Mount Guy Summit | The Best Hike In Ashburton Lakes

Soaring from the banks of Lake Clearwater in the Hakatere Conservation Park, the Mount Guy Summit Hike promises an exhilarating ascent and awe-inspiring views of monstrous mountains and the sprawling Ashburton Lakes from its 1,319 m peak.

The Mt Guy Track easily became our favourite day hike in the Hakatere Conservation Park, offering the perfect balance of challenge, distance and incomparable views from its broad summit.

In fine weather, this must-do hike is a thrilling summit climb for budding intermediate hikers. And when the mountain is covered in a layer of snow, it provides an added exciting challenge for more advanced adventurers.

In this post, you’ll find everything you need to know about the Mount Guy Summit Hike, including what to expect with each season, the best time of day to hike and inspiring images to persuade you to take on this epic adventure.

Hiking to the summit of Mt Guy in the snow in the Ashburton Lakes District

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Essential Information About Summiting Mount Guy In The Hakatere Conservation Park

Quick Statistics For The Mount Guy Summit Track

Distance
8.5 km return

Time
3.5 – 4.5 hrs

Grade
Grade 3 (Grade 4 in winter)

Elevation Gain
696 m

Highest Elevation
1,319 m 

Entrance Fees
None

Facilities
Trailhead: Car park, picnic tables (toilets 5 min walk away)

Where Does The Mt Guy Track Start?

Walking to the gate marking the beginning of the Mt Guy Track

Mt Guy towers above the northeastern banks of Lake Clearwater, surrounded by tussock plains and dwarfed by the nearby Mt Potts and Big Hill mountain ranges. The track to Mount Guy’s summit begins on the southern shores of Lake Clearwater, where you’ll find a picturesque picnic area with tables overlooking the turquoise lake.

There are no toilets or other facilities at the trailhead, however, you will find a toilet a 5-minute walk south of the Lake Clearwater village and at the campground – a 5-minute walk west – during the summer season.

How To Get To The Mount Guy Trailhead

Part of the allure of Mt Guy is its lesser-known status and subsequently fewer crowds. However, this also means that there are no public transport or tour options for the Mount Guy Summit Hike.

The only way to reach the Mt Guy Trailhead is by self-driving. If you’re in need of a hire car, our top suggestion is to rent a campervan and spend a few days exploring the stunning Ashburton Lakes District.

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By Car

The Mount Guy Trailhead is located 2 hours west of Christchurch. You’ll leave the city via State Highway 1, following signs to Mount Somers. From Mount Somers, continue to Lake Clearwater via Ashburton Gorge Rd.

You’ll arrive at an intersection right before the road turns to gravel. Continue west on Hakatere Potts Rd for another 15 minutes. Once you reach the little village on the banks of Lake Clearwater, turn right onto Possession St and continue to the end where you’ll find the picnic area right on the banks.

Note: The gravel road is well-graded and accessible for all vehicles. However, it’s common for the highlands to become covered in snow and ice during winter. If you’re driving to the Ashburton Lakes in winter – or early spring and late autumn – check the road conditions before leaving as you may need snow chains.

Who Is The Mount Guy Summit Hike For?

HIking up the snowy track to Mt Guy's Summit

The Mount Guy Summit Track is a 4-hour return hike that offers some of the best views of the Ashburton Lakes – without having to hike for days on end. With easy-to-follow markers and only a small scramble section, Mt Guy is a fantastic choice for budding intermediate hikers looking for an exciting challenge.

But the best part is, you’re continuously afforded breathtaking vistas of the unravelling landscape from the moment you step onto the bare mountainside. This means that if you’re running out of time or the trail becomes too difficult, you can turn back without missing the sensational vistas.

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For the more advanced hikers, this is an epic adventure in winter when the landscape is draped in snow. We visited the Ashburton Lakes in early spring and were welcomed with a thick coating of snow covering Mt Guy. This required the use of microspikes or crampons to reach the peak – though snowshoes may have been a better choice for the deep snow on the summit.

Navigation On The Mt Guy Summit Track

Navigation pole on the Mt Guy Track

The Mt Guy Summit Track begins on the Lake Clearwater Circuit, a 4WD that is very easy to follow. Once you leave the Lake Clearwater Circuit, the track is marked with orange-tipped poles that are well-spaced. There is a worn path at the beginning, but once you reach the rock scramble you’ll have to rely on the markers.

When we hiked the Mt Guy Track, most of the trail was covered in snow. However, it was easy to follow the trail markers and we never felt confused about where to go. Navigation would only be an issue if you experience thick fog or deep enough snow to bury the markers.

The best way to ensure you’re on track is to download Alltrails and track your hike on the app. This way, you can follow the trail that’s marked on the map and follow your own footsteps on your return.

What To Pack For Your Mt Guy Summit Hike

Boiling water in a Jet Boil on the summit of Mt Guy in the Snow

The hike to Mt Guy takes roughly half a day and follows a rough track through tussock grass and over crumbling rocks. We recommend wearing a pair of sturdy hiking shoes or trail runners for the walk – or waterproof hiking boots if you’re summiting in winter.

Here is a list of items we suggest packing for the Mt Guy Track:

Best Time To Hike The Mount Guy Track

The Mt Guy Track offers a vastly different experience in summer compared to winter. In summer and the surrounding warmer months, you’ll find Mt Guy full of alpine daisies and tussock grass. But in late autumn, winter and early spring, you have a very high chance of finding Mt Guy covered in snow.

Exploring Mt Guy's Summit in the snow
Mt Guy Summit covered in snow in September

For the easiest walking conditions, the best time to hike Mt Guy is during the warmer months when the mountain is clear of snow. If you’re searching for more of a challenge and have experience hiking in the snow, then a visit in winter will provide you with an exciting snowy ascent.

If the conditions are too severe, a great alternative for the Mount Guy Track is Mount Sunday – home of Edoras from the Lord Of The Rings.

Summiting Mt Guy In Winter

Summiting Mt Guy in winter and the surrounding snowy months requires a little extra planning and gear. You’ll need either crampons or microspikes for the ascent – and if there is deep snow on the summit, you may want to bring along snowshoes as well.

Hiking through the deep snow attempting to summit Mt Guy, New Zealand

In addition to the extra gear, it’s important to remember that navigation is quite a lot harder when the trail isn’t visible. The orange markers do well to keep you pushing forward in the right direction, however, keeping to the actual trail can be challenging. We highly recommend bringing along trekking poles so that you can test the ground in front of you.

Best Time Of Day To Summit Mt Guy

Mt Guy’s sprawling summit stands solitary, with 360-degree views of the surrounding mountain peaks and deep glacially carved plains. The unobstructed summit allows for an unforgettable experience at both sunrise and sunset.

That said, sunrise is the best time of day to summit Mount Guy as you’ll witness the surrounding western peaks light up in the soft morning light.

Mount Guy Track Notes

Lake Clearwater Picnic Area To The Base Of Mt Guy

Gate at the beginning of the Mt Guy and Lake Clearwater walks
Walking across the bridge on the Lake Clearwater circuit track

The track to Mt Guy begins on the Lake Clearwater Circuit, located at the eastern end of the picnic area. Passing through the gate, remembering to close it behind you, you’ll wander along a 4WD track that hugs the eastern banks of Lake Clearwater for 1.7 km before arriving at a small stream and a bridge.

Walking along the 4wd track on the Lake Clearwater Circuit

Crossing the bridge, the 4WD track will lead you away from the water’s edge as you begin to skirt around the back of a small rise. At the 2.2 km mark, you’ll find a sign for the Mt Guy Summit track and a stile to help you over the fence.

Beginning The Ascent To Mount Guy

Hoping over the fence at the base of Mt Guy

Leaving the Lake Clearwater Circuit, you’ll hop over the fence and begin following a worn dirt track through tussock fields to the base of Mt Guy. Orange-tipped poles mark the way, allowing for easy navigation throughout the entire trail.

Tussock grass merges with alpine plants and crumbling rocks as you begin the climb. The gradient starts off relatively gently, allowing you to warm up before throwing you into the steep ascent to come!

Navigation pole on the Mt Guy Track

As you continue to gain elevation, more and more mountains materialise around you, flanking the shimmering highland lakes below. The continuously evolving vistas provide the push you need to keep climbing as the gradient increases.

Scrambling To The Summit Of Mount Guy

Hiking up Mt Guy Track in the snow looking down to Lake Clearwater

After roughly 3.4 km, you’ll arrive at the steepest section of the Mount Guy Summit hike. A jumble of rocks and scree cover the mountainside and rather than following a dedicated path, you’ll pick your way through the rocks and scree while loosely following the orange markers leading to the summit.

Eventually, you’ll reach an outcrop – often mistaken as the summit – that offers a sensational viewpoint and a chance for a rest stop. The outcrop offers arguably the best view of Lake Clearwater below, which extends through the glacially carved valley to the distant Southern Alps.

Hiking up deep snow on the Mt Guy Track during spring wearing Microspikes
View over Lake Clearwater from the false summit of Mt Guy

From the outcrop, the gradient mellows out once more. You’ll continue to follow the markers along the ridgeline through tussock and alpine grasses for a final few minutes before the summit appears before you.

Exploring Mt Guy’s Sprawling Summit

Summit rock cairns on Mt Guy

You’ll reach the giant rock cairn that marks the summit of Mt Guy after 4.25 km and roughly 2 – 2.5 hours. Your hard work is rewarded with 360-degree panoramas of dramatic mountain ranges and boundless plains filled with braided rivers and shimmering lakes.

When the weather is behaving, you could spend a while on the summit of Mt Guy, enjoying a picnic lunch on the peak and trying to name the endless amount of mountains that cut a jagged line across the horizon in every direction.

Returning To The Lake Clearwater Picnic Area

Hiking down Mt Guy during sunset overlooking Lake Clearwater

When you’re ready to say goodbye to the impossibly beautiful views atop Mt Guy, you’ll begin the return journey to Lake Clearwater via the same track. As the views are now in front of you rather than at your back, you’ll be able to wander down while admiring the stunning landscape.

There is an alternative route that can create more of a circuit for your Mt Guy Summit Hike, though this requires more experience in route finding. If this sounds appealing to you, you’ll descend via the West Ascent Track which connects to the Te Araroa Trail. After hitting the Te Araroa Trail, you’ll turn left and link up with the Eastern Link Track – which will deliver you back to the Lake Clearwater Circuit and ultimately, your car.

We completed the Mt Guy Summit Hike in just over 4 hours when the mountain was covered in a layer of snow. The steep nature of the hike became increasingly challenging with snow, making it imperative for either microspikes or crampons. Even with microspikes, we found ourselves slipping a touch on the steepest sections.

Other Important Information For Hiking The Mt Guy Summit

Leave No Trace

The Hakatere Conservation Park is an incredible part of New Zealand’s South Island and like all our natural places on earth, it needs to be protected. When you visit Mt Guy – or anywhere for that matter – please follow the 7 Leave No Trace Principles.

There are no bins in the Ashburton Lakes District so please pack out all your rubbish, including food scraps and tissues! You’ll find several toilets near the Mt Guy trailhead but we recommend bringing your own toilet paper just in case.

Where To Stay Near Mt Guy In The Ashburton Lakes District

Lake Clearwater in the Ashburton Lakes District

While it is doable to hike Mt Guy on a day trip from Christchurch, it will be a very long day. Instead, we recommend spending a bit of time in the Ashburton Lakes and basing yourself in the nearby towns of Methven or Mount Somers. This will enable you to complete other beautiful hikes in the area such as Mt Barrosa and Woolshed Creek Hut.

Methven offers more variety in places to eat and things to do, however, Mount Somers is closer to the lakes and you’ll find some beautiful farmstays near the town.

Camping Near Mt Guy

In our opinion, the best way to experience Ashburton Lakes and summit Mt Guy is by camping beside the stunning Lake Camp. This is a free campground for self-contained vehicles and is located right next to Lake Clearwater.

Campervan on the Banks of Lake Camp campsite in Ashburton Lakes

Final Thoughts

If you have time for just one hike when you visit the Ashburton Lakes, this is our top recommendation! The unparalleled panoramic vistas from the summit and the exciting ascent will not disappoint.

For those with the luxury of time, we highly suggest waiting for a clear day to complete the summit hike. And don’t forget to bring your crampons or microspikes if you plan to attempt this ascent in the snow.

We hope you love the Mount Guy Summit Hike as much as we did. If you have any questions or would like to share your experience, please feel free to leave a comment below.

Happy Hiking 🙂