Where: Cave Stream, just west of Castle Hill Village, Canterbury
Distance & Time: 1km, 45 minutes
Take: warm clothes that can get wet, headtorch, sneakers, change of warm clothes for afterwards
Amenities on route: Bathrooms at the carpark
Cost of the walk: Free
This is the shortest walk I’ve written about so far – less than a kilometre. So you’re probably wondering why on earth is it worth writing about then? Well, the answer to that is that while it’s a short walk, 600 metres of it is in a river, in a cave.
You need to pick your timing for this walk – I recommend a sunny, warm day as once you’re out of the water it can get cold, very quickly. You’ll likely also have a drive back to your home/accommodation, so make sure you have a change of warm clothes in your car!
The walk is off the main road over to Arthur’s Pass, and I recommend combining it with a walk at Castle Hill – do Castle Hill in the morning, have some lunch, and then do Cave Stream. Well, at least that’s how we did it and it worked out great.
Look up on the DOC website before you go to see about the water levels at Cave Stream. The deepest part is at the very beginning, so if you can get through that, you’ll be fine. Try to avoid doing this walk after a lot of rainfall, if you can.
When we arrived, we were at the top of the cliff reading the information boards before walking down when a girl came up by herself. She had her thermals on, and a headtorch, but she didn’t look wet. We asked if she’d been through and she said she went to the entrance but it looked deep and she was a bit nervous to do it on her own. We invited her to come and check it out with us, and that we’d send Paul in first, as the tallest, to gauge just how deep the water was!
It’s recommended to walk upstream, so that’s what we did. I’ve heard of people walking it in the other direction, which would be cool to try. Maybe on a day when there aren’t many other people around so you’re not having to pass by people in the cave.
We had our sneakers and shorts on, but made sure we had warm layers on top, including a wool hat, and our headtorch. You don’t need to take anything else in with you, although we took our cellphones and the car keys with us. Depending on how tall you are, you should be able to keep a backpack dry fairly easy.
A couple of things – I thought it would be slippery being a river walk, but it’s not. You can easily walk on the rocks under the water without feeling as though you’re going to slip with every step. You also get used to the chill of the water fairly quickly, as you’ve got no other choice. And if you ever get to the point where you’re not feeling comfortable or safe anymore, you can easily turn around and head back out. You can’t get lost, just follow the water.
You do need to have a decent headtorch though. Don’t try it just with holding your cellphone light up, or holding a torch. You need your hands, especially at the end of the walk.
The start of the walk was the deepest, it came up to chest height on me (5″10) , but only for a couple of metres before the water level settled to around my knees/thighs for most of the walk. Occasionally it would come back up to my hips, but not for long. It’s pointless trying to stay dry on this walk, it just won’t happen!
Amy’s Advice – if you are on your own, or a bit nervous, see if you can team up with others who are also doing the walk. And if you walk in the middle, you’ll have more light to see as you’ll have the headlight in front of you, your own, and the ones from behind you!
About half way though the walk, we all took a moment to turn our headlamps off. No surprise, it was incredibly dark! It was quite cool to do though, and I recommend it.
There is a spot just over half way, where you have to step up against a flow of water. It can be a bit tricky to get a grip to get up, we had Paul give us a hand up, which was good. It shouldn’t be too much of a problem though, just something to be aware of. If you can get one person up, they can then help to bring up everyone else in the group.
Before much longer you’ll get to some ladder rungs in the cliff, use these to pull yourself up and then you’ll need to slide on your tummy or back under a low cliff to get yourself out. All totally doable and fun! And then it’s a gentle walk back up to the car park and to sunshine and bright light (hopefully!)
Thank you for coming and having a look around my site! If you like what you see, or you have found it informative, please consider buying me a coffee – thank you, and enjoy getting out for your next walk!
The photos were taken by Paul + I!
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