Guide by Roxanne de Bruyn
Last Updated 5 January 2023
Queenstown is known for its excellent hiking and the summit of Ben Lomond gives perhaps the most spectacular views in the area.
This full day-hike takes you through forests, up Bob's Peak (the site of the Queenstown gondola) and over ridges strewn with alpine tussocks.
It's a challenging hike to the summit, with a 1,438m elevation gain, but the frequent views of Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables make the climb enjoyable. Expect to take around 6-8 hours to complete the hike – it's about 14 km (8.7 miles) return from Queenstown and 11 km (6.8 miles) from the top of the gondola.
The last stretch is the most difficult, but the scenery is worth the effort once you get to the top. Marvel at the 360-degree views over Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu, the Remarkables and Cecil and Walter Peaks. On clear days, you can even see as far as Mt Earnslaw and Mt Aspiring National Park.
There isn't a toilet at the summit of Ben Lomond. However, you will find bathrooms at the top complex of the Skyline Gondola, and there is a toilet just before the Ben Lomond Saddle. Take toilet paper and hand sanitiser with you as none is provided at the toilet near the saddle.
Ensure you leave enough daylight hours, but pack a head torch just in case. You'll still have a 3-hour walk down the mountain once you've reached the summit. If you're planning to hike in the dark (e.g. because you want to reach the peak for the sunrise), be sure to take a headlamp with you.
Keep an eye on the weather before and during your hike. The weather on the mountain can be quite different from in town (even in summer), so be sure to dress in layers, pack a jacket and watch the conditions. If in doubt, turn back.
In winter, you'll need alpine equipment. Snow and ice make the track slippery, and there is an avalanche risk.
Check with the Department of Conservation for trail conditions before you go. You can also visit the DOC office in Queenstown if you need more information.
Ensure you follow the signs and orange markers to stay on the right track. There are also mountain biking trails and tracks formed by animals on the mountain.
For a shorter option with awe-inspiring views, you can walk to the saddle in 3-4 hours to return.
Tell someone your plans before you go.
The best time to hike up Ben Lomond is in the warmer months, between September and April. The height of summer (Dec-Feb) can get very hot, and the track can get quite busy during the day, especially around Christmas and New Year.
October and March are quieter, the weather is milder, and you'll still see some snow on the surrounding mountains in October. In September, you may still come across some snow on the track.
In winter, there will be snow and ice on the track, and the hike will be much more challenging. So if you're planning to hike Ben Lomond in winter, you'll need alpine equipment, including an ice axe and crampons.
No matter what time of year you're hiking, it's always best to check the conditions on the Department of Conservation website or drop into their Queenstown office before you go.
There are three options for starting the hike. The most popular is taking the Tiki Trail up to Bob's Peak. Pass through old Douglas Fir trees and a native Beech Forest before emerging at the top of Bob's Peak with stunning views over Lake Wakatipu. It's a steep climb; it should take around an hour to reach the Ben Lomond Trail.
You can also shorten the hike by taking a gondola up to the top of Bob's Peak. Stop to admire the views, then follow the signed track through the woods. You'll soon catch your first glimpse of Ben Lomond in a clearing in the trees.
Another option, if you have the time, is hiking One Mile Trail to Bob's Peak. You can access Mile Track from Thompson Street at the Fernhill roundabout (start at the One Mile car park), and you'll pass through the forest and past a waterfall along the way.
The trail then follows the track to One Mile Dam, one of New Zealand's first hydroelectric power schemes, and winds through the Beech Forest before coming out in a clearing with beautiful views over the lake. From here, follow the signs to Bob's Peak.
Be sure to follow the orange markers, as there are mountain biking trails in the forest, and it's easy to get confused. This track takes a little longer than the Tiki Trail (budget for over an hour) but isn't as steep.
No matter how you get there, the summit of Bob's Peak is the first significant milestone of the hike, so take a moment to enjoy the views of Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables before continuing.
The route to Ben Lomond is clearly marked at Bob's Peak. It's a steady hike uphill, with frequent views of the lake and mountains as you make your way up the mountain. Take care to stay on this track and not cross over to the mountain biking trail, which runs parallel to the walking track.
While this route is a bit exposed, it's an easy enough hike in good weather. If you're doing this hike between May and November, you may find ice and snow on the track, especially in the mornings. Again, if you're doing this hike in winter, you'll need alpine equipment.
It takes about an hour and a half (at a moderate pace) to reach the Ben Lomond Saddle from Bob's Peak. The saddle lies between the mountains, and the vast peaks of Mt Aspiring National Park are on display. So have a rest here (there's a bench), take some photos and have a snack – there's still a while to go before you reach the mountain's summit.
Hiking as far as the saddle is a good option for those that want a shorter hike. However, there are still beautiful views, and you can easily do the return hike in 2-3 hours.
Expect to take around an hour to hike from the saddle to the Ben Lomond summit. Once you pass the saddle, the track becomes much steeper and narrower and is exposed to the elements. This is the challenging part of the track as it's essentially uphill, and, once again, take care to keep to the trail. The scenery is lovely, and you'll even catch a glimpse of Moke Lake as you climb.
Once you reach the summit, you'll find yourself surrounded by 360-degree views of Lake Wakatipu, the Remarkables and Mt Aspiring National Park. This is easily the best view in Queenstown (unless you're seeing it from the air), so take your time and enjoy your surroundings.
Once you've had a chance to rest, eat and take some photos, head back down the mountain the way you came (there are a couple of false trails that look like they lead somewhere – they don't, so ignore these). If you're tired when you reach Bob's Peak, you can always take the gondola down (even if you walked up) to cut some time off the return journey.
Day pack with a waterproof liner
1 to 2-litre drink bottle
Packed lunch and snacks – more than you think you'll need
Fully-charged mobile phone
Sun hat beanie
Toilet paper and hand sanitiser
Dress in layers
A wind and waterproof jacket