If you’re a fan of waterfalls, mountain passes, and Lord of the Rings, than the Devil’s Punchbowl hike is for you. It’s a shorter hike that leads to the base of a 430 foot (131 m) roaring waterfall and is situated right off the main road through Arthur’s Pass to the west coast. The hike itself will only take you 1-1.5 hours RT and will take you across 2 beautiful bridges and through lush vegetation. It’s a safe hike rain or shine with the steepness of the trail being negated by slip protected stairs.
Distance: 1.8 miles/ 3km RT
Elevation gain: 200 feet
Time: 1 hour + for exploring
Parking Area: 140 West Coast Road
The drive from Christchurch is a beautiful one. At only 2 hours, it packs in some beautiful farm lands, mountains, braided rivers, and interesting rocky hills (ie. Castle Hill). From Christchurch, take highway 73/76 (13.9km) until it turns right and becomes old West Coast Road. You’ll follow that all the way (133.5km). You’ll know you are getting close when you cross the long 1-way bridge across the Waimankariri River and the turn off will be on your right just on the other side of town. (Look for Punchbowl Road)
Don’t use google maps as it will take you just past the turn off for the actual parking lot (speaking from experience) At the trailhead there are some portapotties but otherwise no facilities. You’ll start out walking up river to a visible bridge. You’ll cross 2 long bridges in short succession and follow the trail from there as it heads up wooden boardwalks and multiple stairs. There aren’t any trail splits or conflicting signs making this a very easy trail to follow.
About our hike:
As we drove from Christchurch, we noticed clouds overhead and high winds in the area which deterred us from our longer hike of the day- the Bealey Spur track. However we were not deterred from hiking to the Devils Punchbowl since for one, it is considered inspiration for some of the waterfalls used to create Rivendell in the Lord of the Rings and for two, it’s just an incredible looking waterfall.
Once at the Trail head, we practically ran against strong winds to the crossing of the first bridge which has no wind protection. Aka it kind of sucked. Once we were across those bridges however the trees broke the wind for us making for an easy, albeit wet, hike. It only took us 30 minutes up and though thoroughly drenched at this point, we still took a few minutes to stand at its base and take it all in before a quick 30 minute jaunt back to the car.
I can only imagine how resplendent this waterfall is in the sun, but for now I’ll take our memories of running across bridges to find shelter from the wind, learning my rain jacket was not indeed water proof, and gazing up at the tallest waterfall of our trip.
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