km

VKV challenge

VKV challenge

Length: 10.00km

Gondola Gallop

Gondola Gallop

Length: 11.30km

Lava Lite

Lava Lite

Length: 6.70km

Port Hills Spur Challenge!

Port Hills Spur Challenge!

Length: 18.50km

Vicki Vale

Vicki Vale

Length: 9.25km

The North Faces

The North Faces

Length: 24.80km


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Wild Explorers

I did it!
  • Access

    Access from the end of Bowenvale Ave.

    Carparking at the end of Bowenvale Ave.

    7 km

    15 minutes



  • Staying Safe


    Take the map or GPX as theres a few trail junctions to pass or take along the way.

    Perfect throughout.

    Lightweight fleece top, Long-sleeved thermal top, Windproof jacket, Gloves, Beanie/thermal headwear, Whistle, First aid kit, Extra food for emergencies, Cellphone, Map.

    Water available at Sign of the Kiwi and Victoria Park area.

    After rain it can get greasy. You'll want something grippy then, but in the dry most shoes will work fine .

    As mentioned, beware of the odd highly advanced downhill bike rider on the Lava Trail. You'll hear them before you see them!

  • Post run indulgence

    Centaurus Rd
    Good food and beer

    Protocol (used to be called Elevate- how appropriate)
    Bottom of Dyers Pass Road
    Good food and ales

  • Sponsor this trail

    If you are interested in learning about sponsorship opportunities, please get in touch below:


See other runs nearby:

Godley Head loop
Lyttelton to Diamond Harbour
Halswell and Kennedys
Summit Walkway
The Bowenvale Elevator
The Gorsetrack Strikes Back
Rapaki Sugarloaf Return
Sign Of The Takahe - Rapaki
Port Hills Nearly Half Marathon
Horse Longitudes
Horse Latitudes
Sumner Half Heads
Whigs' Flying Fifty (WFF)
VKV challenge
Banks Peninsula Ultra Beer Run
Bottle Lake Blue Loop
Gebbies to Packhorse Romp
Hagley Figure of 8
Bowenvale / Huntsbury Loop
Avon City Loops
Avon - Source to Surf
Okuti to Hilltop Amble
Gondola Gallop
Orton Bradley Loop
The ATH (Around The Harbour)
Travis Wetland Loop
Punk Rock Assault On Windsor Castle
The Guv'nor & His Birds
The Crater Rim
Lava Lite
Takahe Half
North New Brighton Spit
Mt Pleasant Trig
God's Con - Rehab Road
Gang of Four
Dog Sniffing Rhythms - Harbour Crusin'
Trinity - Harbour Bruisin'
Gates Of The East
Hunting Out A Gorge-ous Loop
Lyttelton Dress Circle
A Diamond in the Rough
Port Hills Spur Challenge!
Up Hill Down Valley
The Coffee Run
Pour Some Sugarloaf On Me
Never Trust A Crocodile
Lyttelton Semi-Circle
Hagley Perimeter
Holliss Stairway to Heaven
Diamond, Herbert & Fitzgerald
Barnett Bunker Buster
The Pipeline of Pain
Mt Vernon Farm Track
Vicki Vale
Heathcote River Run - Opawa to Hoon Hay
Christchurch 360 Trail - Sugarloaf Hills Section
Little Learner Loop (Halswell Quarry)
Bird to Bird
Port Hills Protocol
O'Farrells For Shore
The Governator
Heathcote Meander
Spitting Distance
Montgomery Loop
Canterbury Agricultural Park Loop
2 Sugars, 2 Vernons & a Half Shot
Quail Island Looping
The Chairlift Choice
Tussock Hill Ridge
Mt Pleasant Elevator
McLeans Meander
Girdle the Groynes
Governator 2 - Judgement Day
Christchurch 360 Trail - Godley Cliffs Section
Westmorland Wetland Time Trial
Loopy in Siberia
The North Faces
Westmorland Hill Reps
360 Trail - Dunes Wetlands Section
Rocking Gibraltar
Dune Bugging
Hey Sisters!
Living Springs Loop
Springing Around Longhurst
Lady Isaac Loop
The Missing Link
Beer Bum Bluffs
Brooklands for the Birds.
Surf's Up!!!
Styx Pick Me Up
Orton Odyssey
Shoeing the Horse
Tauhinu-Korokio TKO
Double Top
Beginner's Adventure Park Loop
Boulder Dash
Clan of the Cave Runner
Taiora Track
Landfill Lark
Morgans Baa Baa Loop
Mary Had a Little Lamb
Horsing Around
Port Hills 8-Attack
Pinecone Pirate - Waitākiri/Bottle Lake Forest Park
Takahe to Taylors

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