Mount John Summit Circuit

Mount John Summit Circuit - Lake Tekapo Walkway, direct route to summit

Mount John Summit Circuit

Lake Tekapo Walkway, direct route to summit


57 Rankers Reviews

53 Face-to-Face

8 Lake Tekapo

Your Nature Guide

Marios Gavalas's avatar

Marios Gavalas

Author And Researcher

Nau mai, haere mai

Nau mai, haere mai

I'm Marios, delivering the best of Aotearoa's nature walks to your device.

I've personally walked hundreds of New Zealand's tracks and spent months in libraries uncovering interesting information on New Zealand/Aotearoa. And you'll find a slice of that research on this page - enjoy!


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Observatory - Mt John
View of Lake Tekapo from Mt John


Approx 3 km return | 1 hour 30 minutes return

360 degree panoramas. One of the best viewpoints in the country accessible by road (or foot). Mount John is a resistant cap of rock in an otherwise moraine filled basin. Mountain sprinkled in snow, parched tussock flats and turquoise lakes. Sounds too good to believe?!


You can either walk up (see Mount John via Lakeshore).

Or you can drive up. Just before the settlement of Lake Tekapo on SH8 coming from Twizel, turn into Godley Peaks Road. Continue 2 km to the gate and kiosk on the right.

As this road is privately maintained by the University of Canterbury, there is an $8 access charge.

Take care on the narrow drive up to the parking areas at the top. During busy times you may have to wait while traffic descends.

The start of the track is signposted from the carpark entrance.


The track can be followed either clockwise or anticlockwise. It is often narrow and rocky, but there is little gradient. It circumnavigates the summit with views changing from Lake Tekapo to the MacKenzie Basin to the highest peaks of the Southern Alps and everything in between.


The MacKenzie country is a moonscape. This elevated plateau was infilled by the outwash of glaciations. During Ice Ages, glaciers forming in the high peaks of the Southern Alps, disgorged vast quantities of material during their retreat. These meltwater rivers carried gravels, sands and silts, dumping their load in the natural contours and flattening them out.

Lying at altitude of over 600 metres and being in the rainshadow of the mountains, the dry, cold country around Lake Tekapo experiences a continental climate similar to Siberia. Summers are very hot, winters are very cold and there is little rainfall. This is why the area is so arid and dusty.

Mount John is a roche moutonee - or rock sheep. An outcrop of resistant rock has the effect of slowing a glacier in its tracks, arresting its flow and diminishing its erosive powers. An attenuated slope results. Conversely on the downstream side, an acceleration increases its erosive power, giving a steeper slope. Observed from a side view, the shape resembles a sheep - at least it did to French geologists who first described these features.


Feature Value Info


DOC Canterbury

Central government organisation


South IslandMount Cook - MacKenzieLake Tekapo


  • Walking
  • Free


Showing 13 reviews of 54.

From DK's avatar

From DK

Ranking: 9/10

Nice walk up to the observatory. Fantastic view. Ok café at the top. Enjoyed walking up and down.

Reviewed over 3 years ago

Sebasitian's avatar



Ranking: 9/10

Less crowded than the Tekapo Village and 360 degree view of the surroundings. Drive up ($8) or walk up (40 minutes). Can get very windy, but an awesome lookout.

Reviewed almost 5 years ago and experienced in January 2017

David Horley's avatar

David Horley

United Kingdom

Ranking: 9/10

This walk starts close to the Tekapo Springs and steadily climbs to the Observatory. Excellent views from the top!

Reviewed almost 5 years ago and experienced in January 2017

Amy Smith's avatar

Amy Smith


Ranking: 7/10

Nice walk, steep at times. On the occasion we visited, it was exceptionally windy, maybe the norm there. Great view from the top. A cafe at the top which is always nice.

Reviewed almost 5 years ago and experienced in January 2017

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Louisa Theimann's avatar

Louisa Theimann


Ranking: 10/10

This DOC walk took about 45 minutes to the top of the summit, where an observatory and cute cafe was waiting for us. The walk itself was steep in some parts, but anyway suitable for families and seniors. It was very windy at the top and we had a beautiful view over Lake Tekapo.

Reviewed about 5 years ago and experienced in December 2016



United Kingdom

Ranking: 8/10

The views from the observatory are amazing. The walk is steep, but short and sharp. The cafe at the top is great. Plenty of parking just next to the town centre.

Reviewed about 5 years ago and experienced in October 2016

Bobbie Jones's avatar

Bobbie Jones

New Zealand

Ranking: 9/10

Beautiful easy uphill walk to the Summit of Mt John by Lake Tekapo. About a one hour walk unless you watch the sunset (highly recommend, just be careful on your way down).

Reviewed about 5 years ago and experienced in October 2016

Susanne's avatar



Ranking: 7/10

A beautiful and not too difficult walk with a stunning lake and mountain view. Even on a sunny day enough space to find a peaceful atmosphere, not crowded.

Reviewed about 5 years ago and experienced in November 2016

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Lauren Goebel's avatar

Lauren Goebel

United States

Ranking: 10/10

Fairly easy trek, with stellar views of the lake from the top. Would suggest going midday as that is when the sun is overhead and the lake is at its brightest!

Reviewed almost 6 years ago and experienced in March 2016

Clotilde Graziani's avatar

Clotilde Graziani


Ranking: 10/10


Reviewed almost 6 years ago and experienced in March 2016

Kim-Lara's avatar



Ranking: 9/10

Up there you have an amazing view of the turquoise blue Lake Tekapo!

Reviewed about 6 years ago

Rebecca Wharton's avatar

Rebecca Wharton


Ranking: 10/10

What views!! Great area. Walking track to the Summit at Mt John. All really well signposted for trampers.

Reviewed over 6 years ago and experienced in February 2015

Matthias Thorn's avatar

Matthias Thorn


Ranking: 9/10

Go up to the observatory. Great views of Lake Tekapo and the scenery up to Lake Pukaki and Mt. Cook/Aoraki.

Reviewed about 7 years ago and experienced in January 2015

DOC Managed

Thanks to all the good people working for the NZ Department of Conservation - for all your hard work - making NZ more beautiful, accessable and healthy! Cheers 😍

Cymen Crick's avatar

Cymen Crick