The foothills around Canterbury are ideal for those weekends when a day mission with a light pack is about all you have motivation for. They offer sweeping views from the mountains in the west all the way out to the ocean in the east and provide a variety of different challenge levels depending on how much you want to impress your friends/partner/pet hamster. Another massive bonus is that most tracks are dog friendly so you can take your K9 companion along to drag you to the summit. We have just invested in a Ruffwear pack for Izzy to carry her own water in so we were pretty keen to go try it out and play in some of the recently fallen snow. There was also the late addition of a friend's husky to dog-sit so it was in everyone's best interest to tire them both out.
Mt Richardson is just over an hour from Christchurch and at just over 1000m is perfect for anyone with a moderate fitness level. Head north from the city and drive out towards Oxford along Tram Road. Turn right onto High Street/Ashley Gorge Road once you reach the township and follow this to Glentui. Turn left onto Glentui Bush Road and drive until you reach the car park for Mt Thomas Conservation Area. DOC puts the climb at 3 hours and although it's relatively straight forward and easy to follow the track it can be steep and slippery so this is a fair guide for your average group. The return trip should be much quicker but be prepared to be slowed down by mud if it has rained recently. We ended up hitting snow after the first hour due to the storm that had just been through but in general you won't find this too often even in winter.
For a bit of variation you can continue on from the summit on Blowhard Track and connect back up via the Bypass Track which will take you back to the car park in similar time to the up and back Richardson Track. A bigger loop takes you further along the ridge from the Bypass but drops you out at Bald Hills Road with a few kilometres between you and your car and not too many options for hitchhiking. For more details on the track and our trip report click on the video below.
If this is your first foray into the foothills and you enjoy this little jaunt out of the city then Mt Thomas is another good option to look at for your next trip. It's slightly further north but a similar height and level of difficulty.
DOC Time: 5 hours
Our TIme: 3.5 hours
Track: Super muddy - take your trekking poles!
Bonus Points: The cafes in Oxford close their kitchens early so be warned!
In New Zealand we don't go hiking, walking or frolicking in the wilderness - we tramp.