Mount Sunday Track | The Home Of Edoras In Lord Of The Rings

Deep in the Hakatere Conservation Reserve, Mount Sunday stands solitary in the vast Rangitata River Flats, surrounded by towering snow-clad mountains. As you wander along the ancient glacial landscape, it’s not hard to imagine yourself in Middle Earth, on your way to Edoras – home of the Rohans in the final Lord of the Rings film.

While the set no longer remains, the wonder of the sprawling glacial plains and the distant Southern Alps is more than enough reason for a visit to the beautiful Mt Sunday.

The Mount Sunday Track is an easy and enjoyable walk that is a must if you’re travelling to the Ashburton Lakes. And if you don’t have Ashburton Lakes on your radar, we highly recommend adding this beautiful lesser-known location.

In this post, you’ll find everything you need to know about the Mount Sunday Track, including the best time to visit and other things to do in the area.

Standing at the summit of Mount Sunday in the Hakatere Conservation Reserve

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What To Know About Walking The Mt Sunday Track In The Ashburton Lakes District

Quick Statistics For The Mount Sunday Track

Distance
3.5 km return

Time
1 hour

Grade
Grade 2

Elevation Gain
100 m

Highest Elevation
611 m 

Entrance Fees
None

Facilities
Trailhead: Toilets, car park

Where Does The Mount Sunday Walk Start?

Campervan parked at Mount Sunday Trailhead carpark

Encompassed by river flats and farmland, Mount Sunday lies beside the Hakatere Potts Rd in the sprawling Ashburton Lakes District – part of the greater Hakatere Conservation Park. 

The scenic 2.5-hour drive from Christchurch will leave you breathless, as you weave through deep valleys with imposing peaks rising on either side. You’ll find the Mount Sunday Car Park 3 km northwest of Mt Potts Lodge, with a long drop toilet and information signs about Mt Sunday.

How To Get To The Mount Sunday Track

Mount Sunday is located in an area of New Zealand’s South Island that isn’t part of the regular tourist route. While this is a positive in most circumstances, it does mean that you won’t find any public transport options for Mt Sunday.

Map of Mt Sunday Track

Mt Sunday Tours

Thanks to its involvement in the filming of The Lord of the Rings, you can join a day tour with Hassle-Free Tours for Mt Sunday. This tour departs from Christchurch and gives you insight into how the set was made.

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By Car

The best way to experience Mt Sunday is by self-driving. The drive from Christchurch is roughly 2.5 hours (don’t believe the times found on Google Maps) and while you’ll encounter gravel roads once you get onto Hakatere Potts Rd, they are in good condition and accessible for 2WD.

Click Here For Directions To Mt Sunday

To make the most of your adventure into the Ashburton Lakes District, we recommend hiring a campervan and staying at Lake Camp – 15 minutes southeast of the Mt Sunday Car Park.

Who Is The Mount Sunday Walk For?

Walking across a small bridge on the Mt Sunday Walk in the Hakatere Conservation Reserve

The Mount Sunday Track in the Ashburton Lakes District is an easy walk through a dramatic glacially carved landscape. The return trail will take roughly 1 hour and from the summit, you’re afforded unobstructed vistas of the magnificent mountains surrounding. 

Whether you’re a LOTR fan or not, this trail is well worth the small detour from Lake Clearwater.

If you’re looking for more challenging hikes, check out the nearby Mt Guy or Mt Barrosa hikes.

What To Pack For The Mount Sunday Walk

Wearing warm hiking layers while standing on the summit of Mt Sunday in New Zealand

The walk to Mt Sunday requires nothing more than a comfortable pair of shoes – waterproof hiking shoes are recommended during winter – and your camera.

However, you’ll find no shops or other services (including drinking water) near Mt Sunday – the closest town being Mount Somers, roughly 50 minutes southeast of the trailhead.

If you don’t plan to stay in the Ashburton Lakes District overnight, we suggest bringing a picnic to enjoy on the shore of Lake Clearwater once you’ve finished your walk.

Best Time To Visit Mount Sunday

Road leading to the southern alps on the Mt Sunday Walk

Mount Sunday can be visited year-round, offering a unique experience with each major season change. In summer, you’ll enjoy an easy walk through the lush farmland and thriving plains.

And in winter, you’re likely to find Mt Sunday covered in a dusting of snow. This will make the walk slightly more difficult. But it is easily doable if you have a durable pair of shoes and take your time on the small steep section at the summit.

The busiest time of year for Mt Sunday is through the warm summer months and during the Easter school holidays. If you have the freedom of choice, the best time to visit Mt Sunday is during the shoulder seasons – from April to June or September to November. You’ll still have a high chance of witnessing snow covering the surrounding peaks during these times of year.

Best Time Of Day To Walk The Mount Sunday Track

The best time of day to experience the views from Mount Sunday is at sunrise. The soft morning light will light up the Southern Alps beautifully and the best part is, it’s only a 30-minute walk to the summit!

Mount Sunday Track Notes

The Mt Sunday Trailhead To The Swing Bridge

Mt Sunday Track Trailhead sign

Passing through a gate, remembering to close it after you, you’ll begin your walk to Mt Sunday along a dirt track that weaves through the shrubby plains. Orange markers lead the way, guiding you across a gravel road before continuing through the scrub towards the sprawling stream.

Walking along the Mt Sunday Trail in the Hakatere Conservation Reserve
Walking on the Mt Sunday hike, on the way to where Edoras from Lord Of The Rings was filmed

After a few minutes, the trail swings northwest and begins to follow alongside the braided threads of the sprawling river. The trail underfoot transitions from mud and grass to blue-grey pebbles as you wander closer to the water’s edge.

A small footbridge helps you across the threads straying from the flowing stream and eventually, after roughly 15 minutes, you’ll arrive at a picturesque swing bridge.

The Swing Bridge To The Summit Of Mt Sunday

Admiring the beautiful view of the Southern Alps on the Swing Bridge on the Mount Sunday Track

The perfectly placed swing bridge crosses over a pretty little s-bend in the ice-blue stream, with uninterrupted vistas of the snow-capped mountains in the north. After taking advantage of this alluring photo opportunity, continue through the gate on the stream’s western banks and begin the gentle climb to Mt Sunday’s summit.

As you continue to follow the orange markers through the lush farmlands bordering the craggy mountain, you’ll be accompanied by the resident cows that call this beautiful destination home.

Cow in the Paddock on the Mt Sunday Trail in New Zealand

Some of the grassy areas along the trail can become quite muddy after a good dose of rain or snow. But these sections are easy to avoid without straying from the marked track – though in winter, it’s best to wear waterproof hiking boots to avoid getting wet feet.

Hiking up the steep hill to the Mt Sunday Summit, Edoras from Lord Of The Rings

After roughly 500 m of ascending through the grass fields, the trail swings to the right and you’ll begin the final climb along the southern spine of Mt Sunday. You’ll notice a fork in the track after another 200 m. Take the left trail to avoid an unnecessarily steep incline.

Exploring Edoras – Mount Sunday’s Summit

And finally, after 30 – 40 minutes, you’ll find yourself standing on top of Mount Sunday with 360-degree panoramas of the sprawling flats flanked by a never-ending line of jagged peaks piercing the horizon.

Trig Point located at the top of Mt Sunday Track in New Zealand

It’s easy to envision scenes from the Lord of the Rings as you stand in the centre of what would have been the capital of Rohan, looking out at the barren plains and the braided rivers. But what fascinated us most as we wandered around the vast craggy peak, is how they managed to fit an entire village and castle on top of Mount Sunday! 

Returning To The Trailhead

Once you’ve finished admiring the dramatic scene before you, return along the same trail to the car park below. On your way back, you’re gifted sensational views of the towering Mt Potts range in front of you.

The 3.5 km return trail took us roughly 1 hr 15 minutes to complete, including a lengthy break at the summit to absorb the sensational views. It’s an easy trail that’s doable for most, including small children. But if you’re an advanced hiker, don’t let that deter you – the Mt Sunday Track is a fun and quick adventure that’s worthy of an hour of your time.

Admiring the beautiful Southern Alps of New Zealand from Mt Sunday Summit

Other Important Information For Visiting Mount Sunday

Leave No Trace

When you visit Mt Sunday, you’ll be walking through private land and a conservation area. Please respect the landowners and the conservation efforts for this fragile region by following the 7 Leave No Trace Principles.

It’s as simple as sticking to the trail, taking all your rubbish with you – including tissues and food scraps – and using the toilet located at the car park. Furthermore, please keep your distance from the cows and sheep and don’t feed them.

Where To Stay Near Mt Sunday

Sunset over Lake Clearwater from the summit of Mt Guy

Mount Sunday lies within the Ashburton Lakes District, part of the greater Hakatere Conservation Park. It is doable to visit Mt Sunday as a day trip from Christchurch, located 2.5 hours west of Christchurch, but it would be a big day for a small walk.

The best place to base yourself when you visit Mt Sunday is at Mount Somers or Methven. You’ll find quaint accommodation options to suit a range of travel styles within these towns and the surrounding regions.

Camping Near Mount Sunday

Van camping on the shores of Lake Camp during winter in a snow storm

Our top recommendation for visiting Mount Sunday is to make a weekend of it and camp at Lake Camp. You can stay on the banks of this stunning lake for free and it offers easy access to plenty of walks – like the incredible Mount Guy Track – and other things to do in the Ashburton Lakes District.

Final Thoughts

The Mount Sunday Track is a beautiful short walk in the Ashburton Lakes District that allows you to gain 360-degree views of the dramatic landscape with ease. We were surprised by just how much we enjoyed the walk, plus the captivating drive through the highlands to reach the car park.

However, it is a very popular destination and you will almost certainly encounter others along this easy walk. We suggest walking to the summit of Mt Sunday for sunrise to avoid the crowds and enjoy the morning light filtering through the folded mountains encompassing the small craggy peak.

Have you visited Mt Sunday? We’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below. And as always, if you have any questions regarding the walk – or the Ashburton Lakes – please feel free to reach out.

Happy Hiking 🙂