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Sawcut Gorge Walk

The Gorge is a great place to be on a hot day!  With excellent swimming holes and towering rock faces, it’s an awesome summer experience.

Quick Facts

        • Location: East Coast, Northern end of the South Island
        • Distance: 3.00 kms
        • Time needed: 3 Hours
        • Difficulty: Very Easy
        • Wheelchair Access: No
        • Route: One Way
        • Elevation: 220m
        • Wet Feet: Yes
        • Toilets: No
        • Dogs: No
        • Mobile Coverage: No
        • Last Updated: November, 2019
  • Track Highlights

    The Gorge.  In all my days of hunting in the North Island, I have never seen a gorge as high and narrow, plenty in Australia but not with crystal clear water running through them.

    Excellent swimming holes, all the way up to the gorge. Towering rock faces, a fantastic place.  Awesome in the summer.

  • Track Quality


  • Hazards

    DO NOT walk up the creek when in flood or if it looks like rain.

  • Transport


  • Water

    From side creeks, up past the farm land.

  • Driving Instructions

    From Blenheim township. Get onto State Highway (1) to the Kaikoura and on to Christchurch.
    Seddon is a short 25k drive.  Just before Seddon is the famous single lane Awatere Bridge, where the freight train passes over the top of the passenger cars.
    After Seddon, the next feature is lake Grassmere 35ks. our biggest salt works.

    At 46ks you will be driving through a little county town called in Ward.
    54ks, you will be approaching the Waima River.  Now slow down, on the right just before the bridge you should see a push bike sitting on top of a white water tank.
    Turn right onto Ure Road.  Drive 11.9ks for 30 minutes up a gravel road.

    The last 15 minutes is very narrow and steep. You might have to open two of three gates along the way.  Please make sure you shut the gates after you.
    You cross private land at the road end.
    2WD vehicles must park beside the house, 4WD vehicles only can drive to the gravel road end. Please check in at the house where there is a visitors book and intentions board for hut use.
    Please also note that standard DOC hut fees of $5 adults $2.50 children apply at the hut, please purchase hut tickets prior to leaving.

  • Shops or Restaurants nearby

    None close by.

  • Area & Track History

    If you have legs like a mountain goat, and woul dlike to try your hand at deer hunting, keep walking.

  • Best Things To Do near this walk

  • Map of walk

    Zoom in to see the full track details. If you click on the tiny box with the little arrow next to the words “Freewalks NZ Map” it will expand and give you more options for viewing other walks around New Zealand.

Points of interest along the walk

In the map above, if you zoom in on the walk, you’ll see all the following track points and their location. Each point has photos along with a description about each one.

Point 1: Sawcut Gorge – Start

The drive in is very eye-catching.  Just keep one eye on the road; it is a long way down to the bottom.  We also noticed there was no water in the river so what’s the point of going any further if there’s no water in the Gorge?

It was a hot day and we were looking forward to a swim, shall we turn back?  But we’d heard so much about the fantastic Sawcut Gorge we decided to carry on.  And a good job we did too because there turned out to be plenty of water in the river but it was running underground most of the way.

At the end of the road, pull over to the side, there is a house on the other side of the creek.  Don’t block then off.  The best way to attack the start is to walk across the creek right in front of you, then turn up river and follow the worn track. You should see the orange triangle on the post.

Point 2: Sawcut Gorge

One crossing down 14 to go. Some of the crossings are marked with the orange triangles.  The rest is down to gut feeling.  When you run out of hard ground, look across to the other side.  The track is well used, look for boot marks and well trodden ground.  There are no deep water holes.  On a hot day, why not walk all the way in the creek.

Point 3: Sawcut Gorge

As you can see there are excellent views of the creek and mountains. Don’t be deceived by the crystal clear water on a hot day, it can be unusually cold.  I sat there and watched, as my partner took a very speedy dip in the creek. If you have plenty of time up your sleeve take hold of the camera and snap away. The creek and the hills sides covered in native bush look a lot more stunning on the laptop as a desktop background.

Point 4: Sawcut Gorge

Headache Stream, yes that’s its real name!  This can be a little tricky. 50m before the creek there is a track over to your right (true left) this runs up and over the creek missing out the little bit deeper hole.

Point 5: Sawcut Gorge

From here the terrain changes from a narrow winding crystal creek, to – look out babe.  I would not like to be standing here when a rock comes rolling down this rock face. There is a little rock hopping to be had on this section, nothing too tricky but well worth the effort.

Point 6: Sawcut Gorge

Isolation Hill Reserve.  Keep to the left, and follow the markers for 3 minutes to Isolation creek. That rather large flat rock on your right makes a perfect picnic rock on the way back from the Gorge.

Point 7: Sawcut Gorge

Drop down into Isolation Creek which runs in from the left just before the creek and hard over to the left, there is a stack of rocks you can crawl under it saves you climbing over a lot more.

Follow the track for another 10m, then cross over the creek and then follow the track up to the main gorge.  You don’t need a torch, the first 10m of the gorge is the most spectacular, from there on the gorge widens out and carries on to Isolation hut, about 30 minutes away.

The gorge is a great place to be on a hot day.  The photos don’t really do it justice.

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Contact info

361 Ure Road, Ward 7285, New Zealand

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