When looking for an easy hike around Queenstown to stretch your legs, Mt Crichton Loop Track is a popular choice. Starting only a short drive from Queenstown, the trail is not only suitable for the whole family but is home to some of Queenstown’s unique gold mining history (you may even find yourself a gold nugget to take home…not likely though!)
With that said, when compared to other trails such as Queenstown Hill Hike and The Tiki Trail, the scenery on Mt Crichton Loop doesn’t compare. It’s just not one of those hikes! But as a Queenstown local, I love the fact that Mt Crichton Loop is off-the-beaten-path and the fact it’s never packed with tourists. Don’t take that the wrong way though, I’m so happy you’re visiting!
Mt Crichton Loop is also more than just a hike! For anyone new to the area, it’s a history lesson into Queenstown’s gold mining past. In fact, if it wasn’t for gold, Queenstown may not have become the town it is today. On top of that, the trail passes highlights such as a stunning waterfall, epic viewpoint, an old mining tunnel, and the famous Sam Summers mining hut.
Yes, there’s better hikes out there, but the Mt Crichton Loop is a favorite of mine and in this blog I’ll share everything you need to know before you go!
Mt Crichton Loop Overview
Distance: 8 kilometers total
Elevation gain: 370 meters
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Time Needed: 2 hours
Type of trail: Loop
Mt Crichton Loop is a “relatively easy” (I say that because some days it feels hard) day hike in Queenstown. The trail begins 10 minutes from Queenstown on the Queenstown to Glenorchy highway only 5 minutes past the turnoff to Moke Lake. Completing the full loop only takes around 2 hours at a steady pace.
What makes Mt Crichton Loop relatively easy is the modest elevation gain which is spread over much of the trail. This may be why I love this hike so much! The path is also really well maintained, and in most places, wide enough and safe for the entire family including pets. In fact, it’s one of the best things to do in Queenstown with kids!
Mt Crichton Loop can be hiked in either direction, however, I recommend going clockwise for an easier hike. Hiking Mt Crichton Loop clockwise avoids the steep part of the trail on the way up. This means you can enjoy a nice easy walk all the way to the trail’s highest point – you’ll thank me later! After, it’s a quick descent down back to where you started.
It’s short, sweet, and a great activity on a glorious day in Queenstown!
Mt Crichton Loop FAQs
What to Pack
Water – There are streams along the way but due to 1080 bait drops around Lake Wakatipu you should bring your own. 1 liter of water per person should be enough.
Hiking boots – Hiking boots are recommended as some parts of the trail get really muddy. During or after rain you’ll definitely need boots. If it is the middle of summer (December to February) you can do the trail in runners.
Mosquito repellent – The mosquitos are bad on Mt Crichton Loop especially around the Sam Summers Hut and the waterfall. Be sure to bring some repellent or you’ll leave with some nasty bites (as I did!)
Sunscreen – Although much of the trail is in the shade, one half is completely unshaded. If you haven’t been to New Zealand before you won’t know how quickly the sun burns you here. Trust me, it doesn’t take long. Slip (on a shirt), slop (on sunscreen), slap (on a hat.) That’s a saying I learned in Australia!
Parking and the Mt Crichton Loop Trailhead
Mt Crichton Loop Track starts from just outside of Queenstown on the Queenstown to Glenorchy highway. You’ll find the parking lot just after the Twelve Mile Delta Campground (on your left) as you head out of Queenstown.
It’s a great idea to hike Mt Crichton Loop on a road trip from Queenstown to Glenorchy. If you love hiking you can do it along with other hikes in the area such as Bob’s Cove Loop, The Glenorchy Walkway, and even hike for a day on the Routeburn Track. Call it a hiker’s road trip!
The Mt Crichton Loop parking lot is relatively large and I’ve never seen it full. If for some crazy reason it does fill up, you can also park in the Twelve Mile Delta Campground and walk from there (there is a connecting trail that’s signposted.) This only adds 15 minutes to the trail. At the parking lot, you’ll find a toilet and a sign directing you where to go. You will have to cross the highway not long after, so be sure to keep kids close by.
After you cross the highway you’ll come to a sign that signifies that start of the trail. Here, you can either go left across the bridge or right. I’ve hiked the trail in both directions and recommend going left across the bridge (clockwise.) This way is just a little easier as the incline is not as steep.
Walking the Loop to the Mining Tunnel
Once on the trail, you can now enjoy the walk at a gentle pace (my kind of pace.) If you went left, the trail heads across a bridge and follows the river up on a gradual incline. After around 30 minutes you’ll come to your first stop, the old mining tunnel.
At the mining tunnel, you’ll see a sign that outlines some info on the area and its use during the gold rush. It’s pretty cool to walk through the tunnel to the other side and completely safe to do so. The tunnel is thin but is open on the top and the worst thing that can happen is you’ll get a little wet. In total, the tunnel is 24 meters long, 1 meter wide with walls almost 10 meters high.
The stop here only takes a few minutes but after you’ll come to the Sam Summers Hut.
Sam Summers Hut
Sam Summers Hut was home to the Summers family and was built in the 1930s by Sam himself. Sam lived out here with his family while mining for gold. Gold mining was huge in the area between 1860 and 1930 with gold being the reason Queenstown became a popular place back then. In fact, Queenstown was once called “The Camp” because it was a mining camp (how original.)
You can enter the historic hut and check out the inside. Much of the hut has been preserved and you can even stay in Sam Summers Hut overnight for free. The hut has 3 bunk beds and a fireplace. It’s owned by the DOC operating on a first come first serve basis. Personally, the hut is a little run down for my liking, and visiting for the day is more than enough! You’ll know what I mean when you see it in person (or the photo below!)
Be sure to read the information signs around the hut as it explains lots more about Sam Summers and the area.
Right near the hut as you continue on the trail is the waterfall. I have no idea what it’s called, but it sure is beautiful. This is one of the highlights of the trail and makes for some great photos. I love doing slow exposure photos so I stop here every time for quite a while. This is where the mosquito spray comes in handy though, so make sure you pack some!
Finishing Mt Crichton Loop
After Sam Summers Hut, the trail does get a little boring for a while. You’ll simply follow a stream through the forest and make a gradual climb until you reach a magnificent viewpoint overlooking Lake Wakatipu. Here I recommend stopping for a bit. There is even a bench to sit at and with no mosquitos around you can sit back and enjoy your lunch in peace!
After this, the trail is almost over, in fact, the rest is all downhill until you reach the starting point of the trail. You’ll notice the last section of the trail is rather steep and that’s the reason I recommend going clockwise!
Thanks for Reading!
Mt Crichton Loop Track is a short but beautiful hike and one of the best free things to do in Queenstown. Although I wouldn’t suggest it to be at the top of your Queenstown hiking bucket-list, it’s still a hike worth doing, especially if trails like Ben Lomond Track and Roys Peak seem a little difficult.
For other hikes around Queenstown, be sure to check out my Queenstown hikes page. It includes a huge list of all the best hikes in the area, everything you need to know before you go, and photos to get you excited.
Thanks so much for reading!