Don’t let the 2.5km distance fool you, the hike to Trotters Gorge on Aotearoa New Zealand’s South Island is a steep and slippery climb, but the mountain and sea views from the summit make it all worth it.


  • Close to the famous Moeraki boulders and Fur seal spotting
  • Lush walk along a rainforest stream 
  • Steep muddy uphill hike
  • Epic bluffs at the lookout


A Spontaneous Turn Off to Trotters Gorge

I like to think the best adventures are the ones that happen spontaneously. I’d just finished oohing and ahhing at Fur seals and their pups near the Moeraki Boulders on the Otago Coast before hopping in my car to head south towards Dunedin. After driving less than 10 minutes, I saw the road sign to Trotters Gorge and without thinking, pulled in to check it out. When you’re travelling by yourself you can do what you want!

I drove into the campsite and read the big green DOC sign – 2.5km, 2 hours return. I then did what all Explorers do and shaved an hour off the estimated time in my head – should be easy!

Read more: 6 Unknown Hikes On New Zealand’s South Island



The first part of the hike (tramp if you’re Kiwi) was following orange triangle markers on a sandy path next to a quiet stream. The rocks in the stream were beautiful earthy yellow and red colours, and not far into the walk I saw a sweet rocky wave wall moulded by the running water. A good place to stop and take in the scenery. The broadleaf forest holds a nice, cool, damp atmosphere to frolic about in too.

Read more: Remember to leave no trace!

Side note – I accidentally went off course here and lost myself a little while following the creek, before having to backtrack and find the proper track again. Could this have been avoided? Yes. What would I do differently? Look for the orange triangle markers instead of spending the whole time staring at my feet. Was it fun anyway? Yes. 

Read more: Lost And Found; Why You Should Do A Navigation Course


Back on Track

Ok, now things were getting muddy. I reached the first proper incline, looked up the hill and saw a family of boys sliding down the hill at snail’s speed. Nice one. ‘G’day guys’, I moved up the steep hill past them, feet out wide, feet close, feet on rocks and roots to hold steady, feet sideways – you do what you can to not slip and slide on your face. 

The mud started to dry out as the trees thinned into the Kanuka forest and the sun hit the ground. Not too long after that I popped out at the summit. What a view! I hadn’t done any photographic research of the hike so the lookout was breathtaking to see for the first time.

There were cheeky bluffs peering through the bush on either side of the valley and a stunning horizon of the sea in the distance. It was one of those moments where there was so much to take in and I couldn’t stop looking around. Behind me there was also a tower of beautiful red-pigmented rock that was just begging to be crawled on. 

I spotted a whale-sized bluff lying further down the viewpoint of the summit. I couldn’t help myself, so adventured my way through faint trails over fallen logs and under scratchy branches to stand out in the open of this beautiful bluff. The best part was I had it all to myself!

Read more: How To Squeeze Three of New Zealand’s ‘Great Walks’ Into Under Two Weeks


Essential Gear

How To Get There

Take the Horse Range Rd turn off from Hampden-Palmerston Rd, Moeraki, towards Trotters Gorge. Drive over the concrete bridge, take caution when water is overflowing the bridge from the river. Follow the road and park at the Trotters Gorge Camping/Day area. DOC signs clearly mark the start of the track.

Skill Level


Track can be slippery and steep. Suitable for people with moderate fitness and backcountry experience.

Distance / Elevation /  Duration

2.5km walk / 167m / 2 hours return