Ben Lomond (45°00'24.06" south 168°36'54.76" east) is an attractive mountain that looms up behind Queenstown, reaching an altitude of 1748 metres (5735 feet). Whilst it looks rugged and could comfortably sit next to any other, larger mountain in the Southern Alps, its particular appeal is that you can reach the summit without any technical knowledge (unless there is deep or fresh snow on the track).
Best time to hike Ben Lomond
People do hike the peak all year round, but the nicest and easiest time to hike Ben Lomond is during the summer months, from around the beginning of November through until the end of March. During the summer, it's best to set off early during the cooler, early morning hours as the second half of the climb is above the tree line so the sun can make the hike a warm one.
Hiking Ben Lomond: the gondola route (2-3 hours return)
There are two main ways to tackle this peak. You can take the gentler option and grab a scenic ride up the Skyline Gondola, saving yourself a 450 metre (1476 feet) climb up a series of switchbacks in the mostly pine forest like on our 'Manuka' trip, or you can hike from Queenstown like on our 'Tui' trip the way the locals usually do it.
Hiking Ben Lomond from Queenstown: the longer route (4-6 hours return)
For those hiking from Queenstown, there are three places to start the hike: from the end of Thompson Street, or from the One Mile Power House on the road to Fernhill, or from a track that starts near the gondola terminal. From the first two options, about thirty minutes into the climb you'll pass an impressive concrete dam, which is now derelict but speaks to a former period of hydro-electrical pioneering. From there, the track continues to wind steeply up through the pine forest crossing the occasional downhill mountain bike track and one small clearing, which marks the midway point for the gondola. After approximately another hour through pleasant, cool forest, the track breaks out onto scrub and tussock and you'll get your first uninterrupted view of Ben Lomond in all its glory. Shortly after this, you'll pass the track leading from the top of the gondola and you'll probably see some fresh-faced hikers that have chosen the more relaxed option!
From there the path is the same for everyone and it's a reasonably gentle uphill climb under the sun to the saddle at 1300 metres (4265 feet). There's a nice bench here to sit and take a rest or have a snack. The last part of the hike climbs steeply and is rocky in places, zig-zagging a few times before curving around the back of the peak before summiting quite abruptly. Be careful on this section as there are some loose rocks and slippery tussocks.
From the top, you'll hopefully have clear views across Lake Wakatipu to the Remarkables mountain range and down to Queenstown. Moke Lake is visible far down below and the Southern Alps stretch off into the distance to the northeast. Don't worry if you don't know these landmarks as there is a dial erected pointing to all the main points of interest. If it's a crystal-clear day, you may like to lounge around up top for a long while as the views are simply incredible.
Keep in mind that the weather can change quickly and it's not uncommon to see a dusting of snow on Ben Lomond at any time of year!
Although this is only a day hike, it's important to carefully check the weather and pack accordingly. Check out our packing guide to day hikes for some handy hints.