Hiking Havens: Discover Queenstown’s Top Trails for the Ultimate Outdoor Adventure

Estimated read time 7 min read

For untold generations, the rugged and picturesque landscapes surrounding Queenstown, New Zealand, have enticed explorers, adventurers, and nature enthusiasts from all corners of the globe. Best known as the adrenaline capital of the world, Queenstown offers a cornucopia of exhilarating activities, and for those who wish to slow down the pulse but still feel awe at every turn, its hiking trails are second to none. As a sanctuary for thrill-seekers and serenity-seekers alike, Queenstown’s pristine trails promise breathtaking panoramas and a deep connection to the surrounding environment.

Here, we dive into a trekkers’ paradise, exploring the best Queenstown has to offer, from the iconic day walks to the secluded pathways where you can lose yourself in the tranquility of the Southern Alps.

1. Queenstown Hill Trail: Where the Legends Meet the Lake

Leading you to the heart of the Wakatipu Basin, the Queenstown Hill Trail is where the stories of the land intersect with the majesty of the mountains. This beloved trek weaves a narrative of gold rush history, Maori legends, and breathtaking scenery that unfolds with every step.

At the apex of this three to four-hour hike, the ‘Basket of Dreams’ sculpture looks out to a vista of crystal-clear lakes and verdant valleys. The infamous “selfie wall,” a collection of mirrors capturing scenic reflections, adds a modern twist to this traditionally panoramic viewpoint.

The beauty of Queenstown Hill is that it is as rewarding as it is accessible, providing an immersive, half-day journey suitable for hikers of all levels. As you ascend through beech forests and open clearings, pause to absorb the tranquility that the ‘locals’ of this hill have known for centuries. Be sure to respect the ‘rules of the trail,’ especially when crossing the private property that grants passage to the summit.

2. Ben Lomond Track: The Athlete’s Ascent

For the serious trekkers, the Ben Lomond Track offers a full-day adventure that culminates with a view beyond compare. Tackling this challenging trail requires a good level of fitness, as the ascent is steep and sustained. The rewards, however, are extraordinary. Views of Queenstown, The Remarkables, and Lake Wakatipu will be etched into your memory for a lifetime.

This 6-8 hour hike is not just about conquering peaks; it’s about experiencing a dramatic shift in terrain. Beginning with a steady climb through alpine meadows and coniferous forests, the trail eventually gives way to tussock-covered slopes. If you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of the majestic kea, the world’s only alpine parrot.

As the trail continues to wind upwards, you’ll eventually reach the Ben Lomond Saddle, the perfect spot for a well-deserved rest and a panoramic lunch. For those still brimming with energy, the final ascent to Ben Lomond’s 1,748-meter peak offers a sense of accomplishment that’s hard to match. Just remember to pack appropriately for the alpine weather, as conditions can change unexpectedly.

3. The Routeburn Track: Spectacular Journeys

While technically not in Queenstown’s backyard, the world-renowned Routeburn Track is a rite of passage for hikers visiting the area. Long revered for its awe-inspiring landscapes and well-maintained pathways, this track is a showcase of New Zealand’s Southern Alps.

Day walkers can access the Routeburn near Glenorchy and make their way as far as they please, soaking in the stunning Blue Lake and the meandering Route Burn river. Those with more time can venture deeper into the wilderness, spending one or more nights at the track’s renowned huts.

Regardless of your level of commitment, the Routeburn Track is a chance to immerse yourself in some of the most captivating scenery on offer. Snow-capped peaks, ancient forests, and alpine meadows provide a backdrop for an experience that feels more like a fairytale than a hike.

4. The Tiki Trail: A Path of Character and Comfort

For those seeking a memorable journey with a side of convenience, the Tiki Trail is the perfect combination. Starting from the base of the Skyline Gondola, this zigzagging path leads you through pine forests and the alpinesque Bob’s Peak.

Not only is the Tiki Trail accessible to all fitness levels, the option to take the gondola down allows you to save your knees for another day of adventure. The relaxed pace and magnificent outlook over Lake Wakatipu make this the ultimate choice for families and beginners looking to be lured by New Zealand’s spellbinding nature.

5. Mount Alfred: An Invitation to Wilderness

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A short drive from Glenorchy, Mount Alfred serves up a day long trek remote from Queenstown’s busier trails. With a steady pace and a modest elevation gain, the Mount Alfred track offers a quintessential slice of Southern Alps grandeur.

What sets Mount Alfred apart is the sense of solitude and the feeling that you’re truly at the edge of the world, with only the wind and the peaks for company. As you savor the views of Dart Valley and the Rees River, it’s hard not to feel the serenity that comes with being truly off the beaten path.

Packing Essentials for Queenstown Hikes

Queenstown’s ever-changing weather means you should pack layers and be prepared for anything nature can throw at you. Bring plenty of water, high-energy snacks, and a camera to capture the unforgettable vistas.

Consider the right footwear for the terrain, and remember that the New Zealand sun can be deceptive — always have sun protection. For trails such as Ben Lomond and Mount Alfred, where you’ll be trekking above the treeline, warm clothing, gloves, and a hat are a must.

How long does it take to hike Queenstown Hill?

The Queenstown Hill Trail typically requires approximately three to four hours to complete. This duration includes the time it takes to hike the trail from the starting point to the summit and back, with a moderate pace. It is crucial for hikers to consider extra time for breaks, photography, and to enjoy the panoramic views, which may extend the outing accordingly.

What is the elevation gain of Queenstown Hill?

The elevation gain for Queenstown Hill is approximately 500 meters (1,640 feet). This steady climb is manageable for individuals of most fitness levels and offers a rewarding view of the surrounding area at the summit.

Must-Do Activities while You’re in Queenstown

Queenstown is not only a haven for hikers but also a playground for thrill-seekers and culture enthusiasts alike. When you’re not traversing the rugged trails, consider embarking on a jet boat excursion on the Shotover or Kawarau Rivers for an exhilarating ride through dramatic canyons. For those with a penchant for heights, bungee jumping from the historic Kawarau Bridge or paragliding from the Coronet Peak offers an unforgettable adrenaline rush.

Wine connoisseurs will delight in the local vineyards, where the tasting rooms provide an intimate look at the region’s renowned Pinot Noir and other varietals. Meanwhile, adventure-seekers can explore the underground networks of caves with a guided spelunking tour.

For a more leisurely pace, meander through the Queenstown Gardens, kayak on the crystal-clear waters of Lake Wakatipu or unwind in one of the town’s luxurious spas. As the sun sets, the bustling night markets and world-class dining options come alive, offering the perfect conclusion to an action-packed day. Whether it’s adventure or relaxation you seek, Queenstown’s diverse offerings ensure every traveler leaves with memories that last a lifetime.


The Queenstown region is a land of myth and wonder, where each trail offers an intimate and unique relationship with nature. As you plan your hiking adventures, remember that the journey is as important as the destination. Take your time, breathe in the mountain air, and savor each moment as you hike through one of the world’s most beautiful and diverse ecosystems.

The call of the wild is strong in Queenstown, and the best way to answer it is one step at a time. So lace up your boots, embrace the tranquility, and prepare to be awestruck by the raw beauty of New Zealand’s great outdoors. With every hike, you’ll discover a piece of the world that’s as stirring as it is serene, leaving you with memories as enduring as the Southern Alps themselves.

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