Washpen Falls Track, Canterbury, New Zealand

Off the Beaten Path: Hiking the Washpen Falls Track

Last Updated: 19th September, 2023

The Washpen Falls Track is one of the best waterfalls walks in the Canterbury region of the South Island, and an absolute hidden beauty! Located in the small town of Windwhistle, this short forest walk gives you breathtaking panoramic views over the Canterbury Plains and nearby Rakaia River. With stunning native forest, lush ferns, and incredible rock formations, this walk has it all! Here’s everything you need to know about hiking the Washpen Falls Track.

Washpen Falls Track, Canterbury, New Zealand

Important Information for Visiting Washpen Falls

Know Before You Go

Washpen Falls is located on private land, and the management of the track is all done by the owners! There is a small maintenance fee that is charged to cover this ($10 per adult, $5 per child), which can be paid by cash in the honesty box at the trail head. Sometimes you will be greeted by the lovely owners, who gave us a trail map and a few pairs of hiking poles to borrow for the walk as it was a little muddy – how good!

Washpen Falls Track, Canterbury, New Zealand

Washpen Falls Trail Stats

  • Trail Distance: 3.1km loops
  • Walking Time: 1.5 – 2.5 hours return
  • Elevation: 190m
  • Trail Difficulty: A fairly easy walk, with some gentle hills and a rugged path

The Washpen Falls Track is an incredible forest track hidden in the Volcanic Canyon Reserve, only an hour away from Christchurch City. It is a unique walkway in that it is on private land, and is managed and maintained by the local farmers that allow public access to their farmland.

Washpen Falls Track, Canterbury, New Zealand

The path is well-maintained and easy to follow, although it can be a little rough and muddy in places – especially after rain! The Washpen Falls Track undulates for much of the way, with a gentle uphill through the forest at the beginning, but there is never a long steep climb. It is an easy walk that is pretty manageable for most fitness levels, as well as for kids!

When is the Best Time to Walk the Washpen Falls Track?

The Washpen Falls Track is open to the public all year round, with the last entry to the track being at 4 pm. Keep in mind that it is a forest track, and so sections can be a little bit slippy and muddy after wet weather – warm clothing and sturdy walking shoes are a must! We walked the Washpen Falls Track on a sunny, bluebird winters day, and it was perfect. With the crisp, clear winter air, we could see for miles over the stunning Canterbury Plains!

View From Bluff Lookout, Washpen Falls Track, Canterbury, New Zealand

How to get to Washpen Falls

This beautiful walk is located in the tiny farming settlement of Windwhistle, in the Selwyn District of New Zealand. It is around an hours drive from Christchurch City, or 20 minutes from Methven.

The Washpen Falls Track begins from the grassy carpark at 590 Washpen Road. From the Inland Scenic Route 72, head down Washpen Road, and then follow the signs right onto the farming property. At the end of the track you will see a grassy parking area, toilets, and a rustic shed that doubles as the visitors center. Here, you can pay the track fee, pick up an tail map, and see some of the historic photos of the farm before setting off on your hike!

What to expect when Hiking the Washpen Falls Track

From the Visitors Center, the trail begins on its gentle uphill climb through the lush forest of Radiata Pines and Cabbage Trees. This section is beautiful, with ancient trees providing shade during the warm days. Along the trail, there are even rock formations left over from the old Ice Age!

Fun Fact: Washpen Falls was created 80 million years ago with a major volcanic blow. This ancient eruption created the deep canyon and gorges at Washpen Creek, and you can see the remains of this eruption with the lava boulders scattered throughout the reserve!

Soon enough, the track emerges from the tree-line and rewards you for your uphill climb with the Bluff Lookout. This lookout is incredible, giving you panoramic views over the Canterbury Plains, Rakaia River, and (on a clear day) all the way out to the East Coast of New Zealand! This is a fantastic spot to sit and soak up the views, and a chance to give those thighs a rest. Not to worry, there is no more uphill after the lookout!

Canterbury Plains view from Washpen Falls Track, Canterbury, New Zealand

From the viewpoint, the Washpen Falls Track heads down through the open tussock and back into the forest. Here, it passes a large rocky overhang, which was historically used by Maori Moa hunters as a shelter, before arriving at the main event – Washpen Falls!

Maori Shelter, Washpen Falls Track, Canterbury, New Zealand

A wooden staircase leads down the steep gorge, giving you your first glimpse of Washpen Falls from above! This waterfall is nestled in the bush, and a very serene spot to stop. There is a wooden bridge that crosses the stream, which gives you an incredible view of the falls.

Washpen Falls, Washpen Falls Track, Canterbury, New Zealand

From Washpen Falls, you are nearing the end of the hike. The trail follows Washpen Creek through the moody forest until you reach Stone Lake – the last photostop on the trail. There is a small venue at the lake, including a few wooden tables where you can sit an enjoy a picnic. There is even a small rowboat that you can row around the lake! From here, it is only a few minutes of walking until you reach the carpark.

Rowboat on lake, Washpen Falls Track, Canterbury, New Zealand

FAQs – Hiking the Washpen Falls Track

Where is Washpen Falls Track located?

How long does the Washpen Falls Track take to walk?

Is the walk suitable for all fitness levels?

Are there any entry fees for the Washpen Falls Walk?

Is there a parking area at Washpen Falls?

Can I bring my dog on the Washpen Falls Track?

What should I bring for the Washpen Falls Walk?

Thank you for reading my post on hiking the Washpen Falls Track! Although I have lived in Christchurch all my life, I only got round to hiking this track a couple of years ago, and it blew my mind! The views are fantastic and it was a great day out. I hope you enjoy this guide, and the hike! Happy Travels!

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