Mt Thomas Forest Conservation Area is an excellent area for day trips, with two picturesque picnic areas and several walking tracks around the two main summits, Mt Thomas (1023m) and Mt Richardson (1047m). Mt Thomas Forest Conservation Area covers 10,800 hectares, between the Ashley and Okuku Rivers, and contains extensive exotic plantations, which in the case of Mt Thomas itself extend right to the summit. From the summits there are views over the Canterbury Plains to Pegasus Bay, into the Lees Valley and the upper Okuku River.
Detailed panels are located at the start of each track or a copy of the Foothills forests brochure is available from the Department of Conservation www.doc.govt.nz, 32 River Road, Rangiora. Open 8.30am-4.30pm Monday-Friday. 03 313 0820 | firstname.lastname@example.org Kaiapoi i-SITE Visitor Centre.
Access for all walks is from the Wooded Gully camping and picnic area. Wooded Gully picnic area is about 65km north-west of Christchurch and is reached either from Oxford or Rangiora (a round trip stopping at Oxford for lunch is recommended).
From Oxford continue on the road past Ashley Gorge to Hayland Road. From Rangiora head to Loburn, take the signposted road to Oxford for about 16km to the Hayland Road turn-off. Wooded Gully picnic and camping site is 4km at the end of Hayland Road. Viewing: Native Beech, podocarp woodland forests, native birds, streams for swimming, views over the Canterbury Plains.
Time/Distance: 1 hour return, 2.2km.
Access: From the picnic area follow Wooded Gully Track for 20 minutes to the junction of Kereru Track. Turn left to follow this track until it links up with Red Pine Track. Turn left onto this track to return to car park.
Time/Distance: 2 hours return, 2.8km.
Access: From Wooded Gully picnic area walk up the Wooded Gully Track for about 45 minutes until you reach the Forest Track turn off. Turn right onto Forest Track and follow this to join up with the Summit Track.
Time/Distance: 3 hours one way, 5.3km.
Access: Wooded Gully picnic area.
Adjoining Tracks: From the Saddle, climb to summit of Mt Thomas and return via Summit Track, or follow the Ridge Track back to Wooded Gully picnic area.
Time/Distance: 3 hours return, 5km.
Access: At the western side of the Wooded Gully Stream.
Adjoining Tracks: For a shorter walk, take the Kereru Track link to reach Wooded Gully, giving you an hour-long loop walk.
Time/Distance: 3 hours one way to summit.
Viewing: Panoramic views of the Canterbury Plains, Banks Peninsula and the Southern Alps.
Adjoining Tracks: Come back the same way or return via Wooded Gully or Ridge Tracks.
Note: This track is quite steep and slippery in places.
Time/Distance: 3 hours one way, 5km to the ridge, a further 2 hours following the ridge to the Mt Thomas Summit.
Access: West end of the camping area, follow markings on the forestry road uphill for 1.8km until you enter beech forest. Follow the ridge up to Bobs Camp Biv Track junction. This is the highest point of the ridge before it heads in an easterly direction to Mt Thomas Summit.
Adjoining Tracks: Alternate routes back via Wooded Gully and Summit tracks.
Time/Distance: 3 1⁄2 hours one way.
Access: From Loburn – Whiterock Road. Near Whiterock turn onto Taaffes Glen Road, follow until you reach Round Hill Stream and park your vehicle. Leave all gates as you find them. Walk 300 m along gravel road then take the track that drops into Okuku River. Cross and follow the marked track to Pinchgut Hut.
Accommodation: (Standard 7-bunk hut, purchase hut tickets beforehand from the Kaiapoi i-SITE or any DOC office).
Note: Weather dependant track as river crossing required (approx.600 mm deep).