New Zealand Hiking Tours: multi-day hikes

New Zealand has earned itself a reputation as one of the world's ultimate hiking destinations. So strap on your best pair of hiking boots, learn about New Zealand's best multi-day hiking trails and discover what makes a multi-day hike 'down under' so special.

Also check out the Active Blog - "Multi-day Hiking in New Zealand’s Backcountry, and 8 Reasons Why You Should Go Guided"

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What makes a multi-day hiking trip in New Zealand so unique?

Imagine hiking through some of the world's most stunning native forests - where there's not a single insect or animal that can harm you. The trail is nicely groomed and soft to the step, with a blanket of beach leaves on the forest floor. You follow this trail until you break the tree line, and a few steps later you're exposed you to complete 360 degree views of the surrounding rugged granite peaks.

Continuing into the vast tussock alpine you'll come across a tranquil lake high on a mountain top - with a cosy hut sitting on its shores. When you arrive at the hut you'll kick off your hiking boots, celebrate your successful journey and share stories of adventure with your comrades as the sun sets over the mountains. Take a moment to reflect on your day and enjoy a delicious candle-lit dinner with a well-earned glass of wine, before settling in for a comfortable night's sleep.

You'll wake to an electric-orange glowing sunrise. The silence is only broken by a light mountain breeze passing the hut and the cheeky laughter of a family of Kea flying over head. After a hot breakfast it's time to slip on the boots and head off to the next hut... which is only a few ridges away.

This is what multi-day hiking in New Zealand is all about, and this is why we love it.

Video: Experience a 3 day hike in the Nelson Lakes National Park. See this on our 'Rimu - Ultimate South Island Adventure' 


How to choose a multi-day hiking trail in New Zealand

Trekking in New Zealand, multi-day hiking or backpacking trips into the backcountry is commonly known to us Kiwi's as 'tramping'... and it's one of our favourite things to do. So when you visit New Zealand, you're visiting a country full of people that have adventure in their veins, and love sharing their back yard with like-minded people from all corners of the planet.

New Zealand has a network of over 500 incredible hiking trails which meander their way through the great kiwi countryside, connecting our most dramatic mountains, rain forests, river valleys and glacier fields. The length of New Zealand's best hiking trails vary from single day hikes to overnight treks and  multi-day hikes - which can take up to seven nights to complete. And many of these treks are geographically close enough to string together into one much longer hiking trip. 

But having this much choice can make it difficult for keen hikers to choose their next hiking trail to explore – be it on a fully-guided trek, or by carrying their own backpack and staying in the Department of Conservation (DOC) huts or in tents.  So do plenty of research, and ask the experts for advice on which hikes are the best. 

And remember, unlike treks elsewhere in the world, when you're hiking in New Zealand’s National Parks, there are no hostels, refugeos, tea houses or shops along the way, so you have to carry all you need for the duration of the trek (unless you opt for one of the few, and more expensive 'Great Walks' guided treks - read on to find out more about these).


New Zealand’s Great Walks

The New Zealand Great Walks are our nine most popular and well-known multi-day hikes. The primary purpose of the Great Walks is to provide a safe and easy path through some of New Zealand's most stunning landscapes.

In years gone by, the Department of Conservation (DOC) required hikers to check-in at the local office prior to departing on their hike, and check-out when they complete the hike. But with many hikers forgetting to check-out, DOC would think the hikers are lost in the mountains and large scale man hunts were a regular occurrence... even though the 'missing' hikers were already on the road, half way to their hotel.

So the system of checking-in and out of a hike was put to bed, and the Great Walks were born. These hand-picked trails were widened and manicured with obvious sign posting, making it almost impossible for novice hikers to get lost on them. These trails are the safest and easiest way to hike into New Zealand's back country, which make them very popular for international visitors. So popular in fact, that access to the trails that make up the 9 Great Walks of New Zealand is strictly regulated during peak season. Although there is no regulation on how many people can hike the trail per day, the regulation comes from the limited spaces available in each of the mountain huts along the way, which need to be booked months in advance.

The trails which make up the 9 Great Walks of New Zealand include:


Trekking and guided walks in New Zealand are a little bit different to the rest of the world

The concept of trekking as seen in destinations like the Himalayas doesn't totally apply to New Zealand. Nowhere in New Zealand do you have the option of hiring porters to carry your gear, and there are no tea houses to book into overnight to avoid carrying sleeping bags, tents and stoves. The closest match to trekking as experienced overseas are probably the guided walks – companies running fully-guided hikes along some of the Great Walks (Milford and Routeburn Tracks), and other Department of Conservation and private tracks (Hollyford, Hump Ridge and Banks Peninsula Tracks). These companies have their own private huts, with much better facilities – proper beds, hot showers, and cooked three course meals – though of course you have to pay for the privilege of these home comforts – currently over NZ$2000 for the 5-day Milford Track. The advantage is of course that you need only carry essentials with you in a day-pack, so they are a lot less daunting than a self-guided trek.


Popular New Zealand multi-day treks for those hikers who want to avoid the crowds

Apart from the well-established Great Walks listed above (a few of which can be experienced as a guided trip) the majority of treks in New Zealand are self-guided missions, staying in backcountry huts or camping in tents overnight. Most of these treks are off the tourist path, they're the trails that we Kiwi's choose to hike because you can hike for days on end without seeing a single other hiker. You feel like New Zealand is yours to own, and you'll be expecting to see Bilbo Baggins from the Lord of the Rings around any corner.

These are the trails that we Kiwi's grew up exploring. We know them like the back of our hands, and we love sharing them with keen adventurers - just like you! These walking trails are still managed by the Department of Conservation - so they're well maintained, they're safe and perfect for complete novice hikers and seasoned adventurers alike.

Our favourite multi-day hike in New Zealand is the Angelus Circuit in the Nelson Lakes National Park

Day 1: Saint Arnaud to Lakehead Hut

Our hike begins in the charming village of Saint Arnaud, on the edge of Nelson Lakes National Park. This is serious wilderness country, with incredible views and marvellous solitude. The park straddles the upper Southern Alps, an area composed of beech forests, big lakes and even bigger mountains.We’ll hike the relatively gentle trail through the forest alongside Lake Rotoiti to Lakehead Hut, a small mountain cabin at the head of the lake and our home for the night. Our guides are pretty tough and they’ll carry the lion’s share of the load. All you’ll be carrying is a backpack with your sleeping bag, a few spare clothes, and a share of our food. To protect this beautiful and fragile environment, we always keep our group sizes small and our exact route flexible.

Lake Heak Hut NLNP

Happy hikers at Lakehead Hut, in Nelson Lakes National Park

Day 2: Lakehead Hut to Angelus Hut

Today is an unforgettable day – the scenery gets better with each step! We follow the Travers River through beech forest, before heading up the Hukere Stream towards the ridgeline.This is a steep hike, with an elevation gain of 1,000 m (3,000 ft), but it’s absolutely worth it. The Angelus Circuit has exceptional scenic diversity, so it provides a great reward for the efforts you put in. We will encourage you all the way up to Angelus Hut, nestled beside a gorgeous alpine lake, whatever your hiking speed. Many people tell us this hidden gem was the highlight of their New Zealand adventure, and a lot of Kiwis prefer the Angelus Circuit to better-known tracks.

Angelus Hut NLNP

Angelus Hut, nestled on the shores of Lake Angelus in the Nelson Lakes National Park

Day 3: Angelus Hut to Lake Rotoiti

This morning you’ll wake up on top of the world. After breakfast, we’ll hike out along the barren Robert Ridge with dramatic views of Tasman Bay and the mountainous Kahurangi National Park in the distance. We’ll descend below the treeline again into native beech forest completing our hike on the shores of Lake Rotoiti. Here, we’ll meet up with the kayakers and cyclists and share stories of our adventures, before carrying on to the West Coast.

End of hike angelus circuit

Take one last look at the view before descending through the native bush, at the end of day 3 of the Angelus Circuit


What are the benefits of doing a fully guided multi-day hike, over doing it by yourself?

1. The absolute best hikes (in our opinion) don't feature high on the tourist map - this is why we love them so much. So finding blogs, maps and advice on these hikes can prove quite difficult. By travelling with a group of locals, we'll take the hard work out of deciding which multi-day hikes will make the most of your time in New Zealand.

2. Most of New Zealand's best multi-day hikes start and finish in a different location. This makes it difficult to plan transport and shuttles from point A to point B. So by taking a guided trip, any of these logistics are completely taken care of for you. 

3. When you see the rugged beauty of New Zealand's jurassic landscapes, you'll wonder how they were formed, and how man came to live in a place like this. By taking a guided tour, you'll get an in-depth lesson of our history - be it landscapes, fauna, ferna and indigenous culture.

4. Surviving a multi-day hike in New Zealand requires a fair bit of equipment. You'll need enough clothing to be prepared for all 4 seasons; rain, hail, snow and shine. You'll need cooking equipment, meal food, snacks, a first aid kit, torches, sleeping bags, toiletries and a rubbish bag (to take out what you bring in). But if you take a guided tour, the guides will take the lions share of the load - including the food, cooking equipment, first aid and rubbish. That'll lighten your load quite nicely, and you'll be able to spend more time enjoying the views than thinking about how sore your back is.

5. If you find you're out of your depth for fitness or you sustain an injury along the way, your guides will make sure you get home safely and in comfort. Our New Zealand guides are highly trained in first aid and mountain safety, and they'll stay by your side every step along the way.

Video - Take a look at what our travellers are saying about joining a multi-day guided hiking tour:

 


New Zealand Adventure Tours that include a multi-day trek:

 

  • New Zealand Winter Adventure - Winter Rimu

    14 Days  | 

    South Island  | 

    US$4599 + tax

    ACTIVE 4
    • ACTIVE 1

      What's The Rush?

      I’m not a triathlete, but I’m in decent shape and I’m not looking to experience a place just through a bus window. I’m happy to slow down on the trail, soak it in and breathe in the fresh air.


    • ACTIVE 2

      Leg Stretcher

      Sure, I own some hiking boots, they’re even worn in, but they don’t go on long trips. I like my creature comforts and I like to give a range of activities a go.


    • ACTIVE 3

      Earn Your Lunch

      I stay active on vacation so that I can eat and drink what I like without feeling guilty. I season my trips with a little fresh exercise.


    • ACTIVE 4

      Challenge Accepted

      I’ll let my trusty guides sweat the small things, so I can focus on my goal. Getting to the top, reaching the end, achieving my dreams! Sure, it’ll be tough, but the views will be worth it.


    • ACTIVE 5

      The Ultimate

      I’ve put in the hard yards and now I get to reap the rewards. I’m a seasoned adventurer, not afraid to get my boots wet.


    • Read more about the Active Range

    4.64 out of 5 (from 565 reviews)

    Visit New Zealand from May to September to hike quiet trails under crisp blue skies. You’ll be surrounded by stunning snow-clad mountains on this multi-sport adventure.

  • Ultimate South Island Adventure - Rimu

    14 Days  | 

    South Island  | 

    US$5499 + tax

    ACTIVE 3 - 4
    • ACTIVE 1

      What's The Rush?

      I’m not a triathlete, but I’m in decent shape and I’m not looking to experience a place just through a bus window. I’m happy to slow down on the trail, soak it in and breathe in the fresh air.


    • ACTIVE 2

      Leg Stretcher

      Sure, I own some hiking boots, they’re even worn in, but they don’t go on long trips. I like my creature comforts and I like to give a range of activities a go.


    • ACTIVE 3

      Earn Your Lunch

      I stay active on vacation so that I can eat and drink what I like without feeling guilty. I season my trips with a little fresh exercise.


    • ACTIVE 4

      Challenge Accepted

      I’ll let my trusty guides sweat the small things, so I can focus on my goal. Getting to the top, reaching the end, achieving my dreams! Sure, it’ll be tough, but the views will be worth it.


    • ACTIVE 5

      The Ultimate

      I’ve put in the hard yards and now I get to reap the rewards. I’m a seasoned adventurer, not afraid to get my boots wet.


    • Read more about the Active Range

    4.53 out of 5 (from 5051 reviews)

    We'll take you on an unforgettable journey exploring our mountains, coastlines and countryside, on foot, by bike and with a paddle in your hands. Experience our unique culture and wildlife along the way.

  • Milford Hiking Adventure - Manuka

    14 Days  | 

    South Island  | 

    US$6399 + tax

    ACTIVE 2 - 3
    • ACTIVE 1

      What's The Rush?

      I’m not a triathlete, but I’m in decent shape and I’m not looking to experience a place just through a bus window. I’m happy to slow down on the trail, soak it in and breathe in the fresh air.


    • ACTIVE 2

      Leg Stretcher

      Sure, I own some hiking boots, they’re even worn in, but they don’t go on long trips. I like my creature comforts and I like to give a range of activities a go.


    • ACTIVE 3

      Earn Your Lunch

      I stay active on vacation so that I can eat and drink what I like without feeling guilty. I season my trips with a little fresh exercise.


    • ACTIVE 4

      Challenge Accepted

      I’ll let my trusty guides sweat the small things, so I can focus on my goal. Getting to the top, reaching the end, achieving my dreams! Sure, it’ll be tough, but the views will be worth it.


    • ACTIVE 5

      The Ultimate

      I’ve put in the hard yards and now I get to reap the rewards. I’m a seasoned adventurer, not afraid to get my boots wet.


    • Read more about the Active Range

    4.44 out of 5 (from 941 reviews)

    On this two week hiking adventure you’ll discover some of New Zealand’s Great Walks as well as lesser known hikes such as the Inland Pack Track on the wild West Coast.

  • Essence of the South Island - Tui

    8 Days  | 

    South Island  | 

    US$3999 + tax

    ACTIVE 3 - 4
    • ACTIVE 1

      What's The Rush?

      I’m not a triathlete, but I’m in decent shape and I’m not looking to experience a place just through a bus window. I’m happy to slow down on the trail, soak it in and breathe in the fresh air.


    • ACTIVE 2

      Leg Stretcher

      Sure, I own some hiking boots, they’re even worn in, but they don’t go on long trips. I like my creature comforts and I like to give a range of activities a go.


    • ACTIVE 3

      Earn Your Lunch

      I stay active on vacation so that I can eat and drink what I like without feeling guilty. I season my trips with a little fresh exercise.


    • ACTIVE 4

      Challenge Accepted

      I’ll let my trusty guides sweat the small things, so I can focus on my goal. Getting to the top, reaching the end, achieving my dreams! Sure, it’ll be tough, but the views will be worth it.


    • ACTIVE 5

      The Ultimate

      I’ve put in the hard yards and now I get to reap the rewards. I’m a seasoned adventurer, not afraid to get my boots wet.


    • Read more about the Active Range

    4.60 out of 5 (from 1936 reviews)

    Short on time? On this adventure you’ll hike, bike, kayak, cruise and jet boat in some extraordinary parts of the South Island. You can combine this with our 5-day 'Kauri' to see both Islands in two weeks.

  • New Zealand Family Adventure - Kea

    13 Days  | 

    South Island  | 

    Adult: US$4799 + tax , Child (15 & under): US$3999 + tax

    ACTIVE 1 - 2
    • ACTIVE 1

      What's The Rush?

      I’m not a triathlete, but I’m in decent shape and I’m not looking to experience a place just through a bus window. I’m happy to slow down on the trail, soak it in and breathe in the fresh air.


    • ACTIVE 2

      Leg Stretcher

      Sure, I own some hiking boots, they’re even worn in, but they don’t go on long trips. I like my creature comforts and I like to give a range of activities a go.


    • ACTIVE 3

      Earn Your Lunch

      I stay active on vacation so that I can eat and drink what I like without feeling guilty. I season my trips with a little fresh exercise.


    • ACTIVE 4

      Challenge Accepted

      I’ll let my trusty guides sweat the small things, so I can focus on my goal. Getting to the top, reaching the end, achieving my dreams! Sure, it’ll be tough, but the views will be worth it.


    • ACTIVE 5

      The Ultimate

      I’ve put in the hard yards and now I get to reap the rewards. I’m a seasoned adventurer, not afraid to get my boots wet.


    • Read more about the Active Range

    4.69 out of 5 (from 249 reviews)

    Join us on a family adventure that you can take year-round. Hike, kayak, raft and jet boat the South Island and visit a wildlife reserve to view kiwi, our national bird.

Trip Reviews

  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16240 reviews)

    Well done, Andy & Jo

    Many thanks to Andy and Jo, guides to our 2nd half of the Kauri trip. The hiking was outstanding, and the varied other activities just made this trip that more special.
    Ted Jackson Review Image
    – Tennessee, United States
    Kauri, March 2017
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16240 reviews)

    Perfect Trip for anyone who loves Nature!

    If you enjoy being outdoors and like to challenge yourself this trip is for you. I wasn't an avid hiker before signing up for the Rimu trip but after reading the itinerary I knew I couldn't pass up this amazing opportunity. You never know what you are capable of until you try and that is how I feel after climbing up to the Angelus Hut and hiking to Mueller ridge. I had never climbed a mountain before (since there are no mountains where I live) but the views are more than worth the climb.
    This trip is the best way to see all that the South Island has to offer, it is the perfect balance between adventure, relaxation, self-exploration, and cultural immersion. Anyone can go to New Zealand and rent a car and go hiking, biking, and Kayaking; however, they will miss out on the best parts of traveling to a new place and that is the knowledge and culture that only someone who lives there would know. The guides (Tory and Vanessa) were awesome! Tory is an amazing cook, and Ness was great at making jokes and keeping the atmosphere cheery during the longer drives. I loved listening to the guides tell us about the Maori people and the local legends or folklore. I actually thought Ness was lying to me when she would tell me that the views get better after being left speechless by the scenery, but every day was better than the previous!
    I have to mention the FOOD!!! The food alone is enough for me to sign up for this trip again. When I travel I don’t always know what the local food is or would be but with this trip the guides cook you all sorts of local food and all the food is fresh and delicious. If you don’t like something they will make sure to accommodate you.
    Ness and Tory made you feel like this was a trip among friends and family, not strangers. I will come back to New Zealand again!
    Brian Heinz Review Image
    – Wisconsin, United States
    Rimu, May 2017
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16240 reviews)

    A Fantastic trip

    This is the best way to tour South Island of New Zealand. Enjoy the spectacular views, experience the first hand of back country and meet the physical challenges. With small group of people and two dedicated guides, what else one ask for?
    Sha Ma Review Image
    – Kansas, United States
    Rimu, January 2017
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16240 reviews)

    Wow! What a trip!

    We had an absolute blast exploring the South Island with two legendary guides, Ken and Elder. Amazing hiking and other activities, great food, and awesome company!
    Jordan Altaras Review Image
    – Washington, United States
    Rimu, April 2017
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16240 reviews)

    Jan 31 2017 Kauri with Andrew and Jo

    Awesome trip. Andy and Jo were excellent guides. Loved Andy's music selection. Themed for the various activities (played Queen Fat Bottom Girls as we drove to mountain biking). He gave us great insight into the history of New Zealand as well as the flora and fauna. And Jo was an excellent cook and companion.
    Ross Gough Review Image
    – California, United States
    Kauri, March 2017

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Why travel with Active Adventures?

Above all, we aim to be amazing hosts. We're proud of our kiwi roots, and our professional, warm and relaxed style of running trips around the world is unforgettable.

We're VERY picky about who we select to work in our team, and we have people from all over the world lining up to guide our trips. So we get to hire the absolute BEST in the business.

As soon as you get off the plane, we've got all the details of your vacation covered – top notch meals, comfortable transport & accommodation, amazing guides and INCREDIBLE service.

Whether you’re new to adventure travel, or you’ve never travelled in a group before, you’ll find yourself arriving home positively different from when you left.

With our small groups (no more than 14), you'll get to know our team, your fellow travellers, and have the flexibility and freedom to do as much (or as little!) as you like.

It's all about getting there under your own steam – on foot, in a sea kayak, or by bike. What better way is there to experience mind blowing scenery? If it's your first time, no worries – our expert guides have got you covered.

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