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Mt Crichton Loop Track – Walk Through Queenstown’s Gold Mining Past

Mt Crichton Loop Track – Walk Through Queenstown’s Gold Mining Past

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Are you looking for a fun hike around Queenstown that won’t take a whole day to complete? Well, let me introduce the Mt Crichton Loop Track – one of my favorite easy hikes in the area!

As a local who’s been walking the trails around Queenstown for a while now, I highly recommend this hike to families and curious travelers looking for a straightforward but scenic adventure (with a small chance of finding a golden nugget to take home!).

From scenic spots to look out for to the best time to visit, I’ve included all the info you need to have a blast on this trail. So without further ado, let’s get stuck in!

Mt Crichton Loop Overview

Distance: 8 kilometers (5 miles) total

Elevation gain: 370 meters (1,214 feet)

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Time Needed: 2 hours

Type of trail: Loop

The 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 this trail 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.

This loop can be hiked in either direction, however, I recommend going clockwise for an easier hike. Going 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!

Related Read: Walking the Mt Crichton Loop is one of the best things to do in Queenstown with kids! You can check out my blog for some more ideas to make your family trip a blast.

Mt Crichton Loop FAQs

Bailey walks along a log on the Mt Crichton loop Track
Just fooling around on the trail!

What to Pack

A lady stands on the trail of Mt Crichton Loop looking back at Lake Wakatipu
Not a bad view!

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

A lady stands on the bridge at the start of the Mt Crichton Loop
Crossing the bridge at the start is the better way to hike the trail!

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.

The 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 the 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.

Related Read: It’s a great idea to hike the Mt Crichton Loop on a road trip from Queenstown to Glenorchy!

Walking the Loop to the Mining Tunnel

Views from the trail just before the mining tunnel
I didn’t get photos of the tunnel because it was wet!

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 (78 feet) long, 1 meter (3.3 feet) wide with walls almost 10 meters (33 feet) high.

The stop here only takes a few minutes, but after you’ll come to the Sam Summers Hut.

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Sam Summers Hut

Te Sam Summers Hut on the Mt Crichton Loop
The Sam Summers Hut!

The 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 owned by the DOC and check out the inside where you’ll find the fireplace. Much of the hut has been preserved and you used to be able to stay in the hut for free but since 2021 you are no longer allowed to, it’s only available for day use.

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.

The waterfall near the Sam Summers Hut
Can you spot me!?

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 the Mt Crichton Loop

Views of Lake Wakatipu from the trail
To the left you can see Lake Dispute and on the horizon is Lake Wakatipu.

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!

Must-Do Activities While in Queenstown

Canyoning in Mt Aspiring National Park
Canyoning is one of the most underrated activities you can do in Queenstown!

While in Queenstown there are plenty of other activities that will keep you busy… honestly so many it’ll be hard to choose which ones to do! Below are some of my favorites.

  • Central Otago Wine Tour and Tasting – This is my personal favorite wine tour in Queenstown! It is one of the best values for money, for $215 NZD your tour bus will stop at 4 different boutique wineries in the Otago region that include a wide range of wine samples and a provided gourmet lunch platter. As you hop between wineries you’ll gaze out the window at spectacular views.
  • TSS Earnslaw Steamship Cruise – This scenic and relaxing cruise in Queenstown is an activity great for any afternoon. The ship you will be cruising on is the Historic TSS Earnslaw and you will get to watch crew members add coal to the flames that power the vessel. Take in the mountain ranges and lush green valleys of Otago. You can also upgrade this tour here to include dinner at Walter Peak High Country Farm.
  • Queenstown Canyoning Adventure – Climb and jump off waterfalls, rappel, swim, and trek your way down a part of a Queenstown canyon with a qualified guide. This thrilling full-day activity is perfect for those who love adventure and exploration! As long as you aren’t afraid of heights and have a basic swimming ability you won’t need any other skills.
  • Day Trip to Milford Sound With Picnic Lunch – This tour will give you the ultimate ability to explore the beauty of Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park. Not only will your guide stop at several impressive viewpoints on the way from Queenstown, but there is also a cruise in Milford Sound included. This small-group tour goes for $249 NZD a person and I think it’s a really great value for a more personalized experience.
  • Extreme Jet Boating – Looking for a thrill? Jet Boating is one of New Zealand’s most unique activities. On the tour out of Queenstown, you’ll be able to zoom up the Shotover River through narrow canyons at high speeds and make 360-degree spins. Trust, me it’s epic!

Where to Stay in Queenstown

Hot Tub over looking the river and mountains at Kamana Soak in Queenstown, New Zealand
Photo credit: Kamana Lakehouse

Finding the right place to stay in Queenstown can be hard. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of awesome choices, but things book up fast! For that reason, I highly suggest booking your accommodation well in advance.

Honestly, during peak times, any of the best hotels in Queenstown will be fully booked several weeks in advance…you have been warned! To help you plan ahead, here are a few places I personally love and that would make an awesome place to stay in Queenstown.

Kamana Lakehouse – $$$

For a luxurious stay, I highly recommend Kamana Lakehouse. This hotel is located just on the outskirts of town. Although it’s super peaceful, it’s just a 5-minute drive into the center of town. The place overlooks both the lake and the mountains, and the onsite restaurant uses local, seasonal ingredients to create the freshest meals. To top it off, many of the rooms boast lake views, and some even have outdoor baths!

The trick will be snagging this for your dates (it’s a popular place!). Rooms start around the $400 NZD mark, and you can check availability and book online here.

La Quinta Queenstown – $$

If you’re looking for a mid-range hotel, then you should seriously consider La Quinta Queenstown. This beautiful hotel is right by the airport but still very quiet. Plus, the views are amazing (although you won’t find me recommending a place without great views!). The rooms are all studio or one-bedroom apartments, which is really handy if you want to cook or even just have breakfast in your room.

Prices start at $200 NZD and you can book online here.

Absoloot Hostel Queenstown – $

My top choice for budget travelers is the Absoloot Hostel Queenstown. This small hostel has dorm rooms and budget private rooms, and it’s really clean and comfortable. The location is in the heart of Queenstown – the window from the kitchen looks out over Lake Wakatipu!

Dorms are around $55 NZD, and private rooms begin around $210 NZD. The Absoloot Hostel is easily one of the top cheap hostels in Queenstown and can be booked on Hostelworld.com or Booking.com.

Renting a Car, Campervan, or Motorhome in New Zealand

Bailey stands in front of a right green JUCY campervan
JUCY is one of my favorite campervan rental companies (read below for a discount code!)
Bailey stands behind her Mad Campers campervan cooking in the kitchen at Piha Beach
I also really like Mad Campers!

Let’s face it, you’re going to need wheels to get around New Zealand. Although a small country, buses between destinations are infrequent and expensive. Plus, some of the best experiences you can have in NZ are on road trips!

You have three options when it comes to getting wheels in New Zealand; a car, a campervan, or a motorhome. Here’s what you need to know about each and where to get them:

  • Car – A normal car is the cheapest rental vehicle you can get in New Zealand. It’ll get you around to all of the best destinations with ease. The only downside to a car is that you will need to stay in hotels or Airbnbs during your travels (no camping.) The easiest place to rent a car in New Zealand is on Discover Cars where you can compare cars, companies, prices, features, and more very easily.
  • Campervan – A Campervan is a large van that has a bed and a small kitchen in the back. It’s what most budget travelers use for traveling around New Zealand since it allows you to camp comfortably and for free (most) nights. Campervans are best for couples or solo travelers who are happy to live in a small space. You should also love the outdoors and camping…and be prepared for an adventure of a lifetime! My favorite campervan rental company is JUCY because they have a huge selection of campervans to choose from, plus multiple pick-up/drop-off locations. You can browse JUCY’s campervan selection online here. Alternatively, you can easily compare all campervans available in NZ on Motorhome Republic here.

EXCLUSIVE DISCOUNT CODE: I’ve managed to snag a discount code for 5% off for my readers if you book your campervan or motorhome through JUCY or Star RV! Simply click here to select your JUCY campervan, or click here to select your Star RV motorhome, and then use the code DTRAVEL24 at checkout to get 5% off – it’s that easy!

Thanks for Reading!

The inside of the Sam Summers Hut
This is why I’m glad you can no longer stay the night!

The Mt Crichton Loop 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 bucket list while you’re here, it’s still a hike worth doing, especially if trails like Ben Lomond Track and Roy’s 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. I’ve also included three more blogs I think you’ll love below:

50 BEST Hikes in New Zealand + My Personal Favorites

Ben Lomond Track, Queenstown – A Grueling Hike With Epic Views

How to Hike Roy’s Peak – The Most Beautiful Hike in New Zealand