Lake Tekapo in Winter

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July 26th 2015
Published: July 31st 2015
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Unfortunately for the town of Tekapo, route 8 runs right through it, close to the lake, leaving little room for the town to develop gracefully. There is quite a bit of construction on the waterfront now and the town has some mediocre restaurants and a small, expensive grocery store.

But the Mt. John loop made up for all this. It begins about a km or so from the town, close to the hot pools and the snow park cleverly built under the cold shadow of Mt. John.

Taking the path along the water rather than the quick ascent through the pine forest, the icy trail rises slowly to incredible views of the intensely blue Lake Tekapo, with a backdrop of white backgrounds in the distance. The trail goes along the side of the mountain so once it was bathed in the low sun there was no more ice. There isn't any established viewpoint since the track maintains this view for close to an hour. I kept stopping to take photos because the scenery improves as the trail gets higher.

The trail then turns straight up the mountain. After another half an hour there is a stunning 270 degree viewpoint but it was ruined by a couple blasting Mexican music into the biting winds.

From there it continues up, steeply, and every hill seemed like it must be the last. Eventually I saw the observatory dome at the peak and the road that leads to it. Instead of joining the crowds I headed to the rocky south summit and then down the muddy, and eventually somewhat icy, steep grade toward town.

Most of this section is a dead pine forest, so it would be a bad idea to walk it when windy. There were several people walking up this section late in the day, to get to the observatory, but the section along the water is much better if you don't want to do the whole loop. The dead forest has some magic to it, but you can hear the music and people at the spa / snow park below for much of this section.

It took me about 2 hours and fifteen minutes (including the stretch to and from town) running most of it, except for the steep parts, with only a couple of short breaks.

Additional photos below
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