New Zealand

10 Best Hikes in New Zealand for a Fine Day Of Tramping

by Ciaran Coughlan
Updated November 14, 2022

So you’re planning a trip to New Zealand and you’re looking for a great spot to hike?

New Zealand is made up of two main islands, the North Island and the South Island, and a number of smaller islands. The country is known for its dramatic landscapes and its great hiking opportunities.

Firstly, it is worth clarifying, In New Zealand, they refer to hiking as tramping.

Secondly, A day hike is a hike that can be completed in a single day. These hikes are typically shorter in length than multi-day hikes, and they usually don’t require any camping gear or supplies.

The New Zealand government is all about sustainability and their hiking facilities are fantastic. Most hikes will have clean toilets somewhere along the route.

It’s imperative that hikers can enjoy some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world while also being conscious that they are leaving the trail etiquette standards are met — and don’t forget to bring your zero waste alternative products with you too.

1. Roy’s Peak

new zealand hikes - roys peak
  • Location: Wanaka, South Island
  • Difficulty: Challenging
  • Distance: 16km / 10 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1,258m / 4,130 feet
  • Time: 5.5hrs

The hike to Roy’s Peak is a challenging 16-kilometer trek that will take you to the summit of one of the most iconic mountains in New Zealand.

Parking on Roy’s Peak Track carpark on Mount Aspiring Road can be scarce to be sure to go at a time that you’ll have a space. This route begins like a never ending zig-zagging hill but just look back and you’ll get a glimpse of the beautiful backdrop.

The trail climbs steeply through what looks like an old farm road, where the views get better and better as you ascend. Be sure to take your time and enjoy the scenery, as there are plenty of photo opportunities along the way. It’s by no means a technical hike, but more of a long walk up a steep gradient.

As you reach the summit, you’ll be rewarded with stunning 360-degree views of the surrounding countryside. You’ll find plenty of people at the top refusing to leave as they must take “one more picture”.

2. Tongariro Alpine Crossing

new zealand hikes - Tongariro Alpine Crossing
  • Location: Tongariro National Park, North Island
  • Difficulty: Challenging
  • Distance: 19.4km / 12 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1,886m / 6,190 feet
  • Time: 9hrs

If you ask a Kiwi for a challenging and rewarding hike in New Zealand, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing will likely be top of mind. This 19.4-kilometer hike will take you through some of the most spectacular scenery in the country.

The hike begins with a climb up the slopes of Mount Tongariro, one of the three active volcanoes in the area. From there, you’ll traverse across barren volcanic plateau to the saddle between Mount Tongariro and Mount Ngaruhoe. From there, it’s a steep descent down to the Emerald Lakes, where you’ll be treated to some of the most amazing views you’ll ever see.

Highlights include the the vivid crater lakes, steaming vents and unique glacial valleys. This hike definitely delivers, just make sure you go on a clear day, you don’t want to miss out on these features. Warning, a picture from the top will likely feature background photo on your phone for years to come.

3. Ben Lomond

new zealand hikes - Ben Lomond
  • Location: Queenstown, South Island
  • Difficulty: Challenging
  • Distance: 11km / 6.8 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1,438m / 4,720 feet
  • Time: 4.5-6hrs

The Ben Lomond hike in Queenstown is known for its stunning views of the surrounding countryside. Queenstown itself is the adrenaline capital of New Zealand, it is full of people doing outdoor activities, throughout your climb you’ll likely see people parachuting or paragliding through the sky. This 4-hour hike will take you to the summit of Ben Lomond, where you’ll be treated to some of the most amazing views you’ll ever see.

The hike begins with a steep climb up the slopes of Ben Lomond, but don’t worry, the views get better and better as you ascend. As you reach the summit, you’ll be rewarded with stunning 360-degree views of the countryside. While it is a moderate difficulty it does be more challenging from the saddle to summit. It’s advisable to go when the weather is favorable. The Ben Lomond hike is popular and busy during peak times.

4. Mueller Hut Route (Mount Cook)

new zealand hikes - Mueller Hut Route
  • Location: Aoraki Mount Cook National Park, South Island
  • Difficulty: Challenging
  • Distance: 10.5km / 6.5 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1,038m / 3,400 feet
  • Time: 5.25hrs

The Mueller Hut Route is a challenging hike that will take you to the summit of New Zealand’s tallest mountain, Mount Cook. This hike is not for the faint of heart, as it involves a steep climb up the slopes of this world famous mountain.

But if you’re up for the challenge, this hike will reward you with some of the most amazing views you’ll ever see. The hike begins at the Hermitage Hotel in Mount Cook Village and follows a well-marked trail to the Mueller Hut, which sits at an elevation of 1,038 meters.

Load up on carbs for your 2,200 stair climb followed by rock climbing. You’ll then see what the fuss is about once you look out at the surrounding glaciers.

5. Hooker Valley Track

new zealand hikes - hooker valley track
  • Location: Aoraki, Mount Cook National Park, South Island
  • Difficulty: Easy / Moderate
  • Distance: 5km / 3.1 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 191m / 625 feet
  • Time: 3hrs

The Hooker Valley Track is a popular hike in the Aoraki Mount Cook National Park that is known for its stunning views of the surrounding countryside. This hike is an easy to moderate difficulty, and takes between 2-4 hours to complete.

The hike begins at the Hooker Valley car park, and follows a well-marked trail along the Hooker River. The track ends at the Mueller Hut, which sits at an elevation of a shy 191 meters.

6. Isthmus Peak

new zealand hikes - Isthmus Peak
  • Location: Wanaka, South Island
  • Difficulty: Challenging
  • Distance: 15.9km / 9.9 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1133m / 3,700 feet
  • Time: 6.75hrs

The Isthmus Peak hike is an excellent option for those looking for a challenging and rewarding hike in New Zealand. This hike is not for the faint of heart, as it involves a steep climb up the slopes of Isthmus Peak.

The hike begins at the Isthmus Peak car park, and follows a well-marked trail up to the summit of Isthmus Peak. From there, you’ll be treated to stunning 360-degree views of the surrounding countryside.

The Isthmus Peak hike is a popular hike in New Zealand, so be prepared for crowds during peak times all eager to see the stunning views of Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea.

7. Diamond Lake & Rocky Mountain Track

new zealand hikes - diamond lake
  • Location: Wanaka, South Island
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Distance Gain: 7.1km / 4.4 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 500m / 1,650 feet
  • Time: 3hrs

Like most Hikes in New Zealand, the Rocky Mountain Summit Track will expose you to the breathtaking mountain ridges of Rocky mountain, and surprise surprise, another lake. It is generally a steep climb but most can achieve the full hike without too much of a sweat as it is technically quite easy. It is advised to ascend up the east and come down the west to avoid muddy and steep scrambling on the way down.

It’s open all year round although the West trail can get particularly muddy so it may be a good idea to take caution and dress appropriately.

8. Routeburn Track to Key Summit

new zealand hikes - Routeburn Track Key Summit
  • Location: Fiordland National Park (Milford Sound), South Island
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Distance: 7km / 4.3 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 419m / 1,375 feet
  • Time: 3hrs

If you are one for the national park vibes, then the hike to Key Summit may be the half day hike for you. Tramping from the carpark to the track should take about an hour and from there it’ll be a 20 minute climb to the summit. You won’t be short of mountains to see as you’ll have a near birds eye view of the Darran and Humboldt mountains.

This is an ideal hike for families, the steady ascend to the top will be worth it on a clear day.

A great feature of Milford sound is the prolific native bird watching benefits. You’re likely to meet the adventurous Kea on your travels, these large green parrots are known for their intelligence and curiosity.

9. Mount Taranaki

new zealand hikes - mount taranaki
  • Location: Taranaki, North Island
  • Difficulty: Challenging
  • Distance: 12.6km / 7.8 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 2,518m / 8,200 feet
  • Time: 9hrs

Mount Taranaki is possibly the most challenging hike on the list. It involves climbing a stratovolcano through varying terrains. It can go from rocky to silty, quite quickly. The summit has snow on it year round but it’ll take 5-6 hours to climb and see it.

This is the only hike on the list gear such as hiking poles, sturdy footwear and appropriate hiking snacks are essential. The view from the summit is like no other. Often with these difficult hikes there can be joy in reaching the top and once that’s achieved you can skip back down with the sense of accomplishment. This is not the case with mount Taranaki as it may take the same concentration to descend down through the silt using your hand as rudders.

10. Abel Tasman – Anchorage to Cleopatra’s Pools

new zealand hikes - Cleopatra's Pools
  • Location: Anchorage Bay – Abel Tasman, North Island
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Distance: 2km
  • Elevation Gain: 0m
  • Time: 2hrs

The Anchorage to Cleopatra’s Pools hike is a beautiful and easy hike that takes you through the stunning Abel Tasman National Park. This hike is perfect for those who are looking for a relaxing and scenic hike.

The hike begins at the Anchorage Bay car park, and follows a well-marked trail to Cleopatra’s Pools. The trail is flat and easy, making it perfect for hikers of all levels. The walk from Anchorage Bay to Cleopatra’s Pools is about 2 kilometers, and takes about 1 hour to complete.

This hike is perhaps more about the destination than the journey. Much of the hike will resemble a path through a jungle but once arriving at Cleopatra’s pools you’ll want to stay there to chill and bathe for hours after taking a few pictures of course.

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