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The Great Walks of New Zealand

Skip to: New Zealand's 9 Great Walks | The Most Popular Great Walks | Great Walks Discovery Hiking Tour

The "Great Walks" are generally regarded as New Zealand's premier multi-day hikes. They have been afforded special status in order to better regulate the numbers of hikers on the trails to enhance the experience for those people, and to eliminate or minimize overcrowding and erosion issues. The number of hikers is regulated by requiring pre-booking of beds in the backcountry huts along these tracks. During the main season, the cost for staying in these huts is considerably higher than for a normal backcountry hut, which helps subsidize the extra management required, but at the same time, the facilities are far better, with solar-powered lighting, gas stoves and flush toilets.

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The hiking trails that make up the nine Great Walks in New Zealand

North Island

  • Lake Waikaremoana Track - one of the more gentle Great Walks, this 46km track circumnavigates the picturesque Lake Waikaremoana over the course of 3 or 4 days, with plenty of opportunities for fishing and swimming.
  • Tongariro Northern Circuit, part of which is the Tongariro Crossing. This 3-4 day track traverses up and around some of the most stunning volcanic scenery that New Zealand has to offer.
  • Whanganui Journey - not strictly a great walk - this is an odd-one-out as it is actually a kayak trip - 145km down the Whanganui River, from Taumarunui to Pipiriki, which takes around 5 days, though it can be turned into a shorter 3-day trip with an exit at Pipiriki. This is an awesome adventure, visiting places only accessible by river, as it was in the early days of exploration and colonization, by both Maori and Europeans.

South Island

  • The Milford Track is the jewel in New Zealand's hiking crown, an extremely popular 4-day track through Fiordland, from Lake Te Anau to the stunning Milford Sound.
  • The Routeburn Track is a 32km, 3-day tramp between Glenorchy and The Divide, crossing through Mt Aspiring and Fiordland National parks.
  • The Kepler Track, at 60km, is possibly the most challenging of the Great Walks, taking 3-4 days to complete. It is also the course for the Kepler Challenge - an 'ultra-marathon' trail running race of the entire track, which takes the winners around 5 hours to complete!
  • The Abel Tasman Coastal Track is one of the most popular tramps for visitors to the country as it runs along the coastline of the sunniest part of the South Island, featuring some stunning beaches of golden sand and crystal-clear water.
  • The Heaphy Track is another hike in the northern South Island and at 79km (4-6 days) is the longest of the Great Walks, with some of the most diverse scenery, from the forests of the Kahurangi National Park to scenic West Coast beaches. It is also unique in that it is open to mountain bikers during the Winter Season.

Stewart Island

  • The Rakiura Track is a 2-3 day, 30-37km track with a great mix of beach and forest scenery.

If these Great Walks sound like your cup of tea then our 'Manuka' trip is the ultimate choice – as part of the two week tour of the South Island, you’re able to customise days seven to eleven. You can either choose to hike the entire Milford Track and then rest the legs with a cruise on Milford Sound or take on our Great Walks Discovery, hiking sections of the Milford, Routeburn and Kepler Tracks before finishing with a wilderness cruise in Doubtful Sound.

The most popular Great Walks in New Zealand

North Island 

The Tongariro Crossing - the world's greatest day hike

Hiker looking over Emerald Lakes on the Tongariro Crossing

Photo: A happy hiker looks down on Emerald Lakes, as he hikes the Tongariro Crossing on day 4 of the 5 day 'Kauri' - Ultimate North Island Adventure

The Tongariro Crossing is the most famous section of any of the Great Walks to span New Zealand's North Island, and is widely recognised as the 'world's greatest day hike'. The Tongariro Crossing is part of the Tongariro National Park and encompasses 3 volcanoes: Mt Ruapehu, Mt Tongariro and Mt Ngauruhoe (famously known as 'Mt Doom' in the Lord of the Rings trilogy).

How to hike the Tongariro Crossing solo:

  • Start and finish: The Tongariro Crossing is a one-way day-hike spanning 19.4 kilometres (12.1 miles) from car park to car park - so you'll need to organise a shuttle from your accommodation to the start of the hike, then from the finish back to your accommodation. When you're requesting this shuttle, bear in mind the most common (and recommended) direction to hike the Tongariro Crossing is by starting at Mangatepopo Carpark and hiking through to Ketetahi Carpark.
  • Be prepared: In this one (epic!) day you'll find yourself hiking through high mountain passes - some of which are susceptible to snow in the middle of summer, as well as lush rainforest. So you'll need to prepare for every element. We definitely recommend taking a look at our day hike packing list to make sure you don't get caught out in the elements.

Hike the Tongariro Crossing as a guided tour

You can take the tricky organisation out of hiking the Tongariro Crossing by joining a trip like our 5 or 11 day 'Kauri' trip. This trip starts and finishes in Auckland - and we'll take care of all your food, accommodation, hiking permits and transport.

And the best part: on a guided tour you'll have 2 world class Kiwi guides with you every step of the way. For over 20 years we've been taking small groups of keen adventurers (just like you!) into the most wild and remote parts of the great New Zealand countryside, so we'll make sure you're adequately prepared for every hike, keep you safe, have a lot of fun and take all the hard work out of organising your journey - so you have more time to enjoy your surroundings and forge friendships with your travel companions.

If you'd like to learn more about our 'Kauri' trip, simply request a free travel brochure or check our trip availability today!

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South Island

Fiordland National Park

Fiordland National Park is home to (arguably) the 3 best multi-day hiking trails in the world. In this one spectacular National Park you'll find the following Great Walks:

The Milford Track

Milford Track

The Routeburn Track

Key Summit

The Kepler Track

Kepler Bridge

Hike the South Island's Great Walks in 4 nights/5 days

To experience the South Island's best Great Walks, you have a few options:

  • Hike one trail in its entirety by 'winging it' solo - but make sure you book your Great Walk accommodation (the mountain huts) far enough ahead of time as they do sell out. Make sure you commit a great deal of time planning your transport to and from the start and finish of each hike, since the Great Walks of New Zealand are not loop tracks.
  • Hike one trail in its entirety on a 4 night/5 day Guided Tour that starts and finishes in Queenstown
  • Or you can experience a broader diversity of Fiordland's rugged landscapes by hiking the absolute best sections of a handful of Great Walks - this type of trip is called a 'Great Walks Discovery'.

On the 4 night/5 day Milford Track Guided Tour you will:

  • Start and Finish in Queenstown
  • Hike the Milford Track

On the 4 night/5 day Great Walks Discovery you will:

  • Start and finish in Queenstown
  • Hike Ben Lomond for views over Queenstown
  • Hike a section of the Routeburn track
  • Hike a section of the Milford Track
  • Hike a section of the Kepler Track

Plus

  • Cruise Milford Sound
  • Overnight cruise on Doubtful Sound

 Video: Discover the Milford Track Great Walk, and cruise Milford Sound with Active Adventures

And finally, you can experience New Zealand's Great Walks as part a (5 to 14 day) New Zealand adventure tour:

 

Trip Reviews

  •   4.60 out of 5 (from 1882 reviews)

    A Great Eight Days

    My wife, Shanen, and I had a goal of running a marathon on all seven continents and our seventh took place on March 18, in Rotorua, NZ. So two days after completing our goal, we returned to Christchurch and met up with our guides, Hillary and Dan, along with our fellow travelers. As good fortune would have it we all clicked as a group and off we went.

    For the remainder of our journey it was clear that both Hillary and Dan took great joy in what they do. Furthermore, and of great importance to us, they ensured meals had met our vegetarian and vegan needs. We were never made to feel our dietary needs were inconvenient to them and they were handled in such a way that all of us were able to enjoy our group meals.

    The actual adventure was well planned out and the expectations of each day were always explained. Our group was one that started together, made sure all finished and enjoyed the adventure.

    John Edmundson Review Image
    – Arizona, United States
    Tui, April 2017
  •   4.48 out of 5 (from 297 reviews)

    Weka---- Best day ever--14 days running

    Capable, energetic and enthusiastic guides, great fun, exciting cycling. Exceptional vistas that took our breath away, sparking waterfalls, pristine mountains and streams, Variety of cycling from road to single track with some fun stream crossings. Guides prepared delicious meals with presentation worthy of a top end restaurant. Best Day Ever
    best trip we ever had.
    Ben Thorlakson Review Image
    – Alberta, Canada
    Weka 13-day, January 2017
  •   4.38 out of 5 (from 1209 reviews)

    Perfect

    The trip was impressive and our guides, Jo and Andy, are awesome!
    Frank Chung Review Image
    – , Singapore
    Kauri, December 2017
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 4979 reviews)

    Rimu - NZ South Island

    Our Rimu trip with Ken and Elder was truly a trip of a lifetime. The two of them were the perfect pair to lead our adventure -kind, warm, funny, and incredibly encouraging (for those of us who weren't quite sure we'd make it up the mountain!) My husband and I were fortunate to have both of our adult boys join us which made for a very memorable experience. New Zealand's South Island offered some of the most breathtaking landscapes we had ever seen. The hiking, kayaking, and biking was challenging and exhilarating. It was hard to say goodbye to the group who became like family. We have stayed in touch with some, and look forward to our next trip with Active.
    Gigi Altaras Review Image
    – Washington, United States
    Rimu, November 2017
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 4979 reviews)

    Rimu Trip - Should be #1 on Your Bucket List

    First of all, the guides were "hands-down" the "BEST EVER"!!! They made this trip extra special. Katie C and Lauren were always looking out for our best interest. They were great at engaging each of us in the group, they took the time to get to know each one of us, they made sure they included groceries that you liked and more. They were fun, energetic and full of happiness! They worked very hard and feed us very well. The food was amazing!!! A big THANK YOU to both of you beautiful young women! Thank you active adventures for hiring fun and inspiring women!
    Vicki Igou Review Image
    – California, United States
    Rimu, December 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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