Banks Peninsula is full of fantastic day walks that are achievable for all levels of fitness and the Packhorse Hut track from Kaituna Valley is a great option for families and those just starting out with hiking. With a new baby in tow we were looking for something easy to stretch our legs on a stunning clear winter's day and we were rewarded with fantastic views and a beautiful drive with this trip. From the city, drive south through Tai Tapu and Motukarara before turning off up Kaituna Valley Road. Follow this just past the Kaituna Valley Scenic Reserve to Parkinsons Road (this is easy to miss as it's a small gravel road). There is plenty of parking just before the farm buildings and the track starts right over a stile in front.
The track itself is a wide 4WD track with a few ankle deep stream crossings and a fair bit of mud depending on the weather. It is well signposted the whole way so perfect if you're not too confident with your navigation! After crossing through farm land you begin to climb steadily in open country directly towards the hut itself. Once on the ridge expect great views of the south side of Mt Bradley in the north and back out to the ocean and Lake Ellesmere in the south. The climb is gradual but sustained so take plenty of water especially if it's hot. Our family of six plus a rather heavy baby took around an hour and a half to complete the 4km to the summit (this would be a nice, easy trail run for anyone needing to train some hills).
The Packhorse Hut itself has been renovated and now has one large bunk room with 9 bunks in the back and a fire with plenty of seating in the front. A non-flushing toilet is situated behind the hut. Although there is water in a tank it isn't treated so bring plenty of your own unless you can boil it. This hut has to be booked if you want to stay overnight but would make for a great weekend adventure with kids or a first overnighter for beginner hikers. We had lunch sitting in the sun out the front of the hut before descending the same way we had come up. This took closer to 45mins as it is all down hill and easy walking.
On your return trip to Christchurch stop at the Gebbies Garden Cafe at the turn off to Gebbies Pass Road for a coffee and to soak in the country atmosphere a bit longer before having to return to the city.
Total Time - 2.5 hours
Difficulty - Easy
Bonus Points - Continue on to the Mt Herbert Summit (DOC puts this at 3hrs)
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