Top 4 One Day Hikes in New Zealand
As a small island nation, New Zealand is an absolute haven for one day hikes! Dramatic changes in scenery are not a rarity down under, so a typical one day hike can take you from lush sub-tropical rainforest to alpine tussock and tarns. Whether you’re an expert or a beginner, Active Adventures can cater to your one day hiking aspirations. We know at Active HQ that it’s those small intricate details - from the initial phone call, through to touching down in New Zealand, then to be guided by some of the most capable and experienced guides on the planet; our magic Active formula will truly make your one day hike all the more worthwhile. We’ve tussled and debated to come up with our Top 4 one day hikes in New Zealand; Mueller Ridge, Tongariro Alpine Crossing, Key Summit and the Pororari River Trail.
Mueller Ridge Hike
When describing the Mueller Ridge hike in the South Island, two words spring to mind; rewarding and unforgettable. It would be remiss of us to say that it isn’t hard work at times, but hey you definitely won’t be disappointed once you have accomplished this milestone. Firstly, the incessant view over the Hooker Valley and the Mount Cook Range is the initial teaser then once you reach the top, trust us when we say you’ll have one of those ‘pinch yourself moments’ with the amazing views of Mt Sefton, the Mueller Glacier and the ridge itself. The Mueller Ridge, a training location for Sir Edmund Hillary and friends, is New Zealand’s most classic alpine day hike.
Tongariro Alpine Crossing
Let’s head up to the North Island, now imagine yourself wandering through to another dimension, where the volcanic landscape gives you the illusion that you’re actually on a lunar tour! This is the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, heralded among the top 10 one day hikes in the world. The crossing is located in New Zealand’s oldest national park and is a dual World Heritage Site, famous for its unique landforms, breath-taking scenery, and dramatic and striking volcanic peaks of Ngauruhoe, Tongariro and Ruapehu. One of the many highlights of this one-day hike, is the captivating coloured Blue and Emerald Lakes, rich with minerals that have leached from the nearby thermal areas. You’ll come across active steam vents called fumaroles on some sections of the walk, discharging steam and sulphur dioxide into the air with spouts of yellow sulphur specks sporadically scattered across the edges of the lakes.
These lakes hold so much beauty to the naked eye, a colouration like no other, set against the starkly contrasting volcanic surrounds. From the summit you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views towards both the East and West coasts of the North Island, across forest and farm land. It’s incredible that you can see all of this in one day! This full-day hike is challenging but truly unforgettable, at the end of your one day hiking adventure on the ‘Kauri’ trip you'll be able to soak your muscles in some natural thermal springs along with a celebratory dinner in tow.
Back to the South Island, to another World Heritage area, Te Waipounamu, encompassing four national parks, including Fiordland and the world famous multi-day Routeburn Track. From the western side of the Routeburn Track, there’s a superb day walk to an alpine knoll called Key Summit. This is possibly one of the best day walks in the Fiordland National Park area. So how do we describe Key Summit? Again, it’s all about the panoramic views, down to the lush Hollyford Valley and across at jagged snow-capped peaks. In every direction dense virgin forest rolls up from the valley, until it’s too steep, where granite cliffs appear and ice clings on until the gradient mellows to snow. Closer at hand the loquacious Kaka and Kea can be spotted or heard, with their echoing calls. From here a lot of the hard work is done, so you may want to complete the full track, if you've carried enough for a few days. The best way to truly see this national gem would be on the ‘Rimu’, our signature adventure and a great outdoorsy way to see New Zealand.
Pororari River Trail
The West Coast of the South Island is an enchanting place where only the hardy and rugged live year-round. The high rainfall and mild temperatures help the rainforest to thrive, to the point where wilderness is the norm and human settlements are rare. The Pororari River Trail offers hikers a glimpse into a Jurassic world filled with tree ferns, nikau palms and the gigantic towering rata (which along with the pohutukawa is one of the best known native trees in New Zealand). This relatively easy track follows the Pororari River upstream into the Paparoa National Park. You'll pass through the Pororari River Gorge, a valley lined with beautiful limestone cliffs and bluffs and eventually onto the open river flats. As you could image, there’s plenty of native birdsong in the area, adding to the enchanting atmosphere.
From the unique wilderness, glacier-carved valleys, dense sub-tropical rainforests, limestone cliffs, right through to the indigenous fauna, New Zealand will provide you with a variety of experiences on your one day hiking adventures. These 4 hikes have been handpicked by us so that you are rewarded with that once in a lifetime experience… and to top it off, we’ll throw in legendary Kiwi hospitality, unique local lodgings and home cooked meals.
Rimu Ultimate South Island Adventure
- 14 Days
- South Island
- From US$5499 + tax
This is our signature adventure and a great, outdoorsy way to see New Zealand. We’ve been fine-tuning this perennial favourite since 1996 and it’s simply an awesome trip. You’ll explore the most beautiful, famous and little-known places in the South Island – up close and personal – with legendary hospitality and our unsurpassed attention to detail. For a great way to see the North Island too, combine this trip with our 11-day 'Kauri' (5-day 'Kauri' options available).
Activity level: The ‘Rimu’ is one of our more adventurous trips, but has options to suit a wide range of ages and outdoor experience. Typically, hikes on the ‘Rimu’ trip range between two and five hours to complete, with longer hikes available on the multi-day option. If you think you’d prefer a more relaxed pace and shorter one to three hour hikes, we recommend checking out our ‘Kiwi’ trip. Please get in touch with us if you’d like to chat about the various options.
Kauri Ultimate North Island Adventure
- 11 Days
- North Island
- From US$4899 + tax
You'll be amazed by the variety of adventures and stunning scenery as we share the iconic locations and best-kept secrets of the North Island. The perfect addition to any of our South Island trips, the year-round 'Kauri' explores the sub-tropical north, a marine reserve, white sandy beaches, unique volcanic terrain, geothermal areas, Maori culture, an underground cave system and arguably the best mountain day-hike in New Zealand. For a great way to see the rest of New Zealand, combine this trip with any of our South Island trips.
Activity level: The 'Kauri' suits people of a wide range of fitness levels and outdoor experience. Typically, activities on the 'Kauri' trip range between two and five hours to complete. The Tongariro Alpine Crossing hike can take a little longer, though there are shorter alternatives available.