Inland from Mount Somers, follow a winding road through the foothills to discover the wide open lands of the Ashburton Lakes. Untreed, golden, sprinkled with lakes, and ringed by snowy peaks, this is a breathtaking, and utterly surprising landscape.
The Ashburton Lakes offer a range of straightforward walking and camping opportunities: family walks, day walks and overnighters. Te Araroa also passes this way. The land is protected in part by Hakatere and Te Kahui Kaupeka Conservation Parks, or acknowledged but not really protected at all as Hakatere and Mount Potts Conservation Areas.
Take the time to visit this open and empty space. In winter, make a weekend of it and rent a roof at Lake Clearwater or Lake Heron, or back at Mount Somers. Over summer, there are ample camping opportunities.
The route in sets off from Mount Somers and through Te Kopi o Hakatere / Ashburton Gorge. This road formed part of the Kāti Huirapa pounamu trail over Noti Raureka / Browning Pass. Stop off on the drive in at Hakatere Corner to check out the old Hakatere Hut (1862). From here, turn right to head on up to Lake Heron, or continue straight on for Lake Clearwater.
Follow the shoreline of Lake Emma / Kirihonuhonu to Lake Emma Hut. Explore the old corrugated iron hut with tack room and graffiti dating back to the 1800s. Return the way you came or continue around the lake all the way to Lake Clearwater.
Walk along the shores of Lake Clearwater / Te Puna a Taka to the foot of Mount Guy. Continue on to complete the circuit.
For a longer day walk, head up the Potts River to Mystery Lake and the Dogs Range. The open country provides ample opportunity for you to pick your own route.
For overnight options, try a visit to one of the old musterers' huts. Walk in to Manuka or Double Huts from Lake Heron, Lake Emily, or up the Stour River. You can also visit Boundary Creek and Potts Huts. From Lake Heron, you can head in toward Mount Arrowsmith to Cameron Hut, and visit the Cameron Glacier.
Te Araroa leads north from Rangitata and Potts Rivers up past Lake Clearwater to Buicks Bridge. Over the road and past Manuka and Double Huts, the route crosses over the Clent Hills Saddle and out to the Rakaia River via Comyns and A-Frame Huts. Rangitata to Rakaia, this section is 70km or 4 days' walk.
Getting there: Hakatere Corner (-43.614410 S, 171.168649 E) is 45 minutes from Ashburton or 1 hour 45 minutes from Christchurch.
Amenities: Toilets available at Hakatere Corner, Lake Clearwater, Lake Heron, and Lake Camp. Nearest shop and fuel is Mount Somers. A small playground is located at Lake Clearwater.
Places to stay: Camping facilities at Lake Camp, Lake Clearwater, Lake Heron (Arrowsmith Station), Mount Potts Lodge, Mount Somers. Budget rooms available at Mount Somers. Higher priced accommodation available at several highcountry stations.