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So you’ve tackled some of Queenstown’s best walking trails, and want to try something else. Luckily for you, the town is surrounded by alpine ranges and natural reserves just begging to be explored. Whether you’re keen to try out some of New Zealand’s Great Walks, or you’d like to get up close and personal to Lord of the Rings territory, make sure to check out these epic hiking tracks in the area.
Tolkien fans might know Twelve Mile Delta as the Ithilien Camp from the Lord of the Rings trilogy. This is an easy 2-4 hour track that traces the shores of Lake Wakatipu and meanders through native bush and marine sediments. From Glenorchy Road, you’ll head towards the Twelve Mile Delta’s camp site, before descending along the coast towards the connecting Bob’s Cove Track. If you want to extend your journey by another 20 minutes, the nature walk on Bob’s Cove is also quite pleasant and easygoing.
An easy, one-way track that takes approximately an hour and a half to complete. It starts at Seven Mile Creek, just 7 kilometres (4.3 miles) outside of Queenstown and finishes on Seven Mile Point next to Kirk Terrace. Throughout the descent, you’ll pass through lush forestry and pine trees. As a bonus, the route brings plenty of picturesque views of Wilson Bay.
This popular hour-and-a-half return track, just 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) outside of Queenstown, zigzags upwards to Lake Dispute – which is renowned for being an abundant fishing location. As you traverse the shrub-land, you’ll stumble across the 40-minute Mt Crichton Loop Track. From here, you need to cross the weir and follow the lake shores up to the ridge. The journey ends at the connecting point between Lake Dispute to Moke Lake Track.
An undulating loop track that that is short, easy and incredibly scenic. The 2-3 hour journey will take you across grasslands right around the lake, and you won’t lose sight of the alpine ranges during the trek. Gentle gradients and a few boardwalk sections (which are designed to protect the surrounding wetlands) will lead you all around Moke Lake Reserve. Keep in mind that Moke Lake is also quite popular among mountain bikers and cyclists – stay on the left in case anyone pedals past.
A family-friendly, 2-4 hour return trip that features rivers, native plants, rock fissures, a waterfall, and a compelling historic tunnel. The Mt Crichton Track passes through the Twelve Mile Creek Gorge, where gold miners worked most extensively – you can still see some signs of sluicing along the river. The trail also connects to the Lake Dispute Track on the eastern side.
The Arawata Bridle Track is part of the trail that connects Queenstown to Glenorchy. A 90-minute return journey from the Arawata Terrace bend to Glenorchy Road near Five Mile Creek and back, has good views of the lakeside as well as an interesting assortment of rock formations to share. The rocky plains are also quite popular among climbers.
This is a 5-6 hour trek from Skippers Saddle to Coronet Peak Road that crosses both conservation sites and privately-owned lands. A gentle start along the tussocks leads hikers to the steep saddle route (which has incredible views of the Wakatipu Basin) and then goes through bluffs as you head towards Devil’s Creek. This is another track that is highly sought after by advanced mountain bikers, as it comprises some challenging steep and technical obstacles.
Fiordland National Park is the best place around Queenstown to tackle some multi-day walks. Aside from the famous Milford, Routeburn and Kepler Tracks, you’ve got the 56-kilometre (34.8-mile) Hollyford Track which takes approximately 4-5 days to complete. Given the fact the track doesn’t pass through any alpine sections, this is a great choice for hikers looking for a route that can be explored year-round (some of the park’s trails are too dangerous outside the summer season). The Hollyford Track begins among the Darran Mountains’ rock walls, following the Hollyford River to Martins Bay on the West Coast. Whether you opt to do part of the circuit or the entire thing, there are overnight huts throughout the route where you can get some rest.
Another great Fiordland National Park is the 4-day Greenstone and Caples Loop. It has two different starting points: at the end of Greenstone Road, 86 kilometres (53.4 miles) from Queenstown, or from Howden Hut near the Routeburn Track. The hike can be broken down into several stages and has plenty of huts and camping sites along the way. Key places you’ll pass through include the Caples River, McKellar Saddle, Steele Creek and Greenstone Valley. For those wanting to extend their visit, there are various side trips to consider too.