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Ben Lomond day hike

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!

Queenstown and the Remarkables from the Ben Lomond trailFrom 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.

 

  • Manuka Milford Hiking Adventure

    • 14 Days
    • South Island
    • From US$6399 + tax

    4.43 out of 5 (from 887 reviews)

    Manuka

    If you wish to concentrate on hiking the iconic tracks of New Zealand and like your creature comforts, we’ve crafted this trip just for you. It has a strong focus on New Zealand’s natural history. Our guides have plenty of time to interpret the flora and fauna and explain the geological and social history of the areas you’ll visit. You also have the choice of a selection of the best day hikes Fiordland National Park has to offer, along with an overnight cruise on Doubtful Sound, or hiking the famous Milford Track in its entirety. The ‘Manuka’ really is hiking New Zealand in style!

    Activity level: The 'Manuka' is an active hiking trip, but has options to suit a wide range of fitness levels and outdoor experience. Typically hikes on the 'Manuka' trip range between three and six hours to complete, with longer hikes on the Milford Track Guided Walk option.

 

  • Tui Essence of the South Island

    • 8 Days
    • South Island
    • From US$3999 + tax

    4.59 out of 5 (from 1827 reviews)

    Tui

    This is an action-packed adventure where you’ll explore some of New Zealand’s most iconic and remote wilderness. It works well if your vacation time is limited, since you can fly from North America on a Friday evening, sleep on the plane, and be back at work ten days later to share your photos and stories on Monday morning. 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 ‘Tui’ suits people of a wide range of fitness levels and outdoor experience, particularly if you enjoy a variety of activities. Typically hikes on the ‘Tui’ trip range between two and six hours to complete.

 

  • Takahe Great Walks Discovery

    • 5 Days
    • South Island
    • From US$2999 + tax

    4.43 out of 5 (from 887 reviews)

    Takahe

    Over five days you'll hike on three of New Zealand's nine 'Great Walks', all located in the Fiordland National Park - a UNESCO World Heritage area with mystical coves and dense temperate rainforest. This is a bucket list hiking trip where you need not forgo any creature comforts.

    Activity level: The 'Takahe' is a hiking-focused trip, with options to suit a wide range of fitness levels and outdoor experience. Typically hikes on the 'Takahe' trip range between three and six hours to complete.

Trip Reviews

  4.52 out of 5 (from 4879 reviews)

Rimu is Wonderful - A few tips if you plan to go...

My husband and I took the Rimu trip in early November 2016 and had a really terrific time. I encourage everyone who is seriously considering the Rimu to go ahead and sign up. That being said, with all of the fun we had, I do wish we had known a few things ahead of time. I include these tips for you, the soon-to-be Rimu traveler, to make your trip more enjoyable. However, I can promise that even if you do none of these things, you will still have a marvelous time:

1. Guys, if you opt to snorkel with the fur seals be sure to shave your mustache before you leave home. It seems obvious now, but it never occurred to my husband that the mask wouldn’t seal properly to his face with his mustache. Do yourself a favor and shave it off or spend the afternoon dealing with a leaky mask.

2. I also wish I had known just how intense and challenging the 3-day multi-hike through Nelson Lakes would be. If you’re an office worker and occasional hiker like me, then I encourage you to take this trip but do lots of practice/fitness training in advance. Load up your pack and get on the stair-master or start climbing really steep hills. The hike is gorgeous and worth it, but I can promise you it will be a lot more enjoyable if you’re in good shape for it. Also, there are no showers at the huts and only latrines (port-a-potties) for toilets, so bring baby wipes for exactly the same reason you would use them on a baby (wink wink). And also bring hiking poles! I know it says optional on the gear list, but I really found them to be essential. As for the water bottle – leave that at home and invest in a good water bladder system (a “Camelback” or similar). We found the water bottle to be a hassle to take in and out of the bag (forcing us to stop each time), which made us want to drink less water. The water bladders allow you to keep moving and you’ll find you’re more hydrated.

3. The sea kayaks (and, honestly, New Zealand in general) are not made for people over 6’ 2” in height (187 cm). Watch your head everywhere you go, and as for the kayaks, it may help to have the taller person sit in the front seat of the kayak instead of the back.

4. Also, pack enough clothes for a week and then expect to do laundry. Bring some travel-sized laundry soap packets to help save money and make sure you have enough 1$ and 2$ coins for laundry before you get to the hotel (the machines are generally pretty expensive: about $3 for the washer and between $3 - $5 for 30 minutes in the dryer).

5. Bring good cycling shorts – yes, the ones with the weird-feeling padding on the bum. It will help prevent the dreaded ‘grumpy grundle’.

6. And finally, a heads-up to my fellow outgoing introverts (yes, we exist): this trip contains long days of social interaction (think 7:15 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.), with few breaks for introspection/solitude. If you need some down time, skip dinner or unfurl all of the emergency blankets and build your own fort at the back of the bus and hang a sign that says, “Stay Out!” (just kidding about that last one).

A great big thank you to our guides, Rachel and Jordan, who were informative and helpful beyond measure. How they managed to remain cheerful and engaging considering they had to do all of the exertion we clients had to do, plus all of their work on top of it, is beyond me. They are the embodiment of Kiwi hospitality! We are already thinking of coming back for a North Island tour sometime soon.
Lauren Gerth Review Image
– Missouri, United States
Rimu, November 2016
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