An easy walk close to lake Tekapo:
The Mount John Walkway is perfect if you arrive at Lake Tekapo and need to stretch your legs before you head to the hot springs or eat all the yummy food! When we arrived at Lake Tekapo it was raining. It wasn’t crazily heavy rain, but the lady behind the counter at our hotel told us we shouldn’t attempt the whole Mount John Walkway because we’d be soaked. She suggested we take the shorter option the goes straight up Mount John to the observatory. I have to admit, we did consider abandoning our walking plans completely and having a long leisurely lunch. But the lure of an easy mountain was just too strong – even in the rain.
Mount John Walkway map
Mount John Walkway – the basics
Distance: 8.2 km if you do the whole loop
Elevation Gain: 377m
High Point: 1010m
Time: The Mount John Walkway is meant to take 1.5 hours, 45 minutes up, and 45 minutes back. You can easily do it faster though. It only took us 30 minutes to reach the peak. If you decide to add-on the Tekapo walkway back, it’ll take around 3 hours.
What to bring:
Water, snacks and your camera!
Although it’s always best to have hiking boots, the paths are really good, so you could easily manage this walk in trainers.
We didn’t bother with hiking poles for this walk BUT if you continue along the Tekapo Walkway, there are a lot of rabbit warrens, so watch where you’re going if you don’t want to break an ankle.
There are loos by the trailhead.
There is a supermarket and restaurants in Tekapo if you hungry. You’ll also find a cafe at the top, by the University of Canterbury Mt John Observatory.
How hard is it?
Very easy. You’ll get a mini workout on the way up, but there are easy-to-follow paths, and it’s not long.
Lunch near the Mount John Walkway
There is a pretty nice supermarket, Four Square, in Tekapo. We popped in to buy food for our excursion the following day, and to find something for lunch. I’d heard that New Zealand has the best meat pies, so we each bought a meat pie to eat before our walk. Now, New Zealand may have the best meat pies, but supermarket versions, even if they say ‘gourmet’, are not the best. Sigh. At least they were piping hot and filling! We sat chatting to some friendly birdies while we ate our pies. I’d learnt my lesson feeding the birds with Gary the seagull the previous day! The view was misty and wet, but it wasn’t raining too hard, so I was still hopeful we might see some kind of view at the top. I am a very hopeful person!
Mount John Walkway – the path:
You don’t have to worry about getting lost on this walk. There is a very obvious path that starts at the edge of the Tekapo Springs (where you can sit in a hot spring and look up and the stars!) As soon as we started our walk, the rain started to pour (doh!) But as the path goes through the trees, we had a teeny bit of shelter.
As always, I love walking through the trees. I used the excuse of taking photos to catch my breath while Mr A’ zoomed off ahead! It’s not a hard walk, but this first part is a little steep! I found some pretty pink berries and so, so many pine cones! The trees were also covered in moss and lichen, so this must be a pretty soggy area!
The grey views above the treeline:
Once you get above the trees, there is less protection from the rain. We were both very glad we have decent waterproof coats! There should have been mountain views in all directions, but all we could see was grey mist.
We made it to Mount John’s cairn to see some more misty views and some hints of mountains across the lake. I’d heard that lake Tekapo is a beautiful bright blue colour, but the view from the Mount John Walkway did not show it at its best. However, the rain had almost stopped, so I was getting more hopeful that we might get to see some prettiness.
This is our soggy selfie. We weren’t the only crazy rain-walkers! Some friendly gap year students from the UK took a photo for us at the top! You can see all the drops of rain on our glasses!
Mount John Observatory:
As well as a walkway, this mountain is also home to the University of Canterbury Mt John Observatory. There are multiple telescopes and apparently it is a brilliant place to see the stars, if the clouds part! There is even an Astro cafe in the observatory if you need a coffee/hot chocolate as a reward for wandering up the mountain.
Now, we might be gluttons for punishment, but we both felt like walking further. So we left the Mount John Walkway and started walking along the Tekapo walkway. This was the one our hotel receptionist had said we should avoid as it’d be too long and hard in the rain…but it was actually an easy and pleasant stroll, despite the lack of views.
As we walked along the top of the ridge, it seemed like the world was getting slightly brighter and that the sun might pop out.
The sun came out!
After wandering for an hour in the rain, we finally saw a hint of blue sky! I think I love walking even more if the sun comes out after a rainstorm. I love the dramatic changes in light. Plus I REALLY appreciate blue skies when I haven’t seen them for a while. It is so much more gratifying than if you wake up to a perfect blue sky!
How gorgeous are these mountains as they slowly emerge from the clouds!?
We were suddenly surrounded by perfect, stunning scenery! And as most people aren’t silly enough to set off for a hike in the rain, we had these epic views all to ourselves!
I was so chuffed that I needed jump shots! There may still be raindrops on my camera lens, but I still love this photo as I was soooo happy!
Lake Tekapo looking fake:
Lake Tekapo turned out to be an amaaazing turquoise-blue when the sun comes out. It looked unreal. I mean, I was there and I remember it being ridiculously bright blue, but looking back at my photos, it just looks fake! This kind of view looks like it has been through an instagram filter in real life!
The views were similarly awesome in the other direction towards lake Alexandria and the other mountains. The clouds look pretty and moody while the grassy areas started to warm up.
Lake Tekapo Walkway
The rest of our walk along Lake Tekapo was soooo pretty! The path heads back towards the town and the start of the Mount John Walkway, but now the mountains on the opposite side of the lake were looking gorgeous and inviting.
As we got closer to Tekapo, more walkers emerged. It seems like a teeny bit of sun was all it takes to get everyone out for a stroll!
Everything was so bright and green after the rain! We saw plenty of pretty summer flowers. The sun also really shone through the bushes looking up to Mount John where we had just been!
Our original plan was to survive walking in the rain, and then visit the hot springs at Tekapo Springs. Once we made it back to the Tekapo Springs, we decided that now it was such a perfect day for walking that we should find another walk and go a little further. Could you resist a wander with weather like this!?
I realize the lake has lost its fake-looking colour from this angle, but I still love the reflections of the perfect sky in the pond.
I am so, so glad we explored the Mount John Walkway, even in the rain. Lake Tekapo really stole my heart.