Hiking in New Zealand is a travel adventure every mountain and nature lover should experience at least once in a lifetime!
You guys will recall from our most memorable mountain trip to the Himalayas, that we love to take in high peaks and breathtaking landscape views.
Dan and Bailey from Destinationless Travel, got us excited to pick one of the famous hiking trails in New Zealand.
Catch below their recommendations, tips and soak in all the useful knowledge, so that you get to select the best hikes.
Hiking in New Zealand is a once of a lifetime opportunity for most of us, and you should make the most of it!
New Zealand is a nature lover's paradise and for most visitors, that is what draws them here.
From stunning waterfalls, snow-covered peaks, spectacular lakes, and everything in between New Zealand is a beautiful place to visit.
Every year thousands of nature enthusiasts flock to this tiny island nation to explore its vast backyard of untouched paradise.
However, there’s one activity that not only draws people here, but is also unavoidable if you want to see the most beautiful places, and that’s hiking.
Hiking has to be New Zealand’s most popular outdoor activity and something almost every visitor will do in some way or another.
Even if you’re not a pro, the best thing you can be is prepared.
So, here’s my guide to hiking in one of the most beautiful places on earth… New Zealand!
The Local Lingo
Hiking in New Zealand has become somewhat of a custom here and the Kiwi’s (New Zealanders) even have their own name for it, “tramping”.
Tramping is a word I had never heard before arriving on New Zealand’s shores but now I use it more often than not.
Knowing what “tramping” means will help you so you don’t get confused like I did when I first arrived!
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Weather - Best time to go hiking
New Zealand is a wet place.
The beautiful green rolling hills, lush forest, and huge lakes aren’t in abundance for no reason, and as such, hiking in New Zealand requires waterproof gear.
In winter, temperatures on the South Island can reach -10 degrees Celsius.
Also present in alpine areas in the winter and summer is lots of snow.
Most trails are open all year round, however, in winter it is very dangerous to hike alpine areas without proper gear and experience.
In the summer, overnight temperatures still drop to below 10 degrees Celsius but daytime temperatures can reach 30+. The sun in New Zealand is very harsh due to the weakening of the ozone layer and therefore people burn easier.
In spring, you can expect lots of rain and cold winds.
The middle and end of autumn are where you will experience the year’s first frosts but still have rather warm days.
In conclusion, it’s best to be prepared for all season’s weather in New Zealand when hiking and ensure you have suitable gear!
TIP: Make sure to get proper Travel insurance cover!
The World Nomads hiking insurance provides a special focus for adventure travelers.
The Great Walks
The most popular hikes in New Zealand are the Great Walks.
The Great Walks are 9 (10 as of next year) hikes that traverse through some of New Zealand’s most unique landscapes.
The trails spread throughout the North and South islands but the majority are in the South Island in Fiordland National park.
These Great Walks are meant to be multi-day trails, but you can do day hikes too by just completing sections of them.
The Great Walks are open all year but from October to May is the official Great Walks season.
During these months, the Great Walks must be booked well in advance, with the most popular, The Milford Track, booking out within hours of bookings opening.
The current 9 Great Walks are:
- The Kepler Track – Fiordland National park
- The Milford Track - Fiordland National park
- The Routeburn Track - Fiordland National park
- Tongariro Northern Circuit – Central North Island
- Whanganui Journey - Whanganui
- Lake Waikaremoana – East Coast
- Abel Tasman Coastal Track - Tasman
- Rakiura Track – Southland
- Heaphy Track – West Coast
Booking the Great Walks
As mentioned above, bookings for the Great Walks are essential and required well in advance.
Bookings are made directly with the Department of Conservation (DOC) and usually open around May (at the end of the previous season) however this changes every year so it’s best to check on their website around April for the official date.
If you plan on doing the Milford Track you must book on the day as soon as bookings open to secure your spot.
If you plan on hiking around Christmas, you need to book within minutes!
The other hikes that book out quickly are the Kepler, Routeburn, Abel Tasman, and Tongariro Tracks.
Other popular Hikes
Roys Peak is a one day hike located in Mount Aspiring National Park only a 10-minute drive from Wanaka in the South Island.
In my opinion, this is the most beautiful day hike in New Zealand and I guess the thousands of visitors who hike this trail every week also agree!
The trail is 8km one way and raises 1100m in elevation.
Ben Lomond is located in Queenstown and is another very popular, but also a very beautiful day hike.
This trail starts right from Queenstown city center.
To the summit and back down is a full 8 hour day!
That being said, to get a great view you can just hike to the saddle (half way) which cuts off a few hours.
The views you get are of Lake Wakatipu and in some spots, you can see Queenstown!
The Mueller Hut
The Mueller Hut is an alpine hut located in Mount Cook National park and the hike there is considered an alpine hike.
In summer, the Mueller Hut hike is possible in a day however many opt to stay at the hut (bookings are essential for hut accommodation) or camp outside for the night.
In winter though, you must add a few hours to the hike, making this an overnight hike with a stay in the Mueller Hut.
In winter temperatures at the hut can reach -30 degrees Celsius and you must cross avalanche terrain to make it to the hut so alpine experience is necessary.
The Hooker Valley track
The Hooker Valley track is more of a walk than a hike.
This rather easy 10km return trail is located in Mount Cook National Park.
Starting from a carpark this trail is easily completed in 3 hours round-trip.
The trail ends at the Hooker Lake which sits below Mount Cook.
Here you get the most beautiful reflections of Mount Cook on the lake – unless it’s frozen which happens in winter!
There are actually thousands more small and large trails dotted across New Zealand that it would be impossible to name them all.
For most, with only a short time in New Zealand, these trails are a great start and get their popularity from their beauty!
I have personally hiked many of the walks mentioned above (and many others) and loved every minute of them.
If you plan on visiting New Zealand then getting out and jumping on a tramping trail is a must-do.
These world-class hikes will leave a lasting impression.
New Zealand really is a place truly entwined with the nature that surrounds its cities and people!