Mountain Pack Trails riding holiday in New Zealand - Far and Ride
Home  >  Riding Holidays  >  New Zealand  >  Mountain Pack Trails

Mountain Pack Trails, New Zealand


• The Tekapo Expedition Trail



If you get involved it is an exciting trip with long riding each day. There are very steep climbs and descents. The walks leading the horses were fun and the only break from being on the horse. There are no breaks while riding except short lunch stops. Food was excellent. The accommodation was, as warned, varying from huts, small rooms to all in the sheep shearing shed. Always comfortable no matter where slept. There was great enjoyment in getting fully involved loading up pack horses being a new experience. The scenery is amazing with (on the south to North route only) a ride along a ridge at 6000ft with wonderful views of the east side of South Island from Christchurch northwards. (Guides?) A bit of difficulty getting used to them at first, but once settled down, very good. Be ready for it - the more you know before you go, the better the experience.

Mark S. (Takepo Trail)


Type of horses:

Thoroughbred and Clydesdale crosses.

Nature of horses:

Good natured and perfectly adapted to riding and carrying the packs. Each horse has its own personality and your hosts will match you with the best horse for your ability and experience.

Height of horses:

15.3hh - 17.2hh

Weight limit:


Tack type:

Modified Australian Stock Saddles and good quality leather bridles and harnesses.


Travel Advice

Please ensure you read the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) advice before you travel.

Ride Description

Adventurous pack trips in the snow capped mountains of New Zealand's South Island. These multi day pack trips have been designed and tailored to give guests some of the greatest experiences of the New Zealand back country, offering a trip that is both demanding and inspiring. Each day your amiable horses will carry guests and packs through the rugged mountain passes, fording great rivers and crossing wide plains. In the evenings enjoy a taste of the simpler life, with delicious meals cooked over an open fire, a tasty glass of wine and marvellous rustic shepherd lodges (or tents) as your home.

These trails are based in the wild and beautiful Lake Sumner Forest park in the Canterbury region of New Zealand's South Island. This area is a vast and untamed wilderness which is popular with hikers and adventures seekers. Due to it's relatively remote location and lack of population, the area is vastly inaccessible by vehicles and so remains uncrowded by people. The horses, however, will easily cover the ground, carrying you effortlessly over mountain, pasture, river and gully. From snow topped peaks to wooded copse, you will find a truly natural environment here, filled with nothing but the sounds of wildlife, the gust of the wind and the rush of running water.

Lawrie and Jenny are the organisers of these horseback pack trips, and have lived at their ranch home since 1981. They have now been running the business as a husband and wife team since 1992. Both Lawrie and Jenny have been involved with horses all their lives, and each contributes the different parts of their knowledge to the smooth running of the trips. In addition to the work on the farm, Lawrie cares for and trains the horses to make them a pleasure for people to ride, while Jenny concentrates on keeping the business side going, cooking and baking to feed those hungry mouths once the day’s riding is finished. Yet with a combined 23 years experience, both Jenny and Lawrie are able to do any job required of them and are interchangeable in their roles on the pack trips.

See Programmes.


Food & Accommodation

These pack trips are for the adventurous, offering a variety of accommodations from basic tents to comfortable guesthouses, some with electricity and hot water and other without such luxury. Some of the accommodations are really very basic, with all guests sleeping in a single shepherd hut, whereas others will be in far more comfortable shearer's quarters or farms. Depending on the programme you choose to ride, you will find that you stay in a wide variety of beautiful and secluded spots.

Every few days you will be met by a support vehicle (when possible) with fresh supplies. Everything for the trip is carried on pack horses, so there is very limited space. Therefore, luggage for the trails is limited to around 12 kg per person and must be rolled into a "swag" to be packed. You will be taught how to roll these and will be able to help pack everything up before you depart each morning.

Tasty meals will be prepared for you each night and generally cooked over an open fire. Meals are basic due to the limited space in the packs, but hearty and chosen to help keep your energy levels up during the trip. Breakfast often comprises toast, muesli or porridge with tea and/or coffee as preferred. Lunches often include homemade pies or rolls, with cake, fruit and a snack bar. The menu at dinner time is varied and may include smoked chicken, steak, corned beef, stews and plenty of fresh vegetables.

Vegetarian, gluten free and dairy free diets can certainly be catered for with prior notification, but please note that space in the packs will be limited.

Alcoholic drinks will need to be ordered up to 1 month prior to your arrival so that your hosts can pack the boxes before the trail. New Zealand wine as well as beer is available, or soft drinks can be organised for those who do not drink. You will need to pay your hosts for any drinks you order once you arrive. Drinks are decanted into plastic bottles, as glass cannot be carried in the packs.

All food, cooking and camping materials will be carried in large reinforced boxes by the pack horses, when travelling between your overnight destinations.



These are multi day trips and are based on riding between different overnight stops each day. It is therefore not possible to accommodate non-riders on the horse riding pack trips.

New Zealand is a wonderful place for visitors, particularly those interested in outdoor activities such as hiking, skiing, cycling, fishing, swimming, canoeing, rock climbing and surfing, to name a few. The landscape lends itself well to the most intrepid of travellers with a great mix of mountains and agricultural land, and much of the wildlife here is unique to this island country.


Further Details

Languages: English.

Health requirements: All riders must be fit and healthy - previous riding experience is not required as long as you are able to walk long distances over difficult terrain whilst leading your horses. You should expect early starts and will also be required to help out with the logistics, rolling your swags as well as packing the horses up ready for the ride each day.

Age limit: None, within reason.

Tuition: No.

Included: Accommodation, meals and riding.

Not included: Sleeping bags, drinks, transfers, flights, insurance and extras not mentioned.


Travel Information

A Shuttle will collect you from Christchurch airport and deliver you to ranch on the first night of your trip and take you back to Christchurch following the end of your trail. It is a journey of just over 1 hour each way, in good traffic. To take advantage of this service, you should aim to arrive to the airport between 12.00 - 2.00pm. The bus will depart once the last guest is safely on board.

There is an additional cost of NZ$110 per person, return trip, for this service.

Alternatively, you may wish to drive to the ranch, in which case directions can be provided and you are welcome to leave your car at the ranch at your own risk.

Airport: Christchurch International Airport



The Tekapo Expedition Trail

This ride, the longest horse trek in New Zealand, is a ride like no other. Some of the most testing terrain on the South Island is there to be conquered. You will travel through some famous high country stations, take in stunning scenery and cross some of the largest rivers on the island during your stay. The ride is renowned as being right up there when it comes to the longest, most adventurous and rewarding trails in New Zealand.

Day 1: Arrival 

A group shuttle transfer (additional cost) will be scheduled from Christchurch International airport, between 2:00-4:00pm, in accordance with the arrival times of guests. You will then be transferred the 100km distance to the home ranch for a delicious home cooked dinner and overnight accommodation.

Day 2: 

Departure in the morning from the home ranch after one last check to ensure all the packs are securely fastened and off on the start of the trail. You will follow the Hurunui River as you ride through the local hilly terrain before reaching the road to Lake Sumner and the national park beyond. Your first encounter of the park will see you crossing the Seaward River as you pass through the breathtaking "Maori Gully". 

As the afternoon progresses, you will ascend up the South Branch trail until you reach your overnight destination, the Eskhead Station. Originally built for the local sheep and cattle farmers to stay in, it is fully equipped with electricity and hot showers. Dinner will be cooked over open fires and a good nights rest will get you ready for your second day of riding.

Day 3: 

A hearty breakfast to start the morning before preparing your horses for the day ahead. You'll continue along the South Branch trail until you reach the Deep Creek Hut at the very top. There will be a brief rest here and a hot drinks before a steep two hour climb to the top of the Dampier Range. This marks the boundary between Eskhead and Mount White. From here you will descend to a small lake surrounded by beautiful grassland where you can stop for lunch.

Afternoon will see you continue down Andersons Spur, crossing the Esk River and continuing across vast open flatlands until you reach Maternity Gully. You will follow Ants stream winding down the gully for around one kilometre until you reach Anna Hut.

This will be your stop for the night. There are eight bunks in this hut, so tents may need to be erected in order to provide additional sleeping space. The dinner will be cooked over an open fire and recovery from the day's efforts is almost guaranteed!

Day 4: 

The day begins at 08:30 sharp, as you leave the Anna Hut, heading to your next destination, the shearers quarters at Mount White Station. The riding will take you around the national park's Main Range passing the hills of Big and Little Flora and through the beautiful countryside of Lochinvar. After crossing Nigger Stream, you will stop for a well earned lunch at the Hill Hut above. 

On the other side of the Esk River you will find the Puketeraki Range; a vast swathe of open country that is home to an extensive range of rugged peaks, as far as the eye can see. As you continue to skirt around Mount White you will find yourself high up on the ridge overlooking the station buildings below and your accommodation for the night. Tonights accommodation does offer electricity and hot water.

Day 5: 

Leaving the Mount White station accommodation after breakfast, you will now take on a change of scenery, riding across flat country heading for the Waimakariri River. At the point where the Esk and Waimakarir rivers meet will be the first of your major river crossing during the trail.

Once you've crossed the river, you're in Flock Hill territory. The riding will then take you over both flat and downhill terrain before you stop for a well deserved lunch and rest before you'll cross the Tranz Alpine Railway Line. From here it's short afternoon ride along dirt tracks in order to reach the Flock Hill Backpackers where you will stay for the night. Again, you will be treated to hot water and electricity tonight!

Day 6: 

Today is a slightly easier day and after the packhorses are unloaded you'll leave Flock Hill and take the ride around Constitution Mountain. This rugged and eroded peak has been slowly shaped by thousands of years of harsh weather and geological activity. From your tremendous vantage point you will be able to get a first glance at the Coleridge Pass which will be crossing the very next day.

After a long descent down the Broken River gully you will be able to join the Porter River and follow its course as it meanders toward the Christchurch Arthur Pass Highway. From hear you will ride on to the very scenic Porter Heights Ski Field and your accommodation for the night. Here a water wheel powers the electricity, producing hot water for showers.

Day 7: 

After breakfast you will depart Porter Heights and continue up Porter River heading towards the Coleridge Pass and the Craigieburn Mountain Range beyond. From the highest point you will have a perfect view of Lake Coleridge and the sparkling Rakaia River (of course, this will depend on the weather). 

After descending back down the steep side of Coleridge Pass, you will stop for a tasty lunch at the edge of the Coleridge Lake. Once everyone fills rested you will set off again, riding towards the Ryton River before crossing over and continuing past Lake Catherine and on to the junction of the Harper and Avoca Rivers. The final river crossing for today will see you reach Glenthorne Station, where you will stay for the next two nights. The station provides gas power electricity and hot water.

Day 8: 

This is a scheduled rest day which will allow everyone and everything to recharge and recuperate! You will have a chance to catch up with laundry, as well as being able to take advantage of options such as a hike up to Lake Lillian, viewing the Pinnacles - around an hour's walk along the river - or can simply relax and enjoy a well deserved rest like the horses.

Day 9: 

Today you will begin feeling very well rested! You'll leave behind the peace and quiet you've enjoyed for the last two nights and continue along the west bank of the Harper River until you meet the Wilberforce. Crossing the river you will find yourself on Mount Aldigus Station, made famous in the literature of Mona Anderson (author of "A River Rules My Life").

A well deserved lunch stop will allow you to take in the glorious surroundings overlooking the station, before continuing on to the Mathias River. Once across, you will be at Manuka Point Station where you will find comfortable accommodation in the shearer's quarters. Limited bunk space may mean that tents will need to be erected, but the shearer's quarters also provides electricity and hot water for showers. 

Day 10: 

After a hearty breakfast, with everything packed up and the packhorses loaded, you will depart the shearer's quarters and head onwards to ford the vast Rakaia River. With 5km of braided river bed to cover, the full crossing will take about an hour to complete! Once you reach the other side, you will find yourselves in Glenfalloch country. Heading south, following  Lake Stream, you will pass Lake Heron to the west, Glenfalloch to the east and the Ashburton Gorge ahead of you. 

Your accommodation for the tonight will either be at Lake Heron or Mount Arrowsmith. (Electricity and showers available)

Day 11: 

You will start off the day by taking a ride around Lake Heron in countryside of Mount Arrowsmith. The lake is renowned for its stock of trout, which at certain times of the year, you will spot leaping from the water.

Leaving this peaceful place, you will cross over the Ashburton River and on to Haketere Station, thousands of acres of grassy and tussock covered country will open up before you. Passing Lake Clearwater you will get your first opportunity to see the snowy summits of the Two Thumb Range. You'll then join the road at the Potts River Cutting. 

As you continue down to the Rangitata River you will be able to see the Mesopotamia Station homestead in the distance. Accommodation for the night will be in the shearer's quarters with electricity and showers.

Day 12: 

This is the toughest of the riding days! You will begin by riding up Scour Creek and following the old packhorse trails past Felt Hut and over the Bullock Bow Saddle on the Sinclair Mountain Range. After a few long hours you will begin the descent down into Bush Stream. Here you will find the Royal Hut which has been occupied by HRH Princess Anne and HRH Prince Charles. Tents will need to be erected and used here (no showers or electricity available).

Day 13: 

The dawn of the final day's riding will see the toughest climb of the trail ahead of you.You will ride up the Two Thumb Range and through Stag Saddle. Reaching 1924m (6314 ft) above sea level you will see some stunning views (weather permitting) of Lake Tekapo, Lake Benmore, Lake Pukaki, Mount Cook, Mount Tasman and many of the areas other high peaks.

From this point, there will be a four hour descent until you reach the Mount Gerald Station Quarters. This will be your accommodation for the night and you will be pleased to see the return of electricity and hot water here! 

Finally, the horses are washed down and brushed, enjoying being turned out into a sixty acre red and white clover paddock. This is saved only for them and will be their home for ten days, until new guests arrive and the long trek back to their home ranch is undertaken.

Day 14: 

Breakfast at Mount Gerald Station before you will say goodbye to the horses and take a transfer back to the home ranch. You will stop for a picnic lunch along the way. The evening will see you enjoying a hearty meal back at the home ranch, recounting stories of your adventures, a hot shower and finally a real bed to sleep in!

Day 15:

Following a leisurely morning with no swag rolling or pack horse loading to be done, you will be able to load your luggage into the van and be transferred back to Christchurch airport or city.

**Please note that the itinerary may run backward if you are travelling during the return leg of the trip (Lake to Base). 

Due to adverse weather conditions in the mountains, your trail may overrun - we advise all guests to therefore not plan any onward travel for at least 2 days after the end of the ride in order to allow for this.

Accommodation: You will stay in mountain huts along the route. These huts, and resting stations too, are designed with riders and other travellers in mind. They are warm, comfortable and superbly equipped for those of an equestrian persuasion. Tents will be supplied if there are too many riders to be accommodated in the hut.
Minimum group size: 5
Maximum group size: 15
Ability description: Novice riders and less experienced riders can be accommodated on this trail, provided they are firm capable and willing to get involved as much as possible. General good fitness and endurance is required owing to the length of this ride.
Type of ride: Pack trail.
Total riding time: 11-12 days (depending on ride direction).
Departure dates: 2019:
31st October- 14th November, riding South from Base to Lake, 20th November- 4th December, riding North from Lake to Base.
Pricing: 2019:

Prices will be finalised once the 2018/19 season is over in May 2019. Please contact us if you would like to be kept informed of when we receive these.

Price includes 14 nights full board accommodation in a range of mountain hut and tent accommodation (some with electricity and hot water and some without), as well as 11 days of horseback trail riding and transport of luggage and supplies by pack horse.

Price does NOT include airport transfers, alcoholic drinks (which must be ordered in advance), sleeping bags, riding equipment, travel insurance and flights.

Note: All programmes and itineraries are weather dependent; in the face of adverse, or unexpected, weather conditions reasonable attempts will be made to provide equivalent riding.

All programmes are accurate at the time of writing. However, the team may adapt or modify details, whilst aiming to provide a similar experience.