Tag Archives: new zealand top hikes

New Zealand top hikes

Emerald Lakes, Tongariro Crossing
                           Emerald Lakes, Tongariro Crossing

Top multi day hikes:

  1. The Routeburn Track. A glorious walk through meadows, ancient forests, waterfalls and lakes including a high mountain pass.
  2. The Tongariro Northern Circuit. Walk through active volcanic scenery passing craters and steamy lakes with the possibility of climbing Mt Doom.
  3. Lake Waikaremoana Track. A very atmospheric walk around a remote lake.The Milford Track. Unique animal and vegetation as well as wonderful waterfalls on the way to Milford Sound.
  4. The Milford Track. Unique animal and vegetation as well as wonderful waterfalls on the way to Milford Sound. It is located close to the Routeburn Track, which I would walk instead of the Milford if not possible to secure a space.

    The Pacific coastline between Heaphy Hut and Kohaihai
    The Pacific coastline between Heaphy Hut and Kohaihai

Top day hikes:

  1. The Tongariro Alpine Crossing. I walked this as part of the Tongariro Northern Circuit. This is a spectacular walk through volcanic craters and lakes next to Mount Ngauruhoe (Mount Doom) with steam coming up from underneath.
  2. Pacific Coast walk between Heaphy Hut and Kohaihai. Spectacular walk along the Pacific Coastline. Is also the last day of the Heaphy Track but can be walked as a day walk up to Heaphy Hut.
  3. Mount Taranaki Summit Track. The toughest hike I did in New Zealand, much tougher than any of the Great Walks, crossing a snow-filled crater and with fabulous views from the summit
  4. The Mueller Hut Track. Great hike with views of hanging glaciers and Mt Cook.
  5. Avalanche Peak. Once above the treeline the views of the neighboring snowcapped peaks in the Arthur´s Pass National Park is glorious.

    Lake Harris on the Routeburn Track
    Lake Harris on the Routeburn Track

List of New Zealand walks I have walked:

Multiday walks:

Great Walks:
Abel Tasman Coast Track, New Zealand (2015)
Heaphy Track, New Zealand (2016)
Kepler Track, New Zealand (2015)
Lake Waikaremoana Track, New Zealand (2016)
Milford Track, New Zealand (2015)
Routeburn Track, New Zealand (2015)
Tongariro Northern Circuit, New Zealand (2016)

Other multi day walks:
Angelus Hut Track, New Zealand (2016)
Queen Charlotte Track, New Zealand (2016)
Tarawera Trail, New Zealand (2016)

Day walks:
Avalanche Peak Track, New Zealand (2016)
Mount Taranaki Summit Track, New Zealand (2016)
Mueller Hut Track, New Zealand (2016)
St Arnaud Ranges Track, New Zealand (2016)

Panekire Bluff
                       Panekire Bluff, Lake Waikaremoana

New Zealand Great Walks

In 2015 and 2015 I walked all seven of the mainland New Zealand Great Walks that are actual walks. Thus, the only two I did not walk were the Rakiura Track on Stewart Island and the Whanganui Journey (on the mainland, but a canoe trip, not a walk).

Sutherland Falls, Milford Track
                           Sutherland Falls, Milford Track

The Great Walks are all relatively easy walks, with no scrambling required, thus appealing to people of average fitness and average hiking experience. They have also been chosen to represent the variations in scenery and ecosystems offered. The drawback to these walks are that all camping and hut spaces must be booked in advance via the DOC (online or in person), meaning that some of the most popular tracks sell out months in advance, most notably the Milford Track. I succeeded in getting tickets to all of the below walks a couple of days before departure, except the Milford Track (I finally booked with a commercial agency) and the Routeburn Track (I walked it in one long day).
There are plenty other hikes just as beautiful as the well-marketed Great Walks, some of them significantly more difficult. Unfortunately, I have, as of now, only walked a few of them.

Lake MacKenzie on the Routeburn Track
                  Lake MacKenzie on the Routeburn Track

Below a brief characteristic of each walk linking to an in-depth post:

Abel Tasman Coastal Track, New Zealand (2015)
Golden beaches and tropical vegetation. A very easy walk.
Heaphy Track, New Zealand (2016)
Pleasant walk through meadow and forest ending in a glorious walk along the Pacific coastline.
Kepler Track, New Zealand (2015)
Ascending to a ridge with fine views, the a pleasant walk through forest.
Lake Waikaremoana Track, New Zealand (2016)
A very atmospheric walk around a remote lake.
Milford Track, New Zealand (2015)
Unique animal and vegetation as well as wonderful waterfalls on the way to Milford Sound.
Routeburn Track, New Zealand (2015)
A glorious walk through meadows, ancient forests, waterfalls and lakes including a high mountain pass.
Tongariro Northern Circuit, New Zealand (2016)
Walk through active volacanic scenery passing craters and steamy lakes with the possibility of climbing Mt Doom.

Information: Department of Conservation information on the Great Walks.

Queen Charlotte Track

The Queen Charlotte Track spans 70 km from the historical Ship Cove (Captain Cook´s New Zealand base) to Anikawa on the Queen Charlotte Sound in the Marlborough Sounds area.

The Queen Charlotte Track is not classified as a Great Walk, thus campsites are somewhat easier to  come by as advance reservation is not required. In addition, numerous tour companies provide luggage transfer by boat along the route and comfortable accommodation in hotels is available.  Furthermore, the track itself is of only moderate difficulty: An undulating and furthermore well-maintained trail with no major ascents.  As a consequence, the Queen Charlotte Track attracts a somewhat wider audience than many of the other walks and is indeed one of the most popular tracks in New Zealand.

Queen Charlotte Track
                                  Queen Charlotte Track

The track moves through subtropical forests with views of the Queen Charlotte Sound and strictly speaking, compared to the diversity of many other New Zealand walks I did end up finding Queen Charlotte Track a bit monotonous. From a technical point of view several of the Great Walks are just as easy to walk (such as the nearby Abel Tasman Coastal Track and Heaphy Track) and both offer more scenic variation. However none of these offer the touristic services that the Queen Charlotte Track does.

Queen Charlotte Track
Queen Charlotte Track

Boats to Ship Cove/Anakiwa and other points on the track leave several times during the day from Picton Harbor, where outfitters offer all the needed services (including track pass) to walk the Queen Charlotte Track. Campsite tickets available at the nearby DOC office.

My itinerary:
Day 1: Picton-Ship Cove-Camp Bay Campsite.
Day 2: Camp Bay Campsite-Cowshed Bay Campsite
Day 3: Cowshed Bay Campsite-Anakiwa-Picton

Difficulty: 2.

Information, bookings and maps: DOC (Department of Conservation). Queen Charlotte Track official site

Click for photogallery of Queen Charlotte Track (February 2016)

St Arnaud Range Track

Together with the Avalanche Peak Track, the St Arnaud Range Track was listed as the top day walk of Lonely Planet´s South Island travel guide. Which is why I chose this as my first walk in Nelson Lakes National Park,  having arrived at St Arnaud´s village after a 20+ hours drive, straight up from the torrential rains in  Milford Sound.

Lake Rotoiti
                                                   Lake Rotoiti

The St Arnaud Range Track is a straight-forward 600 meter climb from the east side of Lake Rotoiti,  up through forest to the ridgeline. A 5 hour return trip. The forest is pleasant enough, the view from the ridge is fine. However, compared to the spectacular Robert Ridge Route to Angelus Hut just at the other side of the Rotoiti lake, I am curious as to just exactly why this hike was nominated a Top Two South Island day hike? Not to mention the superb Mueller Hut Track and the world class hike up the Pacific coastline from Kohaihai to Heaphy Hut?

Highlights: The view from the ridge line.

Difficulty: 2

Information, and maps: DOC (Department of Conservation).

The complete photogallery of St Arnaud Range Track (February 2016) is available on flickr.

Angelus Hut Circular Track

Angelus Hut Circular Track, Nelson Lakes National Park, New Zealand:

The first day: From Mt Robert Car Park outside St Arnaud up to Angelus Hut via the Speargrass Track camping at the Speargrass Hut.
The second day: Ascent to the Angelus Hut and return via the Robert Ridge Route.

Curiously, the real difficulty of this circular hike was not walking the Robert Ridge Route (a straight-forward non-exposed ridge walk) but the hike along the Speargrass Track, marked as an easier exit track. It definitely was not when I was there. Several sections of the trail had been washed away, route finding was very difficult, and a stream had to be waded several times as well as traversing a rather exposed muddy section. Even on the initial section up to Speargrass campsite, a rather large river had to be waded. In summary, the Speargrass Track unexpectedly turned out to be the single most difficult walk I did in New Zealand. Once at the Angelus Basin (and hut) the trip back down via the Robert Ridge was straightforward, the initial section being the steepest, with great views all around.

Robert Ridge Route
                                        Robert Ridge Route

Highlights: The Angelus Basin; walking on the Robert Ridge.

Difficulty: 4 for the Robert Ridge track. 5 for the track, with route finding issues, large streams and a couple of exposed sections.

Information, bookings (Angelus Hut and campsite must be booked in advance in high season) and maps: DOC (Department of Conservation).

The complete photogallery of the Angelus Hut Track is available on flickr.