Mount Barrosa Track | An Epic Summit Hike Near Christchurch

If you’re searching for a summit hike close to Christchurch that will take your breath away – both literally and figuratively – then you must check out the Mount Barrosa Track in the Hakatere Conservation Park.

The Mount Barrosa Track ascends the rugged ridge of a 1,319 m mountain peak, granting breathtaking views of braided rivers meandering through the sprawling Canterbury Plains as you walk. The trail offers a thrilling challenge for budding intermediates and a fantastic sunrise or sunset mission for seasoned adventurers.

In this ultimate guide for hiking the Mt Barrosa Track, we’ll explain everything you need to know to make the most of this epic day walk, including the best time to hike and inspiring images to fuel your excitement.

Hiking up the ridge on Mt Barrosa in Canterbury, New Zealand

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Important Information About Summiting Mount Barrosa In The Hakatere Conservation Park

Quick Statistics For The Mount Barrosa Track

8.5 km return

3.5 – 4.5 hrs

Navigation Difficulty
Easy-Moderate – See details below

Trail Difficulty
Moderate – See Track Notes for detail

Physical Challenge

Elevation Gain
696 m

Highest Elevation
1,319 m 

Entrance Fees

Trailhead: Car park – toilet located at the Lake Emily Walks Trailhead 4 km east

Where Does The Mount Barrosa Track Start?

Mt Barrosa Track Trailhead

On your way to the Ashburton Lakes, you’ll pass an alluring mountain range called Clent Hills, surrounded by river-clad plains. Mt Barrosa is the tallest peak within the Clent Hills, which can be admired as you drive along Ashburton Gorge Rd.

The Mount Barrosa Trailhead is located on Ashburton Gorgre Rd, 1 hr 30 minutes west of Christchurch. The closest town to the Mount Barrosa Track is Mount Somers, 13 minutes northwest.

You’ll find a large gravel car park at the trailhead and a basic information sign. There are no toilets at the car park, however, you’ll find toilets 5 km east at the Lake Emily Walks Car Park just before Stour River.

How To Get To The Mt Barrosa Trailhead

Part of the allure for Mt Barrosa, and the Ashburton Lakes District as a whole, is its lesser-known and visited status by travellers. But this also means that there are no public transport or tour options for Mt Barrosa. The only way to access the trailhead is by self-driving.

Digital map with directions to the Mt Barrosa Track

By Car

Driving to the Mt Barrosa Trailhead is quite easy. You’ll stay on sealed roads the entire way whether you’re driving from the north or south. From Christchurch, you’ll head southwest on State Highway 1 – following signs for Mount Somers. Once you reach Mount Somers, you’ll drive northwest on the Ashburton Gorge Rd for 13 km until you arrive at the trailhead.

Click Here For Directions To The Mount Barrosa Trailhead

Who Is The Mount Barrosa Track Hike For?

Hiking up the steep ridgeline on the Mount Barrosa Track in New Zealand

The Mount Barrosa Track is a thrilling adventure for budding intermediates and an enjoyable ascent for advanced hikers. No matter your level, you’ll be blown away by the breathtaking panoramas of the sprawling Canterbury Plains – peppered with soaring mountains and braided rivers – from the summit.

The track progressively steepens, with moments of exposure on the rocky ridgeline. But due to its out-and-back nature and the tussock-filled mountainside, you can simply walk as far as you feel comfortable without missing the magnificent vistas that continue to unravel as you ascend.

Hiking up the ridge on the Mt Barrosa Track

It’s important to note that Mt Barrosa is commonly covered in snow during the winter months – and sometimes even in late autumn and early spring. The track becomes increasingly challenging during these conditions, with the need for extra gear – such as crampons or microspikes) and experience hiking in the snow.

Navigation On The Mt Barrosa Track

The track to Mount Barrosa’s summit is generally well-marked and straightforward. Orange-tipped poles are spaced out along the entire trail for easy navigation. However, in low cloud and fog, it can be challenging to stay on course. We highly recommend using an app like Alltrails to track your walk during these conditions to ensure you stay on the right path.

What To Pack For The Mount Barrosa Track

Hiking up the flats on the Mt Barrosa Track in New Zealand

The Mount Barrosa Track takes an average of 3.5 – 4.5 hours to complete. Therefore, you can get away with packing lightly with only the basic hiking essentials. We recommend wearing sturdy hiking shoes for this hike, as there are loose sections that can be slippery after rain.

However, if you’re summiting in winter, we suggest wearing waterproof hiking boots and packing either microspikes or crampons for better grip in the snow.

Below is a list of the items we packed for the Mount Barrosa Track:

Best Time To Hike The Mount Barrosa Track

Valley view from the Mt Barrosa Track

The Mount Barrosa Track offers a unique experience depending on the time of year you choose to hike. In the warmer months – between October and April, you’re gifted with alpine flowers dusting the peak and the easiest hiking conditions.

In the colder months, between May and September, you’re highly likely to encounter snow on the summit. This is a magical time to explore Mt Barrosa, but it does require a higher level of experience with hiking in the snow.

Best Time Of Day To Hike The Mt Barrosa Track

Beautiful view over the valleys from Mt Barrosa

For those with ample experience hiking in the dark, there’s no greater opportunity than catching a sunrise or sunset from the summit of Mt Barrosa. The peak offers uninterrupted vistas in both east and west directions, but the western landscape leaves the most lasting impression – making sunset our top choice.

Alternatively, if hiking in the dark isn’t your cup of tea, we highly recommend starting early to witness the breathtaking morning sun illuminating the mountain peaks as you walk.

Mount Barrosa Track Notes

Mt Barrosa Track Trailhead To The False Summit

Beginning of the Mt Barrosa Track in New Zealand

You’ll begin the hike to Mt Barrosa by passing through a gate and entering the paddocks flanking Ashburton Rd. The worn trail follows the fenceline, with orange-tipped trail markers guiding the way.

Shortly after beginning, you’ll come to a shallow stream crossing. The gradient starts to increase from there on, continuing to follow the fenceline through open farmland. After 800 m, you’ll reach another small stream crossing just before the trail leads you over a stile on the fence and into the Hakatere Conservation Park.

Climbing the button grass ridgeline on the Mt Barrosa Track

From this point, the trail becomes slightly more technical, with rocks and muddy sections requiring a little extra care. The higher you climb, the steeper the gradient becomes, but this allows you to admire the unravelling vistas of the Canterbury Plains and flanking mountains as you walk.

You’ll continue along the ridge for another kilometre, ducking around a rocky outcrop right before an especially steep and rocky section, until finally arriving at a false summit that was visible from the car park.

Hiking up the steep rocks on the Mt Barrosa Track

Note: Once leaving the farmlands, you’ll encounter an evil alpine grass called spear grass or Spaniard. This is a low shrub with sharply pointed leaves that draw blood if you get pricked – so we highly recommend wearing long pants and staying aware of these devil plants!

The False Summit To Mt Barrosa’s Peak

False summit of Mt Barrosa covered in snow

The false summit is the perfect place for a rest, offering a chance to regain your breath as you absorb the incredible vistas of the unique landscape. Once you’re ready to continue again, you’ll follow the trail markers as they lead you along a grassy saddle towards the true summit.

The gentler gradient after the false summit is welcomed, allowing you to enjoy the view while you traverse the ridgeline. But it doesn’t last long and shortly after leaving your rest stop, you’ll begin climbing once again.

Mt Barrosa Summit covered in snow

Although the gradient is just as steep in parts, the trail is much more mellow from here on out. You’ll simply follow the ridgeline as it snakes towards the peak and finally, after another 1.4 km, you’ll arrive at the rocky summit of Mount Barrosa.

Mount Barrosa Summit

Unfortunately, we had to turn back 500 m from the summit due to 100 km + winds trying to throw us off the ridgeline. But from what we could see, Mount Barrosa’s peak offers 360-degree panoramic views of the sprawling Canterbury Plains. 

In the west, you’re afforded vistas of the Ashburton Lakes District – and Mt Guy’s impressive peak – and in the east, Mount Somers and the surrounding mountains hiding Woolshed Creek Hut fill your view.

Returning To The Trailhead

Hiking back down through snow covered button grass on the Mt Barrosa Track

After enjoying the breathtaking views from the peak of Mount Barrosa, you will follow the same track back to the car park. The first half of the return track is easy to navigate, but beyond the false summit, be prepared for the steep and unstable sections that demand extra attention.

We completed the return walk to Mount Barrosa (excluding the final 500 m) in 2 hours and expect that the full track would have taken us 3 to 3.5 hours total. 

Other Important Information For Summiting Mount Barrosa

Leave No Trace

The Mount Barrosa Track begins on private farmland, before leading you into the Hakatere Conservation Park. It’s imperative that we follow the 7 Leave No Trace Principles and respect the farmer’s land.

It’s as simple as packing out all your rubbish – including food scraps and tissues – and sticking to the marked trail. You’ll find a toilet 4 east of the trailhead and rubbish bins in Mount Somers.

Where To Stay Near Mount Barrosa

The Mount Barrosa Trailhead is located 1 hr 30 minutes west of Christchurch, making it an easy hike to complete on a day trip from the city. However, if you’d rather spend some time away from the hustle and bustle, we recommend staying near Methven. This small rural town has a range of beautiful accommodation options and offers the most variety of places to eat near Mt Barrosa.

Camping Near Mt Barrosa

Snowing during moody sunset at Lake Camp

Our top recommendation for where to stay while you’re exploring Mt Barrosa is to camp at the Ashburton Lakes. For self-contained campervans, you can camp for free on the banks of Lake Camp – one of our favourite campsites in New Zealand!

There are several other options for camping nearby which we’ll list below.

Other Hikes Near Mt Barrosa

Final Thoughts

Hiking past boulders on the Mt Barrosa Trail

Even though we didn’t make it all the way to the peak of Mt Barrosa – due to 100 km + winds trying to throw us off the mountain – the summit hike is one of our favourites in the Hakatere Conservation Park and a must if you’re visiting the Ashburton Lakes.

Remember to check the weather before departing as snow, ice or high winds can cause the track to become increasingly difficult. But if you score a clear day, we highly recommend getting up as early as you can to enjoy the soft morning light bask the landscape in a warm yellow as you walk.

Have you hiked the Mount Barrosa Track? We’d love to hear about your experience below – especially how you found the final few hundred metres of the walk. And of course, if you have any questions about Mt Barrosa or the Ashburton Lakes District in general, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Happy Hiking 🙂