Acland Falls emerges through the dense thicket overhead, sliding down a rock face covered
in lush, dark green foliage that lines the wall of this beautiful little grotto in the Peel Forest. The waterfalls
are slightly hidden around a bend until you reach the slightly elevated viewing platform.
Above: The first glimpse of Acland Falls, peering into the grotto
(Order this image)
There are two paths by which you can reach the falls. I chose the slightly shorter but steeper walk from Cain Flat, which is an open
grassy area about 100 metres past the camping ground entry. The walk itself is only 900 metres long, and the ascent up the hill only
takes up the first 770 metres of that, but there are plenty of steps and very few flat sections in between to catch your breath. The track
is however well defined and mostly dry under foot.
The slightly longer route starts from the northern end of Te Wanahu Flat, which is the large area with a gravel car park shortly after
passing the sign for the start of the Big Tree walk. Both routes join at the top of the hill before a short descent down into
the creek valley to the falls.
Above: The base of the falls and the shallow pool
(Order this image)
The flow of water in this little creek is typically only quite small, but it appears more impressive within the enclosed space
surrounding it. Outside of high flow periods, you can wander up along the creek bed beside the flowing water to the little pool at
the base of the falls. This involves a little bit of rock hopping. You can't see the very top the falls because the view is obscured by
the forest understorey, but it's challenging to peer up through the foliage to try and trace its origin.
Here is a quick video of the falls, including sections of the Peel Forest along the track. This video was taken in winter when the falls
were flowing well, but not in flood, so you could walk up to the base of the falls.
Your Seasonal Guide:
|Streamflow data is not locally available for this river, but based on available rainfall information,
there is likely to be reliable flow over the falls all year round except in extreme drought years, with the highest
flows typically in winter (June to August).
||Visit during the morning when sunshine is better able to reach into the grotto.|
Other Information Before You Go:
Peel Forest Park Scenic Reserve, Rangitata Gorge Road, 13 km north of the Inland Scenic Route (72) near Arundel,
and 140 km (approx. 2 hour drive) west of the Christchurch city centre.
From Christchurch head along the Main South Road (1) through Ashburton to Hinds, where you can cut across
to the Inland Scenic Route (72) at Arundel. From Arundel, continue along the Inland Scenic Road then head north into Pratt
Road, which soon joins the Peel Forest Road / Rangitata Gorge Road which takes you to Peel Forest. If your GPS sends you down
the gravel road next to the river (as mine did), head west until you are able to get back onto the main sealed road heading
north to the forest. Once at Peel Forest, either stop at Te Wanahu Flat or continue a few hundred metres further along,
past the road to the campground, to the start of the walk at Cain Flat, which is signposted. You can park on the grass at Cain Flat.
10-15 metres. The Department of Conservation' track notes estimate to be 14 metres.
Swimming available at the falls:
No, the pool is too shallow for a swim, but you can put your feet in the water
None at the falls. A car park, picnic table, picnic shelter and toilets are located at Te Wanahu Flat. There
are no facilities at Cain Flat. There are no rubbish bins, so take your rubbish home with you.
Shade available at the falls
Prohibitions including whether you can bring your dog:
No dogs, hunting restrictions apply.
Camping is available at the Peel Forest Park Campground, which is located at Clarke Flat on
the Rangitata Gorge Road. The campground has both powered and unpowered sites, and includes a kitchen, laundry, toilets
and showers. The campground is closed over winter. You can book a site through the Peel Forest Cafe and General Store.
If you are staying overnight in the area and don't want to camp, you can try a
country garden cottage
in Peel Forest, roughly 3 km south of the walk to the falls.
NZ Department of Conservation
The Big Tree Walk, which starts a few hundred metres back, just before Te Wanahu Flat.
Before you head out, make sure you read the
waterfall safety information
and check with the managing authority for any current change of conditions.
The marker indicates the approximate location of Cain Flat at the start of the walk to the falls.
If you would like to leave a comment about this waterfall, please fill in the comment box below.
I'm particularly interested in your experiences after visiting, and any changes in conditions, etc.
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© Brad Neal 2020. All rights reserved.