New Zealand is paradise for hikers. New Zealand hiking trails are well known for their variety, and the sheer range of options is staggering, thanks to the vast areas of unspoiled countryside.
This guide will give an insight into the best hiking trails in New Zealand, to help you plan your visit.
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New Zealand is famous for its outstanding natural beauty, so it’s no surprise that it’s a popular destination for hikers. You’ll find a selection of the top hiking trails in New Zealand across both the North and South Islands, so you can plan great routes to fit in with the rest of your trip.
You’ll find options for short walks, day walks, and multi-day hikes, as well as the longer great walks which are a wonderful way to see some of New Zealand’s best scenery. There’s plenty of information online to help you plan, and the popular routes are typically well maintained and marked¹.
It’s hard to select the best trails in New Zealand. Whatever your preference, and no matter how much time you have to hike, you’ll find a great route for you. Here are a few trails to consider when you do your own research.
- Kura Tawhiti Access Track²
Looking for hiking from Christchurch? This route is 1 hour and 20 minutes by car from Christchurch, and offers a rewarding short walk across interesting terrain. The main feature is the rock formations, which are popular with climbers. Take care if you’re planning on climbing, especially in wet weather.
- Roys Peak Track³
If you’re in Queenstown for adventure activities, this is a great route for a day hike. It’s about 1 hour 45 minutes from Queenstown, or a short drive from Wanaka, and the steep climb offers great views all around the region. Parking can get busy at peak times.
- Abel Tasman Coast Track
This 5 day hike - one of the 10 great walks - covers coastal paths on the northern edge of the South Island. It’s accessible for anyone with intermediate fitness, and there are both huts and campsites along the way for overnight stays. There’s plenty of information about the route and the practicalities of arranging it alone, online⁴ - or you could go with a guided tour package which makes it even easier to get accommodation sorted.
- Lake Waikaremoana Walk⁵
If you’re on the North Island, looking for a multi-day hike, this is another great option - and one of New Zealand’s great walks. You’ll spend 3 or 4 days if you want to complete the full length of the trail, which passes mainly around the lake edge. Hike through ancient forest, listen to the birds and spot beautiful sunsets as you go.
- Tongariro Alpine Crossing
This popular - and occasionally busy - trail will take about 8 hours to complete, making it great for a day’s walking. The route passes lava flows and an active volcano, and is recommended for those with good fitness. You can tackle the trail in winter, but the New Zealand tourist authorities advise that you get a guide if you want to do so, as the conditions can be a challenge⁶.
- Ball Pass⁷
This route is not to be underestimated. A 1400m ascent through Alpine scenery is tricky, but rewarding. If you have the right experience and fitness levels, this could be the route for you, offering views of the Tasman glacier. It’s accessible easily from Christchurch and Queenstown, but you’ll want to take a guide if you’re unsure about your abilities. It can be a hazardous route, so make sure you follow all the rules for safety published online.
- Te Aroha Summit⁸
On the North Island, this is an advanced option starting at the Mokena geyser, accessible easily from Hamilton. The walk is about 3 hours outwards, with a quicker descent, so it’s possible as a day trip. There are also easier routes in the same area, so take a little time to decide which is right for your level of fitness.
- Milford Track⁹
Visit New Zealand’s tallest waterfall with this multi-day, 53 kilometer hike. This is one of the most famous routes in New Zealand, offering Alpine scenery and fiords, which are as beautiful now as they were a hundred years ago when this walk was first declared the finest in the world.
There are many guides available if you’d rather hike with an expert on hand. The New Zealand tourist authorities publish a helpful list of the guiding companies which cover the great walks series - this is a good place to start your research if you’re planning an accompanied trip¹⁰.
Different companies will provide guides for different routes, so you’ll need to find the right provider for your itinerary. However, to give an idea of price, a small group trip to Lake Waikaremoana, taking 4 days, and covering all expenses such as food, snacks and accommodation, will cost around NZD1530 for an adult¹¹.
New Zealand has huge areas of wilderness which are perfect for rewarding hikes - but can also pose their own hazards. You can find great resources online to plan your trip, including guidance on safety, from the Mountain Safety website¹². Here are a few basic tips to get you started¹³:
- Plan your route, and tell someone where you’re going. Many areas don’t have mobile phone coverage, so this can be a lifesaver if you get into trouble
- Take the right supplies for your destination, including enough water and food, and sunscreen or warm clothes depending on the temperatures
- The weather can be extreme and changeable. Plan accordingly and keep an eye on local weather reports for your destination
- Pick trails which are within your abilities. There are many different options, so you’ll find something to suit you easily
You could spend many weeks in New Zealand exploring the great hiking trails which are scattered throughout the country. The most difficult part of planning your break might be deciding which route to tackle first.
Save money so you can explore more. Get a Transferwise account and multi-currency Mastercard, for cheap and convenient spending while you’re abroad.
- Walking and Hiking in New Zealand
- Kura Tawhiti Access Track
- Roys Peak Track
- Abel Tasman Coast Track
- Lake Waikaremoana Track
- Tongariro Alpine Crossing
- Ball Pass Crossing
- Te Aroha Mountain Track
- Milford Track
- Guided Trips
- Guided Trips on the North Island
- Planning your Trip
- Outdoor Safety
All sources accurate as of February 19 2020
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