Queenstown is all about the outdoors, and what better way to experience it than by getting out into nature on an epic hike.
The amazing hiking trails in Queenstown need to be seen to be believed. From the mighty Ben Lomond, to secret lakeshore walks though native bush, there’s something for every level of hiker.
And, of course, these hikes are totally free, so you can add them to your Queenstown itinerary without worrying about the cost.
Whilst there are plenty of easy walks around Queenstown, this list takes a look at longer routes which are more challenging or steep. Some of the highest hikes in Queenstown aren’t actually that hard to reach, while some lower trails can be quite hard to navigate, so it’s vital to do your research.
It’s important to always be prepared when you’re hiking around Queenstown. Make sure to check the weather conditions, safety advice, and any other track issues with the DoC (Department of Conservation) office before attempting any hike in the region.
It’s also best to always bring lots of water and snacks with you, use sunscreen, wear suitable clothes and choose sturdy shoes with good grip and ankle support.
A great tip is to have a solid route plan in place before the hike and stick to it, you can also let your accommodation (or a friend) know what time you are expecting to be back.
Where: Start from The Remarkables Ski Field, a 40 minute drive from Queenstown.
Length: 3.5 kilometres, 2 hours return
The Lake Alta Trail has one of the highest elevations of these walks, but it’s certainly not the hardest as you’ll only need to take a short hike to get to the Lake.
The trail may not be long, at just 1.75 kilometres to the top, but it is steep and will require a bit of effort. Even the road to get to the parking lot where the trail starts from is an adventure.
It’s useful to know that cars must pay NZ $10 to drive on this windy road in order to get to the Remarkables Ski Field. There are other transport options from Queenstown too.
But the few that do make it to the Lake Alta Trail are rewarded with spectacular views from the 1,200 meter high Remarkables Ski Field. Simply wander around the stunning alpine lake, or hike right to the top of the saddle for epic views over the mountains.
Hikers with a keen eye will also spot familiar scenes from the Lord of the Rings - it was the filming location for the ‘Mines of Moria’.
Where: Start from Queenstown itself, or from the top of Skyline Gondola.
Length: The Ben Lomond Track takes between 6 to 8 hours in total, it’s a 14 km return from Queenstown or 11 km return from the top of the gondola.
For one of the best full day-hikes in Queenstown you can’t go wrong with the Ben Lomond Track.
It’s not for the faint-hearted though with a huge 1,438 metres of elevation gain! But you can cut out some of the legwork, jump onto the Queenstown Skyline Gondola and take a shortcut up to Bob’s Peak. Your legs will thank you later!
If you want to walk instead there are three options. You can take the official Tiki Trail (mentioned later in this article) or the One Mile Trail or the Skyline access road. T
The One Mile Trail can be confusing to follow and the Skyline access road isn’t very pretty as it’s used by commercial vehicles for Bob’s Peak, so we recommend sticking to the Tiki Trail.
From Bob’s Peak, it’s a steady incline to Ben Lomond. The route is clearly marked as it’s quite popular, you will eventually be rewarded by 360-degree views over Queenstown and the Remarkables.
You can also choose to skip the full hike and just head to Ben Lomond Saddle, a 3 to 4-hour hike that offers equally impressive views of the valley.
Where: The trail starts a 10-minute drive from Queenstown (towards Glenorchy).
Length: The Mt Crichton Track takes around 2 hours, it’s an 8-kilometre loop.
One of the easiest hikes in Queenstown, the Mt Crichton Track does have some steady incline, but it’s a pleasant walk that can be tackled by families with children and dogs.
From the trailhead, choose to walk clockwise on the loop and you will come to the 24-metre-long tunnel left from the goldmining era. At just 1 metre wide, this tunnel is a fun addition to the trail and kids will love running through it.
Next, you will come across an old 1930s hut built by gold prospector Sam Summers, along with a refreshing waterfall. The rest of the trail has other nice historical elements and lovely viewpoints to stop at.
Where: Start from Queenstown, or the small parking area at Belfast Terrace.
Length: 2 to 3 hours, 5 kilometres return.
Queenstown Hill is one of the most popular easy hikes in Queenstown itself. Expect to gain around 600 metres in elevation from downtown Queenstown, with a steady uphill climb that offers nice views for most of the way.
There is a small parking lot on Belfast Terrace which marks the start of the trail, but as it can get quite busy many people just start from Queenstown. It will take around 15 minutes to get to the trailhead from Queenstown centre - this adds on about 200 metres of elevation to the Queenstown Hill Trail.
The well-maintained trail winds its way up from town to a steel sculpture named the ‘Basket of Dreams’. From this viewpoint it’s a final 10-minute push to the panoramic summit. At the top, you will be able to see Lake Wakatipu, Cecil’s Peak, the Remarkables, and Bob’s Peak.
The way back is the same route, but will only take around 30 minutes as it’s all downhill. This is a reasonably easy hike that doesn’t require a car or too much effort, so it can sometimes get busy on a sunny day in Queenstown.
Where: Start at the Twelve Mile Delta Camping and Picnic Area, a 10 minute drive from Queenstown.
Length: 6.8 km return, around 3 hours.
This easy walking track follows the shoreline of Lake Wakatipu, passing through native bush it boasts spectacular views all the way along.
The Twelve Mile to Bob's Cove Track has some amazing scenery (you might recognise some spots as the filming location for the Ithilien Camp in the Lord of the Rings).
Younger hikers will love finding fossils at Farry's Beach, while older walkers can enjoy sweet-smelling clematis in springtime. It’s a good option for avoiding the Queenstown crowds in summer too.
Where: Start at Brecon Street near the base of the Skyline Queenstown Gondola.
Length: 4.2 kilometres, 3 hours return.
We already mentioned this one as the starting hike to the Ben Lomond Trail, but it’s worth a mention on its own. The Tiki Trail up to Bob’s Peak is a very popular hike in Queenstown, and there’s good reason.
The 450-meter elevation gain in just 2.1 kilometres of track means that the Tiki Trail is steep - you can see why they chose to build a gondola to reach the top!
The main reason to hike this trail is to get to all of the amazing Queenstown attractions at the top, take the luge, ride the gondola, or continue hiking along the stunning mountain ridgeline
Where: Start from Wye Creek Carpark, a 20-minute drive from Queenstown.
Length: 7 kilometres, 3 or 4 hours return.
This moderate trail requires a little more navigation than the other Queenstown hikes on this list. It’s also a high altitude track so it’s only really accessible in summer months.
The Wye Creek Track will take you alongside a water pipeline to an impressive hydro dam. The rest of the walk includes native beech forest and passing a lovely waterfall, but make sure to plan your route as the trail can be confusing to follow.
When you reach the top there are boardwalks and a viewing deck to take in the wonderful views of Bayonet Peaks and Queenstown.
You can also continue along the Wye Creek Trail to Lake Alta, but you will need to arrange return transport as the rest of the hike is between 6 to 8 hours one way.
Where: An 8 minute drive from Queenstown, just before the 12 Mile Delta Track.
Length: 3 hours, 3.3 km return.
Just a little further along the lake shore than the stunning Sunshine Bay is Seven Mile Point Track - also called the Seven Mile Track or the Wilson Bay Track.
This is one of the best off-the-beaten-path hikes in Queenstown as it’s full of secret coves and empty beaches.
The car park at Seven Mile is a great place for a picnic with large grassy slopes. Alternatively you can park at Wilsons Bay and walk the trail in reverse.
This scenic reserve is also home to several mountain bike trails, but the bike paths are well marked so you don’t run into them. Plus watching the riders make their way along the dirt tracks makes the walk even more enjoyable.
Where: Start at either end from the Routeburn Shelter (Glenorchy), or the Divide Shelter (85 km from Te Anau).
Length: 33 kilometres one way, 2 to 4 days.
One of New Zealand’s Great Walks, the Routeburn Track is an epic multi-day hike near Queenstown. It’s suitable for a range of walkers with several individual routes graded by length and difficulty.
Unless you have alpine skills, equipment and experience, the walk should only be attempted in the ‘Great Walks’ season that runs from the beginning of November to the end of April.
Most walkers will take 3 days (2 nights) to hike the full 33 kilometres, there are campsites and huts to stay in at Routeburn Falls and Lake Mackenzie Huts.
The huts cost around NZ $102 per adult per night, while the campsites cost around $21. Pre-booking is essential in the summer season. Transport must also be arranged to reach the start and end points.
Check the Department of Conservations website for more details.
For shorter day hikes there are plenty of choices too, like the Earland Falls Track, the Key Summit Track, the Lake Howden Track, or the Routeburn Nature Walk.
Where: Start at either end from Glendhu Bay near Wānaka or Arrowtown.
Length: 49 km one way, 3 to 4 days.
Part of the Te Araora Trail, the Motatapu Track is particularly demanding and only suitable for confident hikers.
Starting from the Fern Burn car park, the trail passes through grasslands and past beautiful waterfalls. Highlights of the multi-day hike are the Stack Conservation Area, Big Hill, Coronet Creek, and the stunning beech forest at Fern Burn.
Overnight stays are available at Fern Burn Hut, Highland Creek Hut, and Roses Hut. Although pre-booking isn’t necessary, it’s good to know that the huts are on a first-come-first-serve basis.
After crossing over mountain passes and sub-alpine scenery, the Motatapu Track takes you to the historic gold-mining settlement of Macetown, then the last leg follows an old 4x4 track over to Arrowtown.
The track mainly passes through privately owned land, so it’s a good idea to stick to the paths. Due to its mountainous nature, there is also an avalanche risk to be aware of - usually from May into November.