20 Best Hikes In New Zealand – Complete Guide

Updated: March 24, 2023

Looking for the Best Hikes in New Zealand? Look no further!

Regardless of your motivations, we hope you find a hike below that will inspire you to come back to this beautiful country over and over in search of ever more challenging endeavours.

Buckle up for on an adventure in some of the most stunning landscapes in the world.

Trek through New Zealand's lush native and ancient forests, walk along rugged coastlines, past magnificent lakes, volcanic slopes and legendary glaciers! the remote and mountains can be unpredictable at time. Which is why you will also find some of the most dangerous trails in the world here.

Given the unprecedented beauty of this country we recommend booking day hikes at the same time when you book your multi-day treks to avoid missing out on some of the most unbelievable outdoor experiences on our planet.

For more mountain adventures in the region see our Australia & Oceania Guide.

Hiking Trails In New Zealand

1. Tongariro Alpine Crossing

  • Location: Tongariro National Park, North Island
  • Distance: 19.4km
  • Duration: 6 – 8 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate/Strenuous

Tongariro Alpine Crossing is repeatedly named the best day hike in New Zealand, famous for its ominous feature in The Lord of the Rings as Mount Doom in the land of Mordor.

The scenery you will be surrounded by is characterised by hardened lava, and if the weather is clear, the view of a smoking volcano, Mount Ngauruhoe.

If the weather is gloomy, your experience will nevertheless be marked by the awesome, eerie atmosphere cast by the barren landscape.

To get to the start of the hike, most tourists book a shuttle from nearby towns, including National Park Village and Whakapapa Village.

The walk starts in heath and moorland, after which you will start your steep climb up the mountain taking care on the rocky, icy terrain.

From the highest point, you will have views of The Tongariro National Park, Mt Ruapehu and interesting, small green lakes.

For the descent, you can slide down the gravel without being bound to a pathway.

2. Mount Alfred Track

  • Location: 15-minute drive from Glenorchy, South Island
  • Distance: 8.7 km (return)
  • Duration: 4 – 6 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate

The Mount Alfred route starts on the Routeburn Track, which is accessible via an unmarked parking lot on the Glenorchy-Routeburn road.

The path first winds through indigenous silver beech forest, mossy carpeted floors and trickling streams before veering onto a steep section which leads you onto the ridge and summit.

The peak of the ridge offers dramatic panoramic views of Earnslaw Glacier in the north and Lake Wakapitu, the Dart and Rees Valleys to the south.

Please Note: The private owner of the land has recently declared that hikers must obtain prior permission to access the mountain, because of the risk of getting lost on the route. One way to do this is simply to join a guided tour, or to contact the Earnslaw Station.

3. Ben Lomond Track

  • Location: Near Queenstown, South Island
  • Distance: 14.3 km (return)
  • Duration: 6 – 8 hours from Queenstown
  • Difficulty: Moderate/hard – not recommended for small children

The Ben Lomond track which eventually meets up with the summit of Ben Lomond is accessed via the Lakefront Esplanade, from Hammy’s Track starting at Skyline Queenstown, or from Lomond Crescent.

This route starts in the Douglas Fir forest, on into tussock grasslands, following a well-maintained track.

There are a number of smaller tracks in the region, but the one that leads to the summit is called the Ben Lomond Saddle between Ben Lomond and Bowen Peak.

The vistas from atop the mountain are of the Remarkables mountain range, as well as Walter and Cecil Peak past Lake Wakapitu.

If you are looking for a shorter route, it is possible to take the Queenstown Gondola to cut out the first section.

4. Roy’s Peak Track 

  • Location: Wanaka region, South Island
  • Distance: 16 km
  • Duration: 5 – 6 hours
  • Difficulty: Hard

The hike starts from the Roy’s Peak Track carpark from on the side of Mount Aspiring Road – it might be a good idea to cycle to the parking lot, because it can get very busy, especially in the summer.

You will begin on a steep, zigzagging track to the conservation area and through tussock grasslands to the summit of Roy’s Peak.

From here you will see spectacular views of Lake Wanaka at the foot of the surrounding snow-capped mountains, including Mount Aspiring.

Some important considerations when hiking Roy’s Peak include:

  • You will be crossing private land, so be respectful of the livestock and stay on the marked track. To avoid any issues consider booking a trek with a respectable local operator.
  • The weather is highly volatile and there is the risk of hypothermia even in summer months and during winter the highest section of the track presents avalanche terrain – check the weather before you go!

5. Cape Kidnappers Walking Track 


Photo by James Breeze

  • Location: Hawke’s Bay, North Island
  • Distance: 8.8 km
  • Duration: 5 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy

Cape Kidnappers Walking Track is a seaside walk along “Māui's fish hook”, from Clifton to Cape Kidnappers.

The hike takes you past the world’s largest mainland gannet colony, alongside a range of imposing, craggy cliffs.

The trek is flat, except for a short, steep climb up to the gannet nesting grounds and a stunning view of the bay.

In addition to the gannets, the coast provides habitat for a variety of other native wildlife and vegetation, such as the white-fronted tern, the variable oystercatcher and little blue penguins. 

Important: Before hiking, check the tide timetable as the route can only attempted during low tide.

You should leave from Clifton at least 3 hours after the high tide, and return from the Cape no later than 90 minutes after low tide. 

The track was closed in March 2019 due to rock falls.

6. Kauaeranga Kauri Trail or Pinnacles Walk

  • Location: Thames
  • Distance: 15.8km
  • Duration: 8 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Although there is the option of overnighting on the mountain, Kauaeranga (Pinnacles) Trail hike can be completed in a day if you are up for a challenge.

The walk starts at a carpark at the end of a 9-km road from the Kauaeranga Valley Visitor’s Centre.

Steeped in Kauri history, the trail was used by the original packhorses which carried supplies for loggers, gum diggers and gold miners at the start of the twentieth century.

During the first three hours of the walk you will pass through a forest of nikau palms and impressive rata trees and includes the crossing of quaint swingbridges over trickling streams.

Once you reach the rugged Pinnacles and scramble to its peak you will have 360-degree views of the Pacific Ocean, offshore islands and sprawling plains.

If you want to stay overnight in the hut, book far in advance, especially if you plan to hike over the weekend. You can try Pinnacles Hut.

7. Bealey Spur Track

  • Location: Selwyn, Canterbury, South Island
  • Distance: 12 km return
  • Duration: 4 – 6 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy/moderate

The Bealey Track starts with a steep path from the car park to the start of the track, which stretches about 500m.

You will then hike through a forest until the trail opens up to a ridge. As you walk along the ridge you will catch occasional views on either side of you – on your one side is a dramatic gorge and on the other a gentler view of the Waimakariri river.

The track eventually leads you through a grassland, a swamp-like area (over a board walk) and then some more forest, until you reach the (relatively underwhelming) Bealey Hut, built in 1925 for local shepherds.

From here, you turn back, and repeat your route back home.

8. Lake Marian Track

  • Location: In Fiordland National Park, about 85 km from Te Anau
  • Distance: 7 km
  • Duration: 4 – 5 hours (including time to appreciate the lake scenery)
  • Difficulty: Varies

The first section of the Lake Marian Trek follows a gravel road and over several wooden bridges until you reach the beautiful Marian waterfalls.

Many turn around after the view of the falls, which would amount to a 20-minute roundtrip. However, we recommend you continue your trek as the destination is more than worth it.

After the bridges, the uphill to Lake Marian begins in earnest, along a route which is marked by orange arrows.

Once you arrive at the Lake, we suggest that you hang around for a couple of hours as the weather (and scenery) changes dramatically in just a short space of time.

Please note, however, that the area is disposed to avalanches during the snow season, so it is not a good idea to wander to the perimeter on the opposite side of the lake.

9. Mueller Hut Hike

  • Location: Aoraki / Mt Cook village, South Island
  • Distance: 10.4 km
  • Duration: 8 hours (in total)
  • Difficulty: Strenuous to complete in one day

Mueller Hut trek has the option of being split into an overnight excursion, which is recommended if you want to savour the sunset on the mountain and have a little extra time. If so, book your accommodation long beforehand.

The track starts from White Horse Hill parking lot in Mt Cook village. It then presents a steep ascent along a zigzagging path towards Sealy Tarns where you will enjoy marvellous vistas of the Hooker Valley and surrounding peaks.

Hereafter, you will climb through uneven, rocky alpine scrub until you reach the skyline ridge which you will follow to arrive at the characteristically red Mueller Hut.

The descent strictly follows the same route you took to summit the ridge.

10. Hooker Valley Walk

  • Location: Aoraki / Mt Cook village, South Island
  • Distance: 10 km
  • Duration: 3 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy

Hooker Valley Walk is a flat, scenic route that will lead you over a series of swing bridges and through a variety of scenery, including impressive mountain scenery as well as open tussock.

The hike ends at the icy Hooker Lake with a background of the majestic Mount Cook. Many recommend this trek, because of the minimal effort to reward ratio (the walk is easy but the final destination is awesome).

Please note: Make sure that you stick to the designated track to avoid the risk of avalanches and prepare for all weather conditions because the region is known to be meteorologically unpredictable. To avoid any issues consider booking a trek with a respectable local operator.

11. Mount Sunday Track

  • Location: Canterbury, South Island
  • Distance: 3 km
  • Duration: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: Easy

Mount Sunday Track is a quick and easy hike with exceptional scenic beauty, which was made famous as the site of Edoras in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.

Starting on Hakatere Potts Road, the gravel path leads to a windy summit from which you will see an expansive view of the Rangitata River snaking through the grassland.

Multi-Day Hikes In New Zealand

12. Milford Track

  • Location: Fiordland National Park
  • Distance: 53.5 km
  • Duration: 4 days/3 nights
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Accommodation: 3 huts, booking required, no camping allowed

The Milford Track has been hailed as the finest walk in the world and passes glacial valleys, gleaming waterfalls and though ancient rainforests of beech trees, ferns and moss. 

Starting at Glade Wharf the walk follows one direction and ends at Sand-fly Point in Milford Sound.

While most of the hike snakes along riversides on the valley floor, there is the occasional steep climb such as that of the magnificent Mackinnon Pass, Ocean Peak Corner and Harris Saddle.

The Great Walks Season is between late October and early May – during this time the risks of floods and avalanches are greatly reduced, but the huts require booking long in advance.

If you opt to hike in the off-season, you would need to have plenty of prior experience and should expect the facilities available in the huts (such as gas) and on the track to be minimal.

Please note: The downhills can be precarious and slippery, so good foldable walking poles are really helpful

13. Routeburn Track

  • Location: Fiordland National Park
  • Distance: 32 km
  • Duration: 3 days/ 2 nights
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Accommodation: An option of 4 huts and 2 campsites

The Routeburn Track starts at the Routeburn Shelter (near Glenorchy) and ends at The Divide (on Milford road, 85 km from Te Anau), linking the Mount Aspiring National Park with the Fiordland National Par – it can be walked in either direction.

This hike includes the perfect combination of tranquil indigenous rainforest and awesome alpine views – a highlight for many is traversing the Harris Saddle.

This is also part of the Great Walks series, so the best time to take the trip is from October to late April.

14. Tongariro Northern Circuit Trek

  • Location: Tongariro National Park, North Island
  • Distance: 43 km
  • Duration: Usually 3 days/ 2 nights, but can be done in 2 days
  • Difficulty: Fairly strenuous if done over 2 days, otherwise manageable
  • Accommodation: A choice between huts and campsites

If you want to spend a little more time in Mordor than the single-day option of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, the Northern Circuit is one of the favourite of New Zealand’s Great walks.

For this trek, you will be starting at the Whakapapa Village which you can reach via a shuttle from Taupo.

The hike then includes the Alpine Crossing and continues to complete the loop around the volcanic Mount Ngauruhoe.

Although most of the impressive scenery is incorporated in the Alpine Crossing, one of the main reasons we would recommend that you elect to take the full 3-day hike rather than the single-day option is the opportunity to stay at Oturere Hut on your second night.

The starry, quiet night followed by an overwhelmingly orange sunrise is truly unforgettable.

15. Abel Tasman Coastal Track

  • Location: Abel Tasman National Park, South Island
  • Distance: 60 km
  • Duration: 3-5 days
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Accommodation: 4 huts and 18 campsites are available along the track (booking in advance)

Abel Tasman Coastal Track is also maintained as one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, but is entirely different to the awesome, alpine routes recommended above. 

The closest town to the start of the walk is Nelson, where you can stay overnight and catch an early bus to Marahau to start the walk.

You will begin in an estuary, then pass through lush forests and gullies until the scenery opens up to the heavenly coastline.

The trek continues in this way: in and out of indigenous rainforest and back out onto the beach, traversing the occasional steep pass and encountering thriving plant and animal life.

There is also the option of kayaking instead of walking from campsite to campsite on a couple of the days – make sure you look into this option.

You will end your coastal adventure in Totaranui where you can be fetched by bus or water taxi.

16. Lake Waikaremoana Hike

  • Location: Te Urewera, North Island
  • Distance: 46 km
  • Duration: 3 to 4 days
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Accommodation: a choice of a number of huts and campsites

The Lake Waikaremoana Track is another Great Walk, located in a region which is the ancestral home of the Maori tribe, Ngai Tuhoe.

The Te Urewera National Park is also home to the largest remaining spread of native forest in the North Island. The route primarily follows the shorelines of the lake, passing through idyllic rainforest, shrubbery and wetland.

All hikers love the famous “goblin forest” which is all-but magical with its early-morning mists and pristine rivers and waterfalls.

Notably, the region is almost entirely untouched by human interference, so the plant and birdlife are perfectly preserved.

Please note: The walk begins near Wairoa, but is not a circuit track, so transport from the finish point must be organised beforehand and people often use shuttle buses.

17. Kepler Track

  • Location: Fiordland National Park
  • Distance: 60 km
  • Duration: 3 – 4 days
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Accommodation: the option of 3 huts and 2 campsites

Kepler Track is one of the only multi-day pathways that was built specifically for the hiker’s pleasure.

The track was opened relatively recently, in 1988, in order to show off the best of the Fiordland – mystical beech forests, rolling tussocks, cascading waterfalls, glacial valleys and most impressively, the panoramic views of Lake Te Anau, Lake Manapouri and the Kepler Mountains.

In addition to walking you through the most exquisite views of the region, the purpose-built walkways make the trekking a lot easier than it would have been otherwise.

Trampers generally start their hike in Manapouri and exit from Te Anau, as both towns are equipped with more than enough tourist accommodation.

Please note: As with the other Great Walks, many of the hut facilities are only provided during walking season (October to April), so plan the time of your visit carefully.

18. Te Araroa Trail

  • Location: From the very north to the very south of New Zealand
  • Distance: 3000 km
  • Duration: roughly 4 months
  • Difficulty: hugely varied
  • Accommodation: a combination of camping, huts, and town-visits 

Te Araroa Trail is New Zealand’s equivalent of the Appalachian Trail, and literally means The Long Pathway in Maori. It was officially inaugurated in 2011 and connects many shorter older trails, so it can be done in sections.

As you have already seen, the Kiwi landscape in phenomenally varied and impressive, so traversing across the islands will present some of the most awesome scenery in the world.

Some of the characteristic ecosystems you will navigate include massive dunes, subtropical rainforests, snow-capped mountains, alpine lakes and sprawling grasslands.

The hike also passes through a number of small towns, which will give you a feel of the distinct cultures throughout the country.

You can complete it northbound or southbound, but trekkers usually begin their journey in Lake Reinga in October/November.

This optimises the weather in the South Island and reduces the chances of encountering avalanches etc.

Please note: This trek requires oodles of reading, planning and courage.

19. Dusky Track

  • Location: Fiordland National Park
  • Distance: 83.6 km
  • Duration: 10 days
  • Difficulty: Hard

Accommodation: Department of Conservation huts along the way, first come first serve

Dusky Track is one of the most remote and secluded of New Zealand’s many hikes, and is only accessible by boat, plane or helicopter.

It is a difficult trek because of the steep mountain ascents, long duration and the lack of support you receive along the way – we suggest that only experienced hikers with a high fitness level attempt it.

The track is characterised by creek crossings, overgrown, muddy pathways undulating over two major passes and through 3 deep valleys.

Please remember that this track can only really be completed in summer because of the seasonal snow, ice and avalanches. To avoid any issues consider booking a trek with a respectable local operator.

20. Heaphy Track

  • Location: Kahurangi National Park
  • Distance: 82 km
  • Duration: 4 to 5 days
  • Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
  • Accommodation: A choice of DOC 2 huts and 3 campsites along the way (booking required)

The final Great Walk of the list, the Heaphy Track is situated near the aforementioned Abel Tasman Walk.

The hike boasts swing bridges, groves of Nikau palms and alpine tussock country, as well as a host of native birds.

You can trek it in either direction, as it connects the Aorere Valley in Golden Bay with the Karamea on the West Coast of South Island.

We recommend this hike if you are moderately fit and have experience with day-long hikes.


About the author 

Mark Whitman

Mark has trekked extensively in Asia, Europe, South America and Africa. He founded Mountain IQ in 2014 with the sole aim to be the best online information portal to some of the most popular mountain destinations around the world. When not writing for Mountain IQ, Mark is out exploring the outdoors with his wife!

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