Although we carefully planned our New Zealand trip (we had to book all our multi-day treks in advance because the huts sell out in high season), we always leave some space for unexpected adventures. With a Lonely Planet right beside us when driving, we came across a small section, telling us to check out the Clay Cliffs near Omarama. We totally missed them during our previous visit 9 years earlier so we figured we might as well check them out while we were in the area.
We were already pleasantly surprised when driving Lindis Pass earlier that day, coming from the south on our way to Mount Cook / Aoraki National Park. On this 912 meter high mountain pass, the lupins were in full bloom and the sun was shining brightly in our faces. The Clay Cliffs are located about 4 km north of a town called Omarama and are on private lands. When driving the 8 up north, take a left onto Quailburn Road. A bit further down, you’ll have to pay a small admission fee for the car and then you just continue driving.
Since there were no real signs about where to go, we just drove on until we reached the unpaved Henburn Road. While we were there, this road was in pretty poor condition, making us wonder if it would be safe to continue with our vehicle (a simple sedan) or if it would be better if we’d just leave the car and walk. Luckily the weather had been good so it was dry, however we can imagine that when the weather has been wet, it may not be a good option to drive all the way, unles syou have a high clearance vehicle.
Eventually, we reached a sign saying Four Wheel Drive and we knew we had to park the car there. From here, it’s a short walk to the cliffs only and soon enough you will be amazed by the stunning piece of mother nature that awaits you here.
The cliffs were formed about 2 million years ago, which may sound old, but compared to the surrounding mountains that are 250 million years old, it’s peanuts. They are made out of layers of gravel and silt, deposited by rivers flowing through the area 2 million years ago.
Although we expected something nice, we couldn’t have imagined what we were about to experience. After only reading a small bit in Lonely Planet and not hearing mych else about it, we figured it would be just a quick snapshot stop before continuing our journey onwards.
The easy hiking trail takes you right into the slot canyon and after a short stroll, all of a sudden you are surrounded by massive towers of clay. As we were the only visitors, it felt like we had arrived in a totally different world with just us and the pigeons that were housing inside the holes.
You can walk quite a bit up, until the trail gets steep and rustic. As we weren’t sure if the trail would continue (and we were short of time, unfortunately) we decided to take some more pictures and head back to the car after spending about one hour there.
Curious? Check our pictures and let us know how you like them. Nice huh?
Want to read more about our New Zealand trip? You may enjoy these:
– 10 fun things to do in New Zealand that don’t involve hiking
– My obsession with “Middle Earth”
– 24 hours in Mount Cook NP: how to make the most of it
Thanks for sharing!