It’s a steadier climb with fewer steep sections than the likes of Little Mt Peel, Mt Somers or Mt Guy, but a hike up the 1172m peak of Mt Alford has plenty to see along the way and 360 degree views at the top.
The popular track starts from the car park at the end of Alford Settlement Road, just off State Highway 72. It is a 12.5km drive from Methven, or 30 minutes from Ashburton.
Access to the Mt Alford Conservation Area is signposted from the car park and takes you through a paddock, up through the trees and then across a farm track.
The well marked track climbs steadily through a reserve that features podocarp tree species that survive and regenerate in the often damp area.
Typical forest birds found in the bush are fantail, bellbird, grey warbler, rifleman, tomtit and silvereye.
Just before you emerge out of the trees a white bench offers a place for a break and chance to enjoy a snack and drink while taking in the views of the plains below.
The route then emerges through the open section and on to private land, so walkers need to follow track markers and close gates.
A steady climb through subalpine vegetation brings you to a picnic table, a little worse for wear these days, that represents the halfway point of the ascent.
There are great views out to Pudding Hill and the meandering Ashburton River.
The track gets a bit steeper and the ground rocky for a while, but there are also stretches to get your breath back.
From the summit there are wide views across the Canterbury Plains and the inland mountains.
Around the summit of Mt Alford subalpine shrubland is dominated by dracophyllum and slim-leaved snow tussock. A small stand of Hall’s totara is also present.
It is a 4.6km walk to the top, which is marked by a rock cairn, and 690m vertical gain.
Most people can expect to knock off the climb in between two and three hours, and less for the descent.
Access easements to Mt Alford are closed for the month of September each year due to lambing and calving.