Acland Falls was the first of three waterfalls that Julie and I visited in the peaceful and ancient Peel Forest (Tarahaoa). Perhaps the main reason why Julie and I found so much peace in this pocket of a reserve was that it seemed to be off the beaten path being at least a couple hours drive from Christchurch near Geraldine. We went here as our waterfalling excuse to break up the drive between Christchurch and Mt Cook (Aoraki). So even though the 14m falls didn’t blow us away with its thin flow and modest size, we felt an excursion to this waterfall was more about the lush scenery and a true escape back to Nature as opposed to the tour buses and crowds that we have been more likely with a more famous attraction.
We started off by hiking through an open grassy area at its signposted trailhead. The sign estimated that it would take 30 minutes to reach the falls. Once we got past the sign, we were promptly within the familiar bush scenery that we had experienced on most of the other waterfall hikes throughout the country. Yet what was remarkable about this particular bush scenery was that the Peel Forest was located on the leeward (drier) side of the Southern Alps, so it was pretty amazing to be walking amongst this lushness. As for the track itself, we immediately started climbing until we reached a signed trail junction at the apex of the climb.
At this junction, the left fork was for Allan’s Track, while the right fork descended back down towards Acland Falls said to be another 5 minutes further. Once we were at the bottom of the descent, the remainder of the hike involved stream scrambling within the small gorge carved out by the stream responsible for the falls itself. Fortunately, the stream walk was pretty straightforward because it was shallow, and it was made even easier since Julie and I were equipped with gore-tex hiking boots.
Ultimately, we found ourselves right in front of the sloping and slanting Acland Falls. Even though it was pretty sunny back at the trailhead, we were in the depths of a lush forest and gorge so there wasn’t a whole lot of light that made it through to the falls. Thus, I had to hold my breath to take photos as all of them were virtually long exposure shots in order to ensure the photos wouldn’t come out too dark. Anyhow, when Julie and I returned to the car, we had taken about 50 minutes, which was not much less than the original estimate given by the sign at the trailhead.
The way we went was from Christchurch going about 94km along SH1 from the SH73A/SH1 intersection at Hornby (in the outskirts of Christchurch) before leaving the highway at Delamaine St then quickly turning left onto the Hinds-Arundel Rd. We followed the Hinds-Arundel Rd for about 21km to the Geraldine Rd, where we turned left and crossed over the Rangitata River. Just beyond the river, we turned right onto Bridge St, which eventually veered left onto Peel St. We then followed Peel St as it then veered towards Pratt Rd where we turned right. Pratt Rd eventually joined into Peel Forest Rd, which we continued on for another 10km (road eventually becomes Rangitata Gorge Rd) towards the Acland Falls trailhead. This drive took us a little over 2 hours.
Parking at the trailhead didn’t seem official. Even though we managed to park near the trailhead, I wondered if we were supposed to have parked somewhere in the campground about 1km away because it was all grass at the trailhead with no obvious infrastructure or signage for car parking specifically for this waterfall.
Going in the other direction from Tekapo, we would have to go east on SH8 for about 42km to Fairlie, then go left onto SH79 towards Geraldine (another 88km later). We would then continue on SH79 for another 6km to Orari Bridge before turning left onto the Geraldine-Arundel Rd and following that road for 3km. At that point, we would turn left onto Peel Forest Rd and follow it until reaching the Acland Falls trailhead.
Alternatively, if you’re coming from the town of Geraldine, then go north on SH79 (Main North Rd) until you see Peel Forest Rd to your left. Turn left onto that road and follow it to the Rangitata Gorge Rd and the Acland Falls trailhead some 15km later.
From Timaru, take the SH1 north for another 21km before turning left onto the Winchester-Geraldine Rd, which would reach the town of Geraldine in 11km after leaving the highway. At that point, follow the directions (from Tekapo) at the part where we would continue going north on SH79 north of Geraldine to Orari Bridge and beyond.
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