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Sugarloaf Circuit, Otago

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Sugarloaf CircuitIntermediate - Experienced

Submitted by Kat Bulk

Info Info
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Trail Information







Back country - remote


Very hilly

Native bush
Open ridges/tops

Intermediate - Experienced

6:00 (Slow)
4:30 (Moderate)
3:15 (Fast)



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Starting at the Lake Slyvan Carpark, cross the river by swing bridge. The track to Lake Sylvan is very easy, following the shores of the lake, before traversing moraine through beech forest. Once you leave the well maintained track of Lake Sylvan the track becomes considerably more technical, very rocky with a plethora of tree roots.

Follow the track to the site of Rockburn Hut, which is nestled in the forest, with a chasm, river beaches and pools closeby. The chasm is a neat wee side trip and there are nice views of the Dart Valley from this area. From Rockburn Hut the track climbs through dense forest. The track has been re-routed due to various slips and fallen trees. The terrain is steep and slippery in places. Waterfalls and river can be glimpsed through the forest. There are various stream crossings to negotiate which can be quite swift during heavy rain events. Take care, especially when crossing the waterfall in wet weather.

The section between Rockburn and the uphill turn-off to Sugarloaf Saddle is pretty technical underfoot, progress can be slow. The track turns steeply uphill, climbing to the fragile Sugarloaf Saddle where there are great views of the Rockburn and Routeburn Valleys. The expansive views and harsh alpine enviroment are striking above the treeline, but very exposed go properly prepared and equipped. The descent to the Routeburn Track is steep, but mostly runnable, a few slippery-tree rooty parts to negotiate. This take you back to the glorious Routeburn track and then a nice 4km trot along the Routeburn Access road back to the Lake Sylvan Carpark (be aware of traffic and other road users)

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Features of interest

Stunning views from the Sugarloaf Saddle to Mt Earnslaw, the Dart Valley and the Southern Alps. The Rockburn Chasm is a striking limestone feature carved out by the river, well worth a side trip for thundering churning water slicing through the rock!

Make Up of Run

Technical Single Track: 62%

Easy Single Track: 17%

Gravel Road: 21%

Route Data


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Wild Explorers

I did it!
  • Access

    Start/Finish at the Lake Sylvan Car Park, some 30 min from Glenorchy

    From Glenorchy, follow the Glenorchy - Paradise Road. Turn left into Priory Road then right into Kinloch - Routeburn Road.

    The road is gravel from Dart River bridge.

    The Lake Sylvan Carpark is signposted on the Kinloch - Routeburn Road

    The Lake Sylvan Car Park is also a DOC campsite. There is plenty of parking and toilet facilities.

    23 km

    26 minutes



  • Staying Safe


    Keep your eyes peeled for track marking and re-routed track along the face above the Rockburn River

    Its worth having NZTopo Ap on your phone, or a map if youre not familiar with this area


    Thermal leggings, Lightweight fleece top, 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.

    Plenty of water in the streams when I was there, might be quite a dry route though if its been a while since it rained

    Muddy and slippery after rain, creeks/streams/waterfalls to negotiate in rain events, water levels rise quickly

  • Post run indulgence

    Mrs Wooleys General Store
    Pork pies and coffee to die for

  • Blog Posts and Articles
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