Last Updated: 21st Sep 2023


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Upper Clutha River Loop

Wanaka, Otago

Submitted by Mal Law

Last Updated: 21st Sep 2023


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I've done it Done


Grunt Factor: 24 ?

Gnarl Factor: 11 ?








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Trail Map

Type of Run

Urban fringe


Undulating, small hills only

Dog Friendly

Native bush


Open farmlands

Run Makeup


Sealed Road

Farm Road / 4WD Track

Easy Single Track

Average Uphill Gradient: +2.6%

Average Downhill Gradient: -3.1%


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Estimated Times to Run







From the car park follow the gravelled trail towards the river. Soon you'll turn left and run parallel with the river (upstream). Continue on the grass strip alongside the road until you come to the main road (SH6)

Cross to the far side of the main road and run across the bridge on the wooden walkway. On the far side, re-cross the road and turn right on to the 4WD track through Albert Town Recreation Reserve, signposted to Hawea River Track. After about 1.5k you'll reach the camp ground where you bear right on the 4WD track and cut across the campground to the swing-bridge.

Cross the bridge (taking time to appreciate the clarity of the water and the views beyond). Almost immediately you turn right on to Newcastle Track. In another 600m you'll reach a junction with Butterfield Wetland Walk - continue straight on here following the signs to Kane Rd car park (11.5k away)

The route is now a mix of flat and gently undulating trail alongside and a little above the Clutha River, which you follow all the way to the Kane Rd car park, by which time you'll have covered 15k. Go straight through the car park and turn right on to the main road for a fast 1k downhill to the iconic Red Bridge. Cross this with care (it's narrow and not all cars are considerate of runners) and head up the far side a few hundred metres to the junction with Shortcut Rd.

At this junction head right on a gravel track, signposted to Shortcut Road car park and Albert Town. Once again, go straight through the car park (good info signs here) and follow the trail upstream through Reko's Point Conservation Area.

Pretty soon you'll start to realise that this side of the river is going to hurt your tired legs a little more than the other side. You're trending uphill and the undulations are a bit more significant, but all the way the views of the river and the mountains beyond are awesome.

Stay on the river trail for about 12k until you come to Pawson's Crossing - a footbridge across the Cardrona River just above where it joins the Clutha. After crossing, follow the trail to the right and run the last few hundred metres back to your car.

Glorious riverside running, the Hawea swing bridge and the 100-year old 'Red Bridge' that crosses the Clutha half way through the run (it's a road bridge but pretty cool and iconic nonetheless)

The car park isn't huge but neither is it particularly well used, so space is never really an issue. No known security issues. No toilet.

7 km

10 minutes




This is a well signposted route that shouldn't present any problems

Generally good.

Short-sleeved thermal top, Windproof jacket, Whistle, First aid kit, Extra food for emergencies, Cellphone, Map

There is NO safe drinking water on the route so take it all with you. If running on a hot day I'd suggest a min of 2L.

The trail can be icy in winter and brutally hot in summer. Go prepared.

This is a dual use track so watch out for mountain bikers. Also take care on crossing the Red Bridge, which is narrow and used by lots of wide vehicles.

Federal Diner
47 Helwick Street, Wanaka
Best coffee in town and great food.

Kai Whaka Pai
Cnr Helwick & Ardmore St, Wanaka
Relaxed atmosphere, decent food and a good selection of craft beers. Sitting outside Kai on a summer's afternoon after a long run is a local tradition.

Trail Legend

Brook van Reenen

Brook van Reenen

has completed Upper Clutha River Loop twice in the last year.

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Trail Reviews

can only recommend..

Mike McManaway

December 18, 2022

Such a good runnable route, awesome views on a sunny day and super dry in the Summer :)

Katie Morgan.

February 21, 2022

Great loop and views amazing

Adam Clifford

May 30, 2021

Amazing loop for being so close to civilisation! The North side out towards Luggate is definitely flatter, but also a bit narrow where the bikes have cut in a'll be fine if we just run it more and widen the groove out a bit. The south side is very slightly undulating, but all round a sweet flowy track that you could use for easy/recovery or solid efforts. Looking forward to summer when I can dip in the river afterwards too!

Ben Wallbank

August 6, 2020

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