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The ATH (Around The Harbour), Canterbury

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The ATH (Around The Harbour)Intermediate

Submitted by Tim Wright

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Trail Information







Front country - easily accessible

Point to Point (one way)

Undulating, some big hills

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


14:00 (Slow)
10:00 (Moderate)
7:00 (Fast)



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In my view the ATH is the definitive Port Hills Trail Run. I have run variations of this route over the years, always amazed at the beauty, challenge and diversity of this epic trail run that is on the doorstep of Christchurch residents and readily accessible by public transport. For many years I have thought this should be an organised ultra-run, kicking off with the iconic cliff-top Sumner/Taylors Mistake Walkway and culminating at the historic Godley House for well earned beers in the beautiful grounds. But alas the 2010/11 Earthquakes put paid to this potential race start route and end venue.

There is considerable choice along the early parts of this route in taking either the generally easy-running shared-used MTB single track, the more gnarly Crater Rim track or the tar-sealed Summit Rd. I am a trail runner, and look to avoid the black stuff as much as possible. I do however appreciate some sections of easier running shared-use MTB track over some pretty gnarly sections of the Crater Rim walking track, particularly over a run of this proportion.

Start at the Clock Tower at the end of Sumner Beach. A 500m jog along the water-front on Heberdeen Ave. At the Heberdeen/Scarborough Rd hair-pin bend, take the Flowers Tracks steeply up through Scarborough to the Searidge Lane. Turn right and jog along Taylors Mistake Rd for 700m, then taking a track on your left at the pine trees (joining what remains of the Taylors Mistake Walkway post-quake). Follow walkway to Taylors Mistake and then run either along the beach or on the high-tide track among the quirky huts.

At the far end of Taylors Mistake Beach, join the Taylors Mistake Walkway and follow this beautiful and easy-running track around the cliff-tops before climbing up to the Godley Head Car Park Area (Toilets and water tap available, 7km completed). Head through the car park area, taking the stile over fence at the West end of the car park. Follow the Breeze Col MTB track up the hill and descend to Summit Rd at Breezes Col, catching your first views of Lyttelton Harbour and Mt Herbert opposite.

The track kisses Summit Rd at the bend - follow the well-formed shared-use MTB track on the left (Harbourside) of Summit Rd to Evans Pass. At Evans Pass, briefly join Summit Rd, cross Evans Pass Rd and take a track on the left in just 150m. Again, follow the MTB track (my preference over the Crater Rim track at this point) on the left side of Summit Rd, climbing steadily up to Greenwood Park. When the MTB track joins Summit Rd, turn left taking a trail through the John Britten Reserve on the right side of Summit Rd just after the Mt Pleasant Rd intersection.

Rejoin the Summit Rd briefly after 1km for a 400m down-hill section before locating the Gondola Track on the left side of the road bend, heading up and behind the Gondola (the Bluffs Track is very gnarly post-quake and not recommended for running). The Gondola Track merges with the Crater Rim track - keep left of Summit Rd and run through the Pioneer Womens Memorial. Follow the Crater Rim track uphill to the top of the climb above the bend in Summit Rd opposite Castle Rock. Keep on a relatively new section of walking track above the Summit Rd, under 'The Tors' before joining Summit Rd for a well-earned down-hill jog for about 1km.

Find the track again on your left, traversing around Witch Hill before descending to the CP at the top of Rapaki Track. Keep left of Summit Rd, my preference being to take the shared-use MTB / walking track all the way to the Sign of the Kiwi. This includes traversing Summit Rd just after Mt Vernon at the Huntsbury Track intersection, but keeping on the MTB track for this beautiful section of flat running (the Bowenvale Traverse) through tussock to Victoria Park and onwards via Thomsons Track to traverse Dyers Pass Rd to The Kiwi where there are toilets, water and even a cafe (29kms).

From the Kiwi, take the Crater Rim track above, and initially left of, Summit Rd, follow signs to traverse Summit Road after 2kms, running on the right side for about 1km before again traversing the road to continue on the Crater Rim track on the left side of the Summit Rd after Worsleys Rd, all the way to the Sign of the Bellbird car park, complete with stunning views. From SOB car park, resist the temptation to follow the Summit Rd all the way to Gebbies Pass - instead follow the Crater Rim track walking signs to keep on the trail, including a very sweet section winding through native bush before being forced to join the tarmac. Descend to Gebbies Pass (42kms).

At the intersection of Summit Rd/Gebbies Pass turn left for just 100m before following a track on your right sign-posted for the Packhorse Hut. This section is subject to some change during felling but is well signed. Follow up through the forest and eventually traverse along to the Packhorse, looking across the harbour to where you came from earlier in the day. Water and toilets available at Packhorse Hut (47.5kms).

Now the tough bit (particularly in the snow!). Follow signs to Mt Herbert, first heading up gently from the Packhorse but then becoming very steep and zig-zagging before traversing round the hillside. Eventually merge with a more major track shortly before passing the Mt Herbert Shelter on your right. Continue along the gravel track (or snowscape) until you see a sign and trail on your right to Mt Herbert Summit. In around 500m you will hopefully be enjoying a truly stunning view, surveying the sky-line above the harbour from whence you set out this morning.

Eventually descend from the summit of Mt Herbert, heading north to follow the signed Mt Herbert Walkway all the way down to Diamond Harbour. When you reach the first sealed road (Marine Drive) cross over this and follow the trail down the hill to the rocky shore-line / beach. Find a trail on your right that will take you uphill briefly and then down to the Diamond Harbour Jetty.

NB The section from Packhorse to Gebbies: Unfortunately as at November 2019 logging operations have completely decimated the nice forest section in the middle. You are now diverted out onto a couple of km's of 4WD road and then link back up to the last bit of trail before the Dykes on a grotty but well marked section or logged area. Its all open, but can be expected to change again before operations finish, best check before you go with DOC.

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Features of interest

A full circumnavigation of the Lyttelton Harbour, largely around the rim of volcano. A tremendous variety of landscapes and constantly changing, stunning views as your perspective on the Harbour changes throughout your journey. Historic memorials and summit road rest-houses a-plenty.

Make Up of Run

Untracked / Route only: 1%

Technical Single Track: 6%

Moderate Single Track: 40%

Easy Single Track: 43%

Sealed Road: 10%

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

Godley Head loop

Godley Head loop

Length: 18.10km

Whigs' Flying Fifty (WFF)

Whigs' Flying Fifty (WFF)

Length: 50.30km

Gebbies to Packhorse Romp

Gebbies to Packhorse Romp

Length: 11.40km

The Crater Rim

The Crater Rim

Length: 27.90km

A Diamond in the Rough

A Diamond in the Rough

Length: 19.00km


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I did it!
  • Access

    Sumner/Scarborough Clock Tower

    The beauty of the epic Around The Harbour (ATH) run is that it is readily accessible by public transport from either end of the route. The Purple Line will drop (or collect) you from the nearest bus stops near the intersection of Nayland Street and Head Street in Sumner. The Diamond Harbour Ferry at the end of the run will whisk you back to Lyttelton and, with any luck, the connecting 28 bus service to Christchurch Central City and beyond.

    13 km

    22 minutes



  • Staying Safe


    As noted earlier, there are many choices of route when heading generally westbound along the top of the Port Hills during the earlier part of the run. The description provided is generally for use of the shared-use MTB track where this is present, but a more arduous option is to follow the Crater Rim track in in its entirety over this section of the ATH. The ATH is a long and hilly run, hence my preference to use the shared-use MTB track where available. This is a trail running club, and I don't run on roads if I can help it, but some members may prefer to whizz along the tar-sealed Summit Road.

    Generally good.

    Short-sleeved thermal top, Long-sleeved thermal top, Seam-sealed waterproof jacket, Gloves, Beanie/thermal headwear, Whistle, First aid kit, Extra food for emergencies, Cellphone, Map, Headtorch and spare batteries.

    As noted within commentary, water is available at Godley Head car park (tap on outside of toilet block) at 7kms, Sign of the Kiwi (tap / fountain) at 29kms, and at the Packhorse Hut at 47.5 kms.

    Do not estimate how challenging this run will be if there is snow on Mt Herbert, as there was when I last did this precise route.

    The route described avoids the Bluffs Track, which otherwise is likely to be the greatest rock-fall hazard along the route.

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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
Lava - H.ELL Loop
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
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Up Hill Down Valley
The Coffee Run
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Hagley Perimeter
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Montgomery Loop
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