Last Updated: 7th Mar 2024


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Little River Chuggalong

Little River Rail Trail

Little River, Canterbury

Submitted by Tony Sharpe

Last Updated: 7th Mar 2024


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I've done it Done


Grunt Factor: 19 ?

Gnarl Factor: 11 ?








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Trail Map

Type of Run

Front country - easily accessible

Point to Point (one way)

Totally/mostly flat



Open farmlands


Run Makeup


Sealed Road

Easy Single Track

Average Uphill Gradient: +1.8%

Average Downhill Gradient: -1.6%


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Estimated Times to Run







Even cycle trails are worth a run sometimes, and this is one of the better ones.

Start at the Motukarara Station and head out south along the trail across a few bridges and round a few bends. Before long you'll reach Kaituna huts, which is worth a stop to look around the headland and get your first views of Lake Ellesmere/ Waihora.

The next stage is awesome as it ventures out onto the lake along causeways and over bridges which gives great views of the prolific birdlife and surrounding landscapes. Great photography here, and also superb night skies if you happen to be here in the dark - great aurora spotting country

Once you get clear of the lake you'll cross a couple of roads and carry on until you reach the road turnoff to Birdlings Flat, which itself is worth a visit on your shuttle back home for a wild Pacific Ocean coastline. Breathtaking, but don't swim here, its way too dangerous in that surf!

After the Birdlings turnoff the Rail Trail heads inland through Birdlings Flat Station and eventually joins the shoreline of Lake Forsyth / Wairewa. It's a pleasant amble alongside the water for the next few km's until the Trail runs out and then its only a short road dash to the refreshments and artistic pleasures of Little River. Stop and explore the Gallery before you head home.

Historic Rail Trail

You'll need to organise a shuttle or car swap, unless you want to run both ways

26 km

21 minutes




You can't miss this trail


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

Bring from home, its farmland here and sadly the water quality is rubbish

Can get a but nippy in winter

The whole trail is very exposed to wind. Weather can change rapidly so pack appropriate warm and weatherproof back up gear

Little River Cafe
Main Road Little River
Art, fine coffee and food and some cold ones

Trail Legend

Stewie Stuart

Stewie Stuart

has completed Little River Chuggalong twice in the last year.

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Trail Reviews

A nice option for time on feet / getting Kms in if you don't want elevation gain.
As others say - exposed and hot and no where to get water (although if you're doing what I did and running/walking the return trip to avoid a car shuttle/swap, there is a tap at waihora domain with drinking water for a refil for your second leg of the journey).

I enjoyed the sunrise light/colours on the way out, found it a bit hot and repetitive and not particularly exciting on the way back. Having done the return journey (ie basically done the trail twice today), I doubt I'd be back unless there was a reason to avoid the hills (eg snow)

Michelle Snape

March 7

I have this as one of my local trails so have completed it at various times (nighttime, midday, morning etc) and I recommend bringing a buff or some form of mask.... if you aren't super keen to get extra protein gains from swallowing lakeflies that are persistent around the entirety of the trail. As Matt has said, it can get very exposed and hot. Oftentimes ill drop off water midway before undertaking the journey as there is no water sources along the way. Its a bit boring and relentlessly straight so highly advise brining a friend or listening to a good podcast/audiobook. Views can be really epic if you do this early morning when the sunrise hits the peaks.

Stewie Stuart

December 11

Nice to finally tick this one off the list! I quite enjoyed the causeway section and the bird life on the lakes. There’s very little shade, so I would recommend saving it for a cooler day. Also recommend running it with a mate - it might be a bit boring solo! I am glad I ran it but don’t think I’ll run it again… I would definitely go back on a bike though :)

Matt Halverson

March 12, 2022

Great for a fast half!

Tony Sharpe

July 12, 2020

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