Lake Taylor and Lake Sumner
Copyright Mark Pickering
The road to Lake Sumner is quite a trip in itself and leads to an area which has a peculiar kiwi character of it's own, with day walks, overnight huts, fishing and tramping. Vehicle and walking tracks lead upvalley to DOC huts and the natural hot springs.
It is 70 km from Christchurch to the Lake Sumner turnoff at Waikari on the Lewis Pass Road. About 8 km through Waikari to Hawarden and the gravel road begins 10 km further on. The road from here is narrow and winding, and follows the historic pack-trail to the Hurunui River and Harper Pass, where thousands of hopeful "new chums" set out for the goldfields of the West Coast in 1865.
After the seal ends the road edges 9 km past the Waitohi River and makes a circuitous climb up onto Jack's Saddle (500m).
The Seaward bridge is passed after 7 km and then a further 5 km to the confluence of the two Hurunui's. This site had a grog shanty in the 1860's that kept the goldminers supplied. Another 14 km along tussock terraces, with picnic sites at the Jollie Brook and Sisters swingbridges, to Lake Taylor.
This site provided another pause for the foot-sore goldminers, and butcher stalls were established by the local run holders taking advantage of this huge influx of meat-eating travellers. Today the lakeside is quiet, and Lake Taylor hut has gone, but there is plenty of camping on the grassy flat.
Lake Taylor to Lake Sumner
A good walk from Lake Taylor (which is as far as a normal car can go) is to follow the four-wheel drive track as it leads off around the south side of the lake and travels 6km over a subtle saddle to the bach community at Loch Katrine. This is an impromptu fisherman's shanty town.
The vehicle track continues 2km past the loch, and then downhill 2km to Home Bay and the tossed shores of Lake Sumner. The lake was named after an Archbishop of Canterbury by Edward Dobson in 1857, but the Maori title Hakakura is more poetic ('haka' means hollow or bay and 'kura' means red). The French whaling captain, who was believed to be the first European to see the lake, called it the "Greenstone Lake".
The old No. 2 hut, a big 18-bunker with a fine prospect towards the lake, was burnt down in July 1996.
Walking Time: Lake Taylor return 4-6 hours
Hurunui Hut and Hot Springs
From Lake Sumner a good track heads upstream past a footbridge to the Hurunui Hut (20 people/stove). The hot spring is still 5km further and it's signposted if you stay on the track (but you could miss it if you walked up the river) and it gushes out in a hot waterfall over the track. It has been enlarged to accommodate 3-4 people comfortably.
Walking Time: Lake Sumner - Hurunui Hut - Hot Pools. Return 3-4 hours.
Lake Mason Circuit
Permission from Lake Taylor Station for access to Lake Mason required.
An alternative route back to Lake Taylor, is via Lake Mason. From where Taylor Stream drains into Home Bay, a signpost indicates a poled route up a rough zigzag track to a low saddle. The track drops 2 km to Lake Mason and skirts the eastern edge, where there are sheltered picnic and campsites in amongst the beech. From here a 4-wheel drive vehicle track goes 13 km beside the south branch of the Hurunui and over a low tussock saddle to return to Lake Taylor.
Walking Time: Lake Taylor-Lake Mason-Lake Taylor 6-7 hours.
Getting there: Christchurch to Waikari, then follow Lake Sumner road.
Distance from Christchurch: 140km
Garages: Waikari, Hawarden.
Maps: Lake Sumner Forest Park NZMS 274/16
Our Planmer 2015