Cameron Hut returnIntermediate
Submitted by Mike Steel
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Front country - easily accessible
Out and Back
Undulating, small hills only
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A there-and-back run (15.5km each way) up the narrow and open Cameron valley to Cameron hut which lies nestled under the spectacular rugged Arrowsmith mountains following a track or markers most of the way. It's a nice run especially in autumn or early summer in clear weather, with the sun behind you both ways, plenty of water en route, and mostly downhill on the return (with the option of a downhill bike ride and swim at the end). Feasible as a day trip from Christchurch if you start early.
Just past past a locked gate run up valley on the track which stays on the true right of the river the whole way (usually on or near the riverbed, but sometimes on tracks through scrub or matagouri, some of which may end in tears - i.e. if in doubt head for the river). After an hour or so (depending on your pace) you'll pass the old 'highland home' hut on the other side of the river, and at the end of the next long open section of valley the track climbs over a prominent tussock hill before descending to the river again, crossing Spean stream. Further up, near the obvious jumble of moraine mounds keep left, follow cairns and occasional markers steeply up beside wet and dry riverbeds. A marker indicates where the track climbs up to the right and doubles back slightly over a mound to the hut which you can only see right near the end.
From the hut it's a pleasant wander further up valley on the obvious 'carriageway' or for better views on moraine wall on the opposite side of the valley, or even just the little hill right by the hut; sunglasses and sunhat are useful - it can be pretty bright up there. The return mostly-downhill run and bike-ride is fun, and you can cool off with dip in the lake at the end.
Features of interest
Awesome high, steep and glaciated mountains at the head of the valley and interesting amphitheatre to explore there. Sheltered, secluded valley, east of the divide. No significant river crossings.
Make Up of Run
Technical Single Track: 30%
Moderate Single Track: 70%
From Lake Heron settlement, bike (or drive) 3 km north on the main gravel road (Hakatere Heron Road) around the lake to where faint 4WD trails head NW 1km across wide open country to the narrow Cameron valley entrance. There is a spacious car park there and DOC intentions folder.
Lake Heron is a 2 hr drive from Christchurch via Mt Somers (20km on gravel).
The parking spot seems very safe. Also possible to park by Lake Heron and bike the few km to the start. No public transport in this area.
It's hard to get seriously lost. Lower down you might take a trail that ends in matagouri - just backtrack a bit and try closer to the river. Further up (over the big hill and into the next steep section) keep an eye out for cairns and markers (some people have got temporarily 'lost' here) - the hut is not visible until you are very close to it.
Long-sleeved thermal top, Seam-sealed waterproof jacket, Gloves, Beanie/thermal headwear, Personal Locator Beacon (PLB), Whistle, First aid kit, Extra food for emergencies, Survival blanket, Map.
Plenty of water (from streams and the glacier-fed river) the whole way, plus rainwater from the hut.
Toilet and emergency radio at the Cameron Hut (which is not locked, owned by the Canterbury Mountaineering Club).
In winter/early spring the upper parts of this trail can be under snow.
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