There is only one word for New Zealand – epic!
Bear Grylls

Meandering fjords, medieval forests, lush green valleys, pristine beaches, and clear blue skies. If impressionist paintings could come to life, New Zealand is what they would look like. And you don’t just travel to New Zealand. You breathe the mountain air, you take cover under ancient trees, you pause at the snaking streams, you sleep under the stars, and you walk the trails. Hiking is how you experience the mind-defying splendor of this country. Whether you plan to venture on your own or opt for a bespoke tour, here are the top 10 hikes in New Zealand, which no travel itinerary should be without.

1. Roy’s Peak

To get to Roy’s Peak, you will have to hike through evergreen pastures and gorgeous steppes. Once you reach the summit, the reward will leave you breathless. For, all around you are spellbinding views of Lake Wanaka, Mount Aspiring/Tititea, and snow-covered peaks that stretch to the horizon. To make it more memorable, you have the option of camping there at night and waking up to a gorgeous sunrise or hiking at dawn to experience it.

Roy's Peak - Photo by Timothy Chan on Unsplash

Length: 16 km
Duration: 5-6 hours
Elevation gain: 1250 m
Best Time to Do It: December - February
Difficulty level: High
How to get there: Roy’s Peak trail is 6 km from Wanaka, 68 km from Queenstown, and 142 km from Haast. The Mount Aspiring road from Wanaka will take you to the car park at Roy’s Peak, the beginning point of the hike.


2. Bealey Spur Track

If you are looking for a more relaxed hike with stunning views and calming breeze, the Bealey Spur Track is an excellent option. The flowering mistletoes at the start of the hike are an indication of what lies ahead. The gentle trail will take you through beech groves and low-lying grasslands to a peak with magnificent views of the Bruce stream and the Waimakariri valley. At the end of the hike is the famous Bealey Spur Hut where you can camp for the night.

Length: 6 km
Duration: 3 hours
Elevation gain: 550 m
Best Time to Do It: December - April
Difficulty level: Easy
How to get there: From the village of Arthur’s Pass, you will have to drive 14 km. The trail begins at the car park close to the Bealey Hotel, off SH73. Once you are at Cloudesley Road, you can walk to the top where the track starts.

3. Hooker Valley Trail

If you want the greatest of views with the least effort in New Zealand, Hooker Valley Trail is where you should be headed to. The trail along the Hooker River takes you to the glacier Hooker Lake, with splendid views on all sides. Considering it’s a short and easy hike, it’s ideal for families with children who will love the three swing bridges along the way. Located at the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, this highly popular walk offers spectacular views of the snow-capped peaks on a clear day.

Hooker Valley Trail - Photo by Tyler Lastovich on Unsplash

Length: 10 km
Duration: 3 hours
Elevation gain: 100 m
Best Time to Do It: December - February
Difficulty level: Easy
How to get there: The Aoraki Mt Cook village is 2 km from the trail route, while Tekapo is 96 km, and Twizel is 56 km away. The starting points of the hike are the car park at Hooker Valley road and the campground at White Horse Hill.


4. Rocky Mountain

A visit to Rocky Mountain offers you the opportunity to go on multiple hikes. With magnificent views of Lake Wanaka, Diamond Lake, and several other mountains, the trail offers options for shorter walks for families with kids. Once you reach the lake, you can opt to go on a steep climb to a platform that goes in two directions. The lower path takes you to Lake Wanaka viewing point while the upper path takes you to Rocky Mountain from where you can enjoy the breathtaking view of the Southern Alps/Kā Tiritiri o te Moana.

Length: 7 km
Duration: 3 hours
Elevation gain: 450 m
Best Time to Do It: December - February
Difficulty level: Easy
How to get there: Located on the Wanaka - Aspiring Road, it’s 18.5 km towards the west of Wanaka.


5. Isthmus Peak

Located between Lake Hawea and Lake Wanaka, Isthmus Peak is a hugely rewarding day hike for those who prefer to avoid the crowds. Along the trail, you will have spectacular views of Southern Alps/Kā Tiritiri o te Moana.

Isthmus Peak - Photo by Aneta Foubíková on Unsplash

Length: 16 km
Duration: 5-7 hours
Elevation gain: 1000 m
Best Time to Do It: December - February (The trail is closed from mid-November to mid-December for fawning)
Difficulty level: Advanced
How to get there: From Wanaka, you will have to drive for 30 minutes to reach the trail, which starts at the car park at Stewart Creek. There is no option of camping within the conservation area.


6. Alex Knob

Admittedly it’s a longer hike on rocky terrain, and more challenging than most hikes listed here, but what you get to see at the end is worth every bit of your effort. The Franz Josef Glacier nestled between snow-capped peaks is something you will remember for a long time. Do keep in mind that the hike is not recommended for families with kids and is suitable only for experienced hikers.

Franz Josef Glacier - Photo by Geoff Byron on Unsplash

Length: 17 km
Duration: 5-7 hours
Elevation gain: 1100 m
Best Time to Do It: November - February
Difficulty level: Advanced
How to get there: As you drive down from Franz Josef Waiau, take a left turn for the Glacier Access Road. The hike starts 2 km from the turn.


7. Mueller Hut Trail

Located on the Sealy Range, the Mueller Hut Trail takes you to incredible panoramic views of cliffs covered in ice, glaciers, and some of the highest peaks in New Zealand. The hike starts steep and is not recommended for families with children. Depending on the weather, the alpine terrain hike may require more than a day. For an overnight stay, the Mueller Hut offers all the necessary amenities.

Photo by Will Turner on Unsplash

Length: 5.2 km
Duration: 6-8 hours
Elevation gain: 1050 m
Best Time to Do It: All year, with restrictions from mid-November to April
Difficulty level: Advanced
How to get there: From the campground at White Horse Hill, you should take the Sealy Tarns route. After about 2.75 km, you will arrive at the start of the trail.


8. Lake Marian

An alpine lake surrounded by majestic mountains; Lake Marian in Fiordland looks straight out of Middle-Earth. The elevation may not feel steep, but the terrain can be tricky, with paths filled with tree roots and rocks. As you go past the swing bridge, be ready to be welcomed by a sequence of waterfalls. From there it’s a steep hike to Lake Marian. When you reach there, if the weather remains calm, you will be treated to some magnificent reflections of the hills on the lake.

Lake Marian on a misty morning - Photo by Molly Spink on Unsplash

Length: 3.1 km
Duration: 3 hours
Elevation gain: 300 m
Best Time to Do It: All year, with special safety precautions during winter
Difficulty level: Advanced
How to get there: At Marian Corner, leave Milford Road and in a few minutes, you will find Hollyford Road. The starting point of the hike is at the car park in Lake Marian.


9. Mount Alfred

An uncommon hike that’s worth every second you spend out there, the Mount Alfred trail is located close to Glenorchy. From the northern-most point of the trail, you will be able to relish spectacular views of glaciers and mountains.

Photo by vera 📷 💿 on Unsplash

Length: 8 km
Duration: 8 hours
Elevation gain: 1000 m
Best Time to Do It: October - April
Difficulty level: Moderate
How to get there: Drive down from Glenorchy and in 15 minutes you will be at the starting point of the trail. As some part of the hike goes through private land, it’s recommended that you opt for a bespoke tour.


10. Ben Lomond

It gets steep and the terrain gets challenging, but you don’t have to reach the top to understand why it’s a prized trail. With astounding views of valleys and ridges and the stunning Walter and Cecil Peak and the majestic Lake Wakatipu, you will realize why Hollywood has a thing for New Zealand.

Photo by Nishant Dania on Unsplash

Length: 11 km
Duration: 6-8 hours
Elevation gain: 1437 m
Best Time to Do It: All year, but you will be required to carry additional equipment in winter
Difficulty level: Advanced
How to get there: There are two ways to access the trail. The first is the Tiki Trail next to the base camp at Skyline Gondola. The second option is to start at the top or bottom of the Skyline Access Road.


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