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Last reviewed: Thu, 14 May 2015

The Port Hills

View the status of the Mountain Bike tracks.

Port Hills Tracks and Reserves

Earthquake update for Port Hills Reserves (as at 14 May 2015)

After considerable work and negotiation with private landowners, the Summit road and associated tracks have been re-opened to walkers and bikers only between the top of Rapaki Track and the Bridle Path. The road remains closed to cars and motorbikes. Walkers and bikers are asked to keep to the road and the newly formed tracks and comply with all signage.

A number of other reserve areas are now also formally opened, these include Sugarloaf Reserve, Coronation Hill Reserve, and the newly aligned Stan Helms track in Whakaraupo reserve.

Walkers and riders are advised to check track status before stepping out as shared use tracks have their status updated daily. While some tracks and reserves remain closed due to rock fall hazard, including sections of the Summit Road, work is continuing to assess these areas and in the future remediation actions may be able to occur. Please be patient and observe the closed status of these areas while we work within them.

Care should also be taken in areas that remain open as hazards are not always immediately obvious. Hazard indicators include signs of rocks having moved, cracks and slumping of the ground or rock debris at the base of cliffs.

Walkers are advised to remain well clear of the tops and bottoms of coastal cliffs, bluffs and rocky outcrops. Boaties are also advised to remain well clear of tall coastal cliff areas. Wet winter conditions may increase ground moisture which can cause more slumping and the likelihood of slips and slope instabilities will increase.

Please obey any closure or warning signs. Areas are closed due to significant rock fall risk and the fact that rocks are being rolled and deconstructed by specialist contractors.

The Summit Road remains closed to all users between Cavendish Saddle and the top of the Bridle Path. This closure is in place under the CERA legislation and significant penalties apply if people are found within the cordoned area. Remedial work is continuing in this area which makes it very unsafe for recreational users.

This page will be updated when information changes. To talk to a Port Hills Ranger phone (03) 941 8999 .

Port Hills Walkways status


Eastern Section – Castle Rock Reserve to Godley head
Includes the Bridle Path and Godley Head/Awaroa

OpenCrater Rim Walkway - Evans Pass to Godley Head.
OpenGodley Head Mountain Bike Track
OpenUrumau Reserve

Stan Helms Track


Search Light and Tunnel tracks


Whitewash Head Track  - Flowers Track Open, Taylors Track from 121 Taylors Mistake Road to Taylors Mistake Beach Open


Scarborough Bluffs Track - Flowers Track Open, Taylors Track from 121 Taylors Mistake Road to Taylors Mistake Beach Open


Godley Head Coastal Walk


Top part of Captain Thomas Track


Eastenders Track


Heathcote Quarry Track


Crater Rim Walkway – Mt Pleasant gun emplacements to Bridle Path


Major Hornbrook Track


Bridle Path


Central Section – Dyers Pass to Castle Rock
Includes Victoria Park and Sign of the Kiwi


Bowenvale Valley-4wd track


Eastside Bush Track-Summit Rd to Bowenvale valley


Mitchells Track


Gilpins Track


All tracks in Mt Vernon park


Rapaki Track


Lamar Track


Huia Gilpin Track


Latters Spur Track


Crater Rim Track-Sign of the Kiwi to Rapaki Track and Rapaki Track to Bridle Path


All tracks in Victoria Park


Harry Ell Walkway


Huntsbury Track


Mt Vernon Shared Use Track


South Western Section – Dyers Pass to Ahuriri Reserve.


Crater Rim Track through Cass Peak Reserve


All Tracks in Ohinetahi Reserve except Faulkner's, Totara Log, Bivvy, South Boundary from Faulkner's to Titoki Track, Titoki from O'Farrell's to Ngaio Track adn Ella's from the Crater Rim around Mt Ada. – managed by the Summit Rd Society


Crater Rim Walkway behind Sign of the Kiwi


Reuters Reserve


Prendergasts Track and the track up to Gibraltar Rock

OpenRhodes and Kirks tracks

Crater Rim Walkway – except for two short sections indicated above


Worsleys Track


Kennedys Bush Track


Kennedys Bush Reserve – all walking tracks


Halswell Quarry – all walking tracks


Old Dyers Pass Track

Open Sign of the Packhorse Track.


Maps with track information covering the central, eastern and southern sections of the Port Hills reserves:

Walking in the Port Hills (low res PDF 5MB) includes closed walking tracks in red as at 14 May 2015.

Safety in the Hills

Rapaki Track open

New signage has been erected on the Port Hills by the Christchurch City Council to provide track and park users with clear guidelines on how they can stay safe while enjoying their outdoor experience.

With the status of tracks (either open or closed) clearly sign-posted, and with information on who can use the tracks and any restrictions or hazards in place, the public will be better informed on how they can use their common sense to ensure they stay safe while on the tracks. Many of the guidelines are common sense and apply to any visit to the wonderful regional parks of Christchurch.

Recommended - please follow these guidelines

In addition to the signage, the Council recommends the public follow the guidelines below regarding safety on the Port Hills.

  • Keep to the marked tracks.
  • Use gates provided and leave gates as you find them.
  • Respect restrictions on dogs, and keep them under control at all times. 
  • Please respect all stock and wildlife encountered - give animals a chance to get out of your way.
  • Some tracks may be closed following the earthquakes. Please adhere to the “open” or “closed” messages on signage.
  • No firearms.
  • No lighting fires. Remember that discarded cigarettes can cause fires.
  • Give way to other track users.
  • Take your rubbish home.  “If you bring it in – take it out”
  • Park vehicles with care, respecting other road users.
  • Tell us about any obstructions or hazards.
  • Many areas are being checked for rockfall risk and being worked on by contractors; be aware of changes to track openings and follow all signage and/or instructions by the contractors or park rangers.
  • Consider where you would go if there was another earthquake. In general, ridges are safer than gullies, and rocky bluffs and cliff edges should be avoided.

Safety checklist

  • Historic structures may be unstable and unsafe. Please respect these structures and do not remove or damage anything.
  • Choose a circuit that suits your level of fitness, experience and the time available. Monitor your progress. Only attempt to use these tracks if you have suitable clothing and footwear.
  • Be aware of slippery rocks and track surfaces after rain.
  • Let someone know where you are going, what you intend to do, when you will return, and when you have returned.
  • It is best to explore with at least two other people and it’s more fun!
  • During periods of strong winds be aware of the risk of branches breaking and tress possibly falling. The earthquakes have damaged the roots of many trees.
  • Carry food and water for energy.
  • Make sure you have a sunhat, sunscreen and a raincoat.

These simple guidelines, if respected and properly observed, will ensure people of all ages can enjoy the Port Hills and their surroundings this summer.

Visitor information

About the Port Hills

Two mountain bikers on the Port Hills.

The Port Hills are one of the best-loved landscapes of Christchurch. The tussock grasslands and rugged rock out-crops, contrast the flatness of the Canterbury Plains below. In some valleys the remnants of podocarp forests provide links with the past, while in other valleys, and beside the Crater Rim walkway, regenerating and restored native bush lands enhance the biodiversity of the Port Hills, and the pleasure of being there.

People enjoy the Port Hills in many different ways, from scenic drives along to picnic lookouts. Walking, running, mountain biking and road biking are all very popular. Botanists explore the crater rim forests, rock climbers dangle down the sheer volcanic bluffs, and paragliders soar high over the tussock slopes. There are permanent orienteering courses set up, great places from which to launch model planes, and many a photogenic view and rock. The many beautiful views of the Port Hills themselves, and of Lyttelton Harbour, the city and plains, and the Southern Alps in the distance are ideal for photography, drawing or painting.

The Christchurch City Council manages 31 of the 39 reserves on the Port Hills. Other reserves are run by the Department of Conservation, privately or by trusts. Access to the reserves and the other amenities of the Port Hills is via a network of walking and biking tracks, and by a heritage road. Both the reserves and the road are the living legacy of one of Christchurch's foremost citizens.

Henry George (Harry) Ell, (1862-1934) was one of New Zealand's first conservationists. As a Member of Parliament (1899–1919) he was the main parliamentary advocate for the Scenery Preservation Act 1903. Harry’s vision was to establish a network of scenic reserves along the Port Hills, with the Summit Road providing the linkage between reserves and regularly spaced rest houses for walkers and travellers. In 1906 Harry's fundraising and organising efforts paid off with the first scenic reserve, Kennedys Bush, being established. Two years later, in 1908, work commenced on building the Summit Road.

During Harry’s term in Parliament he secured over 500 scenic reserves around New Zealand. He worked hard to encourage conservation of the Port Hills and was an advocate for increased public access. In 1948 the Summit Road Society was formed to continue the work of maintaining and developing the reserves and tracks that Harry envisioned a hundred years ago.

Port Hills Recreation Strategy [PDF 7.64MB]


Castle Rock.

The native remnants of bush on the Port Hills are home to some of our native birds. Many of the native birds visiting city gardens in the winter come from the Port Hills forest areas. The clear notes of the bellbird (korimako) can be heard in the bush during the summer months. Fantail, silvereye, grey warbler, shining cuckoo and a few South Island tomtits are commonly seen and heard in the bush.

The New Zealand wood pigeon (kukupa or kereru) is the largest berry-eating bird in New Zealand and an important seed-disperser for many native plants. The wood pigeon can often be seen when walking through the bush areas. The most common birds seen on the Port Hills are introduced, such as the blackbird, chaffinch and thrush.

A large range of native invertebrates occupy the Port Hills bush and grass lands areas, including the native copper butterfly (Lycaena salustius). Lizards native to the Port Hills include gecko and skink species.

Plant life

The contrasting sheltered valleys and exposed windswept hillsides provide a range of growing conditions for a wide variety of plants. Local endemic plants which are found only or mainly on Banks Peninsula (and nowhere else in the world) include the Banks Peninsula hebe (Hebe strictissima), the Banks Peninsula blue tussock (Poa colensoi) and the rare and endangered 'Lyttelton forgetmenot' (Myosotis australis var. lytteltonensis). The Port Hills are also home to rare ferns.

Remnant pockets of podocarp forest shelter 500-600 year old matai, totara and kahikatea trees and regenerating seedlings. A diverse range of fruiting and flowering hardwood species including kowhai, lacebark, ribbonwood, mahoe, five finger, cabbage tree, kanuka, lancewood, fuchsia, and many shrub species, thrive in these remnants. The sunny northern slopes of the Port Hills feature tussock grasslands, dominated by silver tussock (Poa cita). They also include many other native and introduced grasses, and the blue and white flowered harebell (Wahlenbergia gracilis). Tussock grasslands are rare worldwide, and such extensive tussock lands close to a metropolitan area are even rarer.

Getting involved

A view from the Port Hills.

Many organisations have an interest in the Port Hills including the Christchurch City Council, Department of Conservation, Ngai Tahu and especially the Rāpaki Rūnanga (Te Hapu o Ngati Wheke), the Summit Road Protection Authority, Summit Road Society, Selwyn District Council, Environment Canterbury, Mt Vernon Trust, John Britten Trust, and Godley Head Trust.

Summit Road Society
The Society is a voluntary group promoting the enhancement, preservation and protection of the character of the Port Hills for people’s enjoyment.

Summit Road Society
PO Box 583 Christchurch
Phone: (03) 326 7330

Port Hills Park Ranger


Authorising Unit: Transport and Greenspace

Last reviewed: Thursday, 14 May 2015

Next review: Saturday, 14 November 2015

Keywords: parks, port hills