A very prominent snow-capped mountain summit with views forever, towers above the West Coast highway near Porter’s Pass.
Mt Enys (2,195 metres), in the Craigieburn Forest Park, has the singular honour of being the highest foothill summit accessible from a major highway in the South Island. From Porter Heights ski field it is an exhilarating traverse over intermediate peaks to reach the crest of Craigieburn Range and survey the scene. A jumbled sky scape of snowy peaks crowd in, from Mt Rolleston near Arthur’s Pass, to Mt Cook well to the south. Far below is Lake Coleridge and the braided shingle beds of the Rakaia and Wilberforce rivers. Eastward lies the green and brown patchwork of the Canterbury plains merging with the blue of the Pacific Ocean.
Craigieburn Forest Park sprawls over the broad slopes of this eastern foothills range of the Southern Alps, 1 ½ hours drive from Christchurch on S.H.73. The park offers a range of short walks, climbing, tramping, hunting and camping with excellent access roads. A system of walking tracks crosses the park, with links to routes up the picturesque Harper, Ryton and Wilberforce valleys. Most trips across the range are possible in an energetic weekend. The Cass-Lagoon Saddle Track is the most popular tramp. It is a moderate 2-3 day traverse of three river valleys and two saddles with excellent huts and grand views. Rock climbing is popular at Castle Hill where immense limestone outcrops have been sculpted by the elements into weird and wonderful forms.
The Range is best known for four club ski fields, which are open to the public during the winter season. Mt Olympus on the western flank is a popular adventure playground with perfect powder slopes. Craigieburn has superb extreme downhill skiing. Broken River has three powder-filled basins and uncrowded slopes, and Mt Cheeseman has uninterrupted views along the entire range.
Take a close look at the Craigieburn Forest Park on your way to Arthur’s Pass. It has impressive mountainous terrain. Describing the range as ‘foothills’ seems an understatement.
The park offers year round pleasure for all outdoor enthusiasts – a park for all seasons.