Mount Iron Track

Mount Iron Track – East

Mount Iron is the obvious hill with a cliff face right next to Wanaka township. Along with the Glendhu Bay walk, the loop around the hill (aka the Mount Iron Track) is the go-to for locals.

For visitors, the 240 metre, often-steep climb is probably not so enticing as there are so many other options for the hour and a half it takes to complete the loop track, though it is quicker if you go up and down the same way. We have always ended up doing it in poor weather just because it is so accessible. You can start the loop either from the carpark off SH84 at the southwest end of the Mount, or from Old Racecourse Rd on the east side.

In practice, the Mt Iron Track is really two very different experiences. From the SH 84 car park, it is a moderately steep and continuous hike up to the top on the west side of the mount. This section is relatively exposed, with steep rabbit-infested grassland. It is definitely not that pleasant when it is warm, windy and dusty. There are some patches of kānuka and some striking examples of matagouri, a rather unfriendly-looking spiky native bush. The view over the town and lake is the major redeeming feature and it only takes about 20 to 30 minutes to get to the top, which is bounded by the southend cliff.

Once at the top, the views are superb, and there are also some interesting panels that describe the history of the area, including the effect of glaciation. Mount Iron was a piece of harder rock that survived the grinding of the ice that carved out the Lake and flattened the surrounding area.

From the top, you can continue on to the east side track to complete the loop, or go back the way you came.

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The section of the Mount Iron Track on the east side of the Mount is a more interesting hike than the west side. You can start from the end of Old Racecourse Road in Wanaka or walk from the SH84 car park below the southend cliff to where the track starts its climb up the side of the cliff in a series of switchbacks.

Most of this walk is well sheltered in kānuka forest, with some great cliff-edge views over Albert Town, and Hāwea as you climb higher. In places the track is quite rough and rocky, but it always feels straightforward.

There is one almost magical section, especially when it is a bit wet. This is about halfway up where a large area of intensely green moss grows below the kānuka, creating a surprising rain forest effect in what is normally a pretty dry place.

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