If you’re in the northern hemisphere, braving bitter cold and dreaming about hiking in warmer climes, look no further than New Zealand. This two island Oceanic nation contains breathtaking landscapes and unparalleled beauty, offering avid hikers a plethora of trails to explore its diverse and pristine wilderness. November to April are the perfect months to hike here – from snow-capped peaks to lush rainforests, the country boasts an array of ecosystems that cater to all levels of hikers. In this blog post, we’ll delve into some of the best hikes in New Zealand, each promising an unforgettable adventure.
Tongariro Alpine Crossing
Known as one of the world’s best day hikes, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing takes you through a volcanic wonderland in central North Island. The 20 km trail winds its way through otherworldly landscapes, passing emerald lakes, volcanic craters, and steaming vents, over an 845 m elevation gain. The highlight? The iconic Red Crater, offering panoramic views that will leave you in awe.
Hiking Mount Taranaki offers an exhilarating adventure in the heart of New Zealand’s North Island. This iconic stratovolcano, also known as Egmont, boasts a challenging yet rewarding climb with diverse landscapes ranging from lush forests to alpine terrain. The summit provides sweeping views of the surrounding region and, on clear days, distant views of both coasts. This is a challenging hike, 12.1 km (return trip), gaining 1423 m, and should not be undertaken lightly.
Tararua Forest Park – Southern Crossing
Embark on the Southern Crossing in Tararua Forest Park for a thrilling alpine adventure. This challenging trek traverses the rugged Tararua Range, offering panoramic views, alpine meadows, and dense beech forests. The Southern Crossing is a demanding 35 km two to three-day journey, testing hikers with steep ascents and descents. As you navigate the varied terrain, the track unveils stunning landscapes, showcasing the beauty of the North Island’s wilderness. This trek is a must for those seeking a true backcountry experience in Tararua Forest Park
Mueller Hut Hike
The Mueller Hut hike is a short but steep alpine hike in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park. This 5.2-kilometer (3.2-mile) trail leads to the iconic Mueller Hut, perched high in the Southern Alps. As you ascend, you’ll be treated to breathtaking views of snow-capped peaks, glaciers, and the turquoise waters of Hooker Lake. The reward at the end of the trail is the stunning panoramic vista from Mueller Hut, providing a memorable alpine experience in one of New Zealand’s most majestic landscapes.
Often referred to as the “finest walk in the world,” the Milford Track takes you on a journey through Fiordland National Park in the South Island. This four-day trek leads you through ancient rainforests, past cascading waterfalls, and culminates at the stunning Milford Sound. The lush landscapes and pristine beauty make this a must-do hike for nature enthusiasts.
The Kepler Track is a stunning multi-day hiking trail located in Fiordland National Park. This 60-kilometer (37-mile) circuit takes hikers on a journey through diverse landscapes, including lush beech forests, alpine meadows, and panoramic mountain vistas. Hikers can explore the track over three to four days, staying in well-equipped huts along the way.
Considered one of the best mountains to sea trek, the Hollyford Track is another renowned hiking trail in Fiordland National Park. Stretching approximately 56 kilometers (35 miles), the track offers a diverse and captivating journey through lush rainforests, alongside pristine rivers, and towards the rugged beauty of the Fiordland coastline. Hikers can expect to encounter stunning landscapes, including waterfalls, mountains, and native wildlife.
Linking Fiordland and Mount Aspiring National Parks, the Routeburn Track is a world-renowned hiking trail that traverses diverse landscapes. Hikers can marvel at alpine meadows, mirror-like lakes, and mountainous terrain. The 32 km, three day trek is often praised for its stunning scenery and well-maintained huts, providing a comfortable wilderness experience.
The Heaphy Track offers a diverse and captivating trek through the country’s remote wilderness. This 78.4-kilometer (48.7-mile) track is in Kahurangi National Park, spanning from the Golden Bay on the Tasman Sea to the West Coast’s Karamea. The track takes hikers through a variety of landscapes, from dense native forests and expansive tussock grasslands to rugged coastlines.
Ben Lomond Hike
Ben Lomond is a popular hiking trail near Queenstown, offering a thrilling alpine experience. Ascending to the summit of Ben Lomond, which stands at 1,748 meters (5,735 feet), the hike provides breathtaking panoramic views of Lake Wakatipu, the Remarkables Range, and the surrounding Southern Alps. The trail begins in lush beech forests, transitioning into subalpine vegetation and eventually rocky alpine terrain as hikers approach the summit. With challenging sections and rewarding vistas, this 13.4 km full-day hike (gaining 1350 m) is a favorite among outdoor enthusiasts seeking both a physical challenge and stunning scenery, making it an iconic adventure in the Queenstown region.
Rob Roy Glacier Hike
The Rob Roy Glacier hike is a spectacular hiking trail located in Mount Aspiring National Park. This relatively short but rewarding hike taking hikers through lush beech forests, across swing bridges, and up to a glacier lookout with stunning views of the Rob Roy Glacier. Along the way, visitors can enjoy pristine alpine landscapes, cascading waterfalls, and the chance to spot native birdlife. This 10.3 km hike, with an elevation gain of 430 m, is a must-do for those seeking a memorable day hike in the breathtaking Wanaka region.
Before embarking on any of these hikes, it’s crucial to check the current conditions, weather forecasts, and trail status. Additionally, some tracks may require advanced bookings or permits, so it’s recommended to plan ahead. Always prioritize safety and leave no trace to ensure the preservation of New Zealand’s pristine natural environment.
New Zealand’s diverse landscapes and well-maintained hiking trails make it a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. Whether you’re an experienced trekker or a casual hiker, the country offers a wide range of options to explore its natural wonders. From the volcanic terrains of Tongariro to the coastal beauty of Abel Tasman, each hike promises a unique and unforgettable experience, showcasing the best that New Zealand’s great outdoors has to offer. Lace up your boots, pack your backpack, and get ready for an adventure of a lifetime in this land of spectacular landscapes and boundless natural beauty.