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Best 10 Dog Friendly Walks in Canterbury

Credit @jayfrench

Hit the Trails Around Canterbury with Your Furry Best Friend

Make your pooch the happiest boy on these dog friendly walks across Canterbury. From easy short walks to full day hikes, every good dog loves an adventure. Thanks to our friend Jay French for helping us put this piece together. Check out more of his work on his website.

Mt Isobel Hike Summit View With Dog
Credit @jayfrench

Mt Isobel (North Canterbury)

Said to be “Canterbury’s most climbed mountain”, this one can be ticked off on a day trip from Christchurch, or as part of an overnight stay in Hanmer Springs. After conquering the walk reward yourself with dinner and drinks in the Hanmer Springs township and an evening soak in the pools.

Mt Isobel has four routes with different lengths and difficulties. If you're up for a challenge, you can link up the tracks for a mega loop. The tracks are well-marked but be sure to plan your walk well if you're taking one of the longer tracks. 

Features: Great views over Hanmer Springs, and on the waterfall track a 41 metre-high waterfall
Time: Approximately 5.5 hours return
Dogs: Under effective control
Caution: Some steep areas with loose ground and slips

Mt Dumblane Hike With Dog
Credit @jayfrench

Mt Dumblane (North Canterbury)

A great alternative to the close-by Mt Isobel, Mt Dumblane offers the same great views over Hanmer Springs and the surrounding area. Built by the Mt Isobel Tramping Group, this easy to follow track is new but wearing in well. The route starts in Jacks Pass and once upon the main ridge you'll be rewarded with stretching views up the Clarence river and towards the Lewis Pass. 

While this is an easy hike, moderate fitness is required. Given this is in sub-alpine terrain, this track may be closed in winter due to snow.

Features: Big views and relatively easy hiking
Time: Approximately 4-5 hours return
Dogs: Under effective control
Caution: Track can be slippery in the winter and some steep areas 

Mt Emma Hike Lake View Winter
Credit @jayfrench

Lake Emma (South Canterbury)

This relatively flat and easy walking trail starts at Lake Camp then skirts around the base of Mt Harper and ends at the Lake Emma hut. The lake is picturesquely framed by the surrounding mountains, throwing delightful reflections across Lake Emma.

There's a good chance you'll see no other soul on the track so you and your furry bestie can relax uninterrupted in this beautiful landscape before trekking back home. If walking in winter or after rains you may get wet on the river crossing so be mindful about what gear you'll need. 

Features: Easy trails with close proximity to the Lake Clearwater township
Time: Approximately 5 hours return
Dogs: Under effective control
Caution: Dogs not welcome near the shores of Lake Camp or Lake Clearwater

Pinch Gut Hut Hike View Of Hut With Dog
Credit @jayfrench

Pinchgut Hut (North Canterbury)

This delightful walk winds through various valleys following the Onuku river before ending at a great camp spot and Pinchgut Hut at the base of Mt Thomas. The trail is mainly undulating with a sharper climb partway through. There are plenty of swimming opportunities along the track so, on those hot days, you can dip your toes while your furry friend can cool off.

Once at the hut, there are plenty of trails that branch off. You can easily turn this moderate walk into a longer loop or a multi-day adventure if you're up for it. The trail is easy to moderate with a couple of tricky features to navigate.

Features: A great hut and plenty of potential swimming spots
Time: Approximately 5 hours return
Dogs: Under effective control
Caution: There’s a river crossing at the start which could be quite high after rain or in the wetter months. High chance of wet shoes

Mt Vernon Hike View Of Christchurch
Credit @jayfrench

Mt Vernon (Christchurch)

The closest walking track to Christchurch City, Mt Vernon offers a multitude of routes to the summit, from the valley floor to the sides flanking it. From the Huntsbury Reserve Track, take the first right onto the Connector track, until you reach the Gorge Track. The trail here becomes green and lush and you’ll forget how close to civilisation you are.

Climb your way up to the Dry Bush Track and once you reach the shelter, you can choose to continue up the valley or join up to the Farm Track. The Farm Track leads to the Lamar Car Park at the top, from here cross the summit road and find the highest point for that epic panoramic view of the city.

Features: Views back over Christchurch City whilst only being 8min from the City Centre
Time: Approximately 3 hours return
Dogs: On-Leash only
Caution: Remember to check your dog’s paws for grass seeds

Rabbit Hill Hike With Dog Running
Credit @jayfrench

Rabbit Hill (Mid Canterbury)

This walk has a little bit of wild in it. Summiting Rabbit Hill requires you to make your own route once you've reached 'Trig M'. To start, choose from one of two access points. Starting from Starvation Gully from the Lake Lyndon side is slightly shorter than the Coach Stream option on the Springfield side.

The walk itself is not too hard or steep, mainly shingle and farm track as far as ‘Trig M’ and then you pass through a tussock basin just before the final ascent to the summit of Rabbit Hill. There are a few pinchy climbs, but nothing too strenuous, with fantastic views over the surrounding mountains, lakes and back over the plains.

Features: The ‘Trig M’ peak is actually higher at 1251m than Rabbit Hill at 1198m
Time: Approximately 4.5 hours return
Dogs: Under Effective Control
Caution: There is a muddy bog in the saddle just before you head to the summit of Rabbit Hill, your dog will probably love this so you might want to bring a towel for after

Mt Richardson Hike Waterfall View
Credit @jayfrench

Mt Richardson (North Canterbury)

Mt Richardson is another beautiful area in the Canterbury foothills with a few tracks that create a loop to the top. From the Glentui picnic area head up the Richardson track straight to the summit, or take the Bypass Track, connect to the Blowhard Track and up to the summit.

The Richardson track is relatively easy and good for people with moderate fitness. The Bypass track is steeper with roots, mud and rock. Taking this route is an adventure but you'll need to stay focused on tricker sections.

Features: A fantastic picnic area at the start and a nice waterfall to visit early on
Time: Approximately 4-6 hours return for the whole loop. 
Dogs: On-leash only
Caution: It can get pretty dark in there, so take some lights if you think you might go into the evening

Foggy Peak Hike View Of Valley
Credit @jayfrench

Foggy Peak (Mid Canterbury)

For a decent challenge, Foggy Peak will have you panting on its climb to the summit. The track doesn't start softly, with a sharp incline from the start. The trail is not well-marked in places, just look for cairns and markers to find your way up. It offers proper hiking from the beginning.

Due to the incline, coming down can be quite hard on the legs so use poles if you have them. There is a great plateau part way up with fantastic views back over the plains.

Features: Stunning mountain vistas and a great view of Lake Lyndon from above
Time: Approximately 3 hours return
Dogs: Under effective control
Caution: In poor conditions, traction can be a problem and keeping to the less obvious trail

Mt Cloudsley Hike Summit View With Dog
Credit @jayfrench

Mt Cloudsley (Mid Canterbury)

This great day hike leaves right from Castle Hill village, but be warned, this one can be challenging! Much of this track is on scree and is dotted with false peaks, so having poles would be an advantage. 

Once you get out of the trees, climb up the Long Spur track up to the summit of Mt Cloudsley, the second-highest peak in the Craigieburn Range. From here you'll be treated to views back over the valley, over Castle Hill and Broken River.  

Features: Close to Porters Lodge if looking for somewhere to grab a bite after
Time: Approximately 3 hours return
Dogs: Under effective control
Caution: In poor conditions, traction can be a problem and keeping to the less obvious trail

Mystery Lake Hike View Of Valley With Dog
Credit @jayfrench

Mystery Lake (Mid Canterbury)

The Mystery Lake hike winds its way alongside the Potts River gradually inclining to reveal views to the snowcapped mountains and the Rangitata River. The start of the track is quite narrow, before opening out onto a farm track walking through open tussocklands in the Hakatere conservation park.

Once you reach Mystery Lake, take some time to explore this fascinating area. Climb over features like the roche moutonnées (rocky ‘knobs’ smoothed by passing glaciers), jumbled scree and check out the large Hall’s tōtara. This hike can be longer by linking up trails including part of the Te Araroa trail

Features: A lake which completely freezes over in winter
Time: Approximately 6.5 hours return
Dogs: Under effective control
Caution: In winter or snowy conditions it can get quite icy underfoot, prepare accordingly