Castle Hill – Kura Tawhiti Conservation Area
European travellers named the Kura Tawhiti area Castle Hill for the spectacular limestone battlements that dominate the landscape. Kura Tawhiti is extremely popular for climbing and bouldering and there are a large number of bolted climbs available. Castle Hill is easily accessed from State Highway 73. It is the perfect place to stretch your legs and have a picnic in a majestic, unique landscape. Kura Tawhiti means “the treasure from a distant land” in Maori and is very sacred to the people of Ngai Tahu. Hidden amongst the limestone outcrops of Castle Hill are traces of 500-year old charcoal drawings traditionally said to have been left by the Waitaha, the first people to travel through this area.There is a code of conduct in place for all visitors to the area to help protect this special place.
Cave Stream is one of the most accessible walk-and-wade caves in New Zealand, at Castle Hill. The 594 metre cave passage meanders and twists in total darkness between the two entrances. There are two track to access the cave entrances, both starting from the carpark. It's best to enter the cave at the outflow end and walk against the flow of the stream. There are several small waterfalls to climb and a rung ladder ascends the final waterfall to climb out of the cave.
It takes approximately one hour to go through, but you need to be well equipped. Carry at least two reliable torches per person plus spare batteries and wear warm polypropylene or wool clothing and sturdy footwear. Be sure to check the weather report and the stream levels before going through the cave. It is not suitable for small children.
Aside from going through the cave, the area is a great spot for a short walk and picnic, the carpark is easily accessed from State Highway 73. A short trail goes north to the upstream entrance, through a fascinating limestone landscape of solution holes, rillenkarren (water grooved rocks) and sculptured rock formations. The other track leads to the edge of a terrace overlooking the outflow entrance of the cave. It continues down the face of the terrace to the junction of Cave Stream and Broken River.
Short Walks. E.g Devils Punchbowl
There are many short walks to enjoy in the area including to the base of one of the most impressive waterfalls in New Zealand, Devils Punchbowl. The waterfall is located in the heart of Arthur's Pass National Park. It can be seen from the highway, but it is worth the walk up to the viewing platform at the base at any time of the year. The walk is 1 hour return from the Devils Punchbowl carpark near Arthur’s Pass Village.
The Craigieburn Trails
In Craigieburn Forest Park there is a network of roads and dual purpose tracks which are popular for mountain biking. Between Castle Hill Village and Flock Hill there is 24km of single-track with a couple of short linking sections of ski-field road. You can start at either end or at mid-points such as the Craigieburn Shelter at the base of the Broken River skifield access road or Texas Flat on the Cheeseman access road. The track is mostly graded intermediate mountain bike grade. The tracks are not open year-round so you need to check the status before you ride.