Numerous trails fan out from Arrowtown, and the Sawpit Gully Loop is one of the best. This hike delivers great views of the Arrow River, gorgeous panoramas from an open saddle, and spectacular fall color in a beautiful larch forest.
The Sawpit Gully Loop starts from the carpark near the Chinese Settlement in Arrowtown. Look for a footbridge that crosses the small creek, and then signs pointing the way to Sawpit Gully. The loop can be done in either direction, but a counter-clockwise route is described here.
The trail begins by following the Arrow River upstream with increasingly good views of the gorge below. As the trail climbs high above the river, a signed intersection points uphill to continue up Sawpit Gully, with the other option staying along the river toward the Macetown 4WD road.
Heading uphill, the trail gets much steeper as it climbs into the gully. In wet conditions, numerous crossings of the small creek are necessary. The climb continues into open, grassy country to the saddle between German Hill (which can be climbed via a short side trail) and craggy Brow Peak. Views from here are spectacular, encompassing Lake Hayes and The Remarkables to the south.
From the saddle, the trail heads downhill past the signed junction with the Big Hill Trail and through patches of native forest and exotic larch plantings. In autumn the larch take on a brilliant golden color, and makes Arrowtown have one of the better autumn leaf spectacles in all of New Zealand. The route continues downhill toward Arrowtown on a sometimes steep but well-formed trail. After the intersection with the Bush Creek Trail, follow the dirt two-track along the valley floor back to the carpark.