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Earnslaw Burn Circuit, Otago

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Earnslaw Burn CircuitIntermediate - Experienced

Submitted by Mike Steel

Info Info
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Trail Information







Back country - remote



Native bush
Open tussock/grasslands
Open ridges/tops

Intermediate - Experienced

Not Suitable (Slow)
6:45 (Moderate)
4:30 (Fast)



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A remote mountain run with superb views very close to Glenorchy. It's a circuit back to the start, combining a runable track through bush, open alpine terrain, and a steep section to gain the high ridge for the airy return.

From the car park follow orange markers that lead you onto the Earnslaw Burn track. Run up the well-marked track (7km) which is mostly through the bush above the river to the upper valley (500m climb). There is a a marked but easily missed large rock biv across the river near bushline (indicated on the topomap). Continue on up the true left of the river for about 3 kilometers on faint trails to amazing views of the falling glaciers and waterfalls off Mt Earnslaw.

Return and rejoin the main track and about 500 metres below the rock biv the first main stream is encountered coming down on your left (east). Fill up with water here, and head up this stream, gaining height quickly for 500 metres, then as it steepens escape onto the true left (vegetated) side and head straight up to an obvious col (steep). Don't be put off by the intimidating looking bluffs above - the ridge is fast travel once you break through onto it.

Once on the ridge (pictured) head along the long, undulating ridge - mostly tussocky with faint trails, but with occasional short rock sections thrown in - all the way back to the point where it drops steeply down back to the mouth of the valley (avoiding most of the bush, and also the sheer bluff at the end!).

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Features of interest

Spectacular cirque of hanging glaciers at the head of the valley, and awesome views from the ridge.

Make Up of Run

Untracked / Route only: 30%

Technical Single Track: 40%

Moderate Single Track: 30%

Route Data


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  • Access

    From Glenorchy, drive (or bike) up valley on the road towards Paradise (i.e. don't turn right for Rees valley or left for Routeburn). About 14 km north of Glenorchy turn right into 'Lovers Leap' road (public road) which is 1km before the Earnslaw Burn bridge. Continue along this gravel road up to the mouth of the valley (1km) and park.

    No issues

    13 km

    15 minutes



  • Staying Safe


    Attempt the high-ridge return only in clear weather (and take a map and compass anyway) - you can always run back the way you ran in if in doubt. Also, have a look at the descent route as you're setting off.


    Thermal leggings, Long-sleeved thermal top, Seam-sealed waterproof jacket, Gloves, Beanie/thermal headwear, Personal Locator Beacon (PLB), First aid kit, Extra food for emergencies, Survival blanket, Cellphone, Compass, Map.

    Plenty of water in the valley; none on the ridge.

    Probably best in summer/early autumn - could be snow/ice in winter.

    You are in big mountain country where conditions can change fast. Only attempt this route if you have the necessary backcountry experience and are properly equipped.

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