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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

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 are 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 (5 miles) total

Elevation gain: 370 meters (1,214 feet)

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

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.

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 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.

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.

Sam Summers Hut

Te Sam Summers Hut on the Mt Crichton Loop
The 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 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 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 our personal favorite wine tour in Queenstown! It is one of the best values for money, for $204 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 Fjordland National Park. Not only will your guide stop at several impressive viewpoints on the way from Queenstown but there is also a Milford Sound cruise 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

The Hilton Resort and Spa Queenstown
The sunning Hilton Hotel!

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. It’s not that you won’t find something later on, but that all the really good places go first!

To get you started, here are a few places I personally love and that would make an awesome place to stay in Queenstown.

The first is for budget travelers and that’s Absoloot Hostel Queenstown. This small hostel has dorm rooms and budget privates 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! It is easily one of the top cheap hostels in Queenstown.

If you have a little more money to spend then you should seriously consider Chalet Queenstown. I’m a supporter of smaller hotels because I feel you get better service. Based on recommendations, I stayed at Chalet Queenstown when I first arrived. It’s a beautiful hotel in a quiet but close location and the views are amazing (although you won’t find me recommending a place without great views!)

If you’re one of the lucky ones, you know the luxury travelers, then you’re going to be spoiled for choice in Queenstown. I’ve personally stayed at the Hilton Resort and Spa on my anniversary and loved it. If you want an even more luxurious stay, look at Kamana Lakehouse. This hotel has the most beautiful spa overlooking the lake and is definitely one of the best hotels in Queenstown.

There are also lots of amazing Airbnbs in Queenstown as well as bach/holiday homes to rent! You can choose between modern homes, central apartments, cozy cabins, and so much more when staying in an Airbnb.

Renting a Car, Campervan, or Motorhome in New Zealand

A motorhome by the beach
Me and my trusty campervan!

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 book 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 is what most budget backpackers get 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! You can easily compare campervans, prices, and book on the website Motorhome Republic. We also have a 5% discount code (DTRAVEL5) with Mad Campers, which you can use at checkout.
  • Motorhome – A motorhome is larger and more comfortable than a campervan. Many motorhomes will comfortably sleep 6 or more people – perfect for a family visiting New Zealand. Motorhomes are the most expensive option, but with one, you won’t ever need to stay in a hotel and you’ll save money that way. Motorhome Republic is my suggested website for booking a motorhome in New Zealand simply because they are a reliable company and the website is super easy to use! We are also partnered with Kiwi Motorhomes, which is well known as the top motorhome rental company in New Zealand. You can get 5% off using the code Queen5. For more detailed info, read my complete guide to renting a motorhome in New Zealand!

Thanks for Reading!

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

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!