Independent Hiking or Guided. What’s right for you?

It's a well known fact that there is no better way to explore New Zealand than on foot. But should you go by yourself, or with a guide?

There is no better way to explore New Zealand than on foot. But should you go by yourself, or with a guide?

When you’re planning on hiking in a country you’ve never been to before, it’s only natural to weigh up the benefits of going it along, or going with a guide. New Zealand’s tracks and trails are incredibly well-kept – our Department of Conservation does a great job – and most can be walked year-round.  

To help you choose whether guided or independent hiking is right for you when you visit New Zealand, we’ve compared both and identified the strengths of each below.

Hiking in New Zealand Independently

For some, the idea of exploring the wilderness of a new country independently creates a keen sense of adventure and excitement.  But you’ll need to be well-prepared and aware of our ever-changing weather, especially up in the high country. Here are some of the good things about walking independently.

  • New Zealand generally retains a high standard of track maintenance and trails are usually clearly marked.  Signs often give you an indicator timeline guide based on walking at a slow to medium pace.
  • We don’t have any really bad nasties like snakes, bears, or dangerous spiders that will seriously harm you.  You can relax while hiking knowing that you are pretty safe on this front.
  • Because our population is small, most trails are not crowded which means you get to enjoy the tranquillity and peace of the natural landscape at your leisure. 
  • Locals are generally very friendly – if you can’t find the trail head, or you’ve somehow gotten lost, chances are you’ll be able to approach somebody nearby and they’ll point you in the right direction.

Hiking in New Zealand with a Guide

Hiking with a guide will give you a different experience than going it alone. You’re likely to learn more about the history of the area you’re hiking in, and things like transport will be all taken care of.

Generally a guided tour will offer pick up and drop off from your accommodation.  No getting lost or wondering how to get to and from the hiking trail (especially if it’s a point-to-point track, like the Milford or Routeburn).

Natural and historical points of interest as well as some good old local yarns are all ways your day hike can be enhanced by walking with a guide.  You’re able to ask questions, and get immediate answers.  If you were on a day hike in Fiordland would you know a Kea or a Tui if you saw one?  Did you know that a crib is the South Island name for a holiday home?

A local guided hiking operator can chat to you about your specific requests and needs.  They will recommend the right hike for your ability level and time you’ve got available, plus help you get the most out of your own customized hiking tour.

You want to relax and explore real, backcountry New Zealand.  A guided walk makes it easy to do this – no need to worry about things like logistics, maps, transport or getting lost.

Hopefully we’ve made it a bit easier to choose whether hiking independently or with a guide is the best choice for you. Whichever option you’re going for, make sure you include Fiordland on your itinerary – the hiking here is magnificent! In fact, we’ve got 3 of New Zealand’s 9 great walks in our backyard. 

If you’re keen on a guided walk, but don’t have time for a multi-day adventure, think about a guided day walk with Trips & Tramps. We offer guided day hikes on the Milford, Routeburn and Kepler tracks – so you’ll get to enjoy that famous ‘Great Walk’ experience, but you won’t need to devote four days to hiking the whole trail. Get in touch – we’d love to hear from you.

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