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From rugged mountains, and lush forests to cascading waterfalls, winding rivers and emerald lakes, it’s no surprise that our country ranks among the top hiking destinations in the world.
Unfortunately, many people assume that you have to be a ‘hard-core hiker’ or on a ‘proper’ hiking trip to get up close and personal with these natural wonders. The reality is New Zealand’s hiking tracks cater for all fitness levels and time constraints. Sure, you can easily spend weeks exploring our backyard, but it’s just as possible to pack a lot of punch into just one day with the vast range of day hikes scattered across the country.
Here are some of what we consider to be the greatest New Zealand day hikes.
Routeburn Track (Key Summit walk)
This day hike follows part of the Routeburn Track, on one of the country’s most trodden paths. Combining stunning rainforest, alpine scenery and panoramic mountain views, it’s not hard to understand why it’s such a hit with hikers. And with the walk to the summit taking as little at 2 hours it’s easy to fit into a busy schedule.
Make it happen: Enjoy a fully guided day walk up to Key Summit from Te Anau. Hiking through lush Fiordland rainforest and alpine herb fields, the views at the top are magnificent. Learn more.
Milford Track (from Milford Sound)
The Milford Track is not only one of the New Zealand Great Walks, but also world famous and located in a World Heritage area. Be prepared to see green on this walk – from the forest canopy above humming with birds, to the emerald green ferns at eye level. The day hike takes around 4 hours and doesn’t involve any major hills, making it a great walk for all ages. Plus with the opportunity to enjoy a boat cruise on Milford Sound in the afternoon, it makes for an amazing day out.
Make it happen: Soak up a taste of the ‘finest walk in the world’ with a fully guided 1/2 day hike on the Milford Track. Suitable for all abilities, there’s so much to see. Learn more.
Kepler Track (Luxmore Hut)
This full day hike 8-10 hours is part of the popular Kepler Track. Extending from the Kepler car park to Luxmore Hut, it is the very description of diverse; encompassing the lake shore and swimming beaches, open tussock alpine areas, mountain views, silver beech forest, and towering limestone bluffs and native bush.
Make it happen: A Kepler Track half day guided walk offers a taste of the Kepler Track with an easy hike on a well-graded trail around the lake shore line. Alternatively, a Kepler Track guided day heli-hike offers the excitement of a helicopter ride to Luxmore hut along with a guided hike on the descent, so you can really enjoy the area - without the climb!
Tongariro Alpine Crossing
Perhaps one of the more unique hike options on this list, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing spans a spectacular volcanic landscape. Think bright turquoise crater lakes, alpine meadows and high volcanic peaks that provide panoramic views of the central plateau. On a clear day you’ll be able to see Mt Ngauruhoe (otherwise known as Mt Doom) which, time permitting, you can scramble up too. While it’s not quite a leisurely stroll, the views here are unbeatable and taking around seven hours it’s easy to fit into a day.
Make it happen: Learn more about the Tongariro Alpine Crossing here.
Mt Cook (Hooker Valley walk)
As New Zealand’s tallest mountain, Mt Cook already attracts a steady flock of visitors.
However, you can do more than just see the mountain – you can walk alongside it on the Hooker Valley Track. It’s quite literally one of the coolest walks you can do – get ready to see snow-capped mountains, a glacial lake and even icebergs. And at just 3 – 4 hours long this (mostly flat) hike is an easy walk to fit into your day.
Make it happen: Learn more about the Hooker Valley Walk here.
So there you have it – New Zealand’s best day hikes. With three of the above tracks located in Fiordland (Kepler Track, Routeburn Track and Milford Track) it’s an ideal area to visit if hiking is on your travel to-do list. These famed hikes also make up three of the nine New Zealand Great Walks, making them real bucket list items for many hikers.
We know that although the walks we mentioned might not take longer than one day, you don’t necessarily need to limit yourselves to just one day – or just one hike for that matter!
Trips & Tramps have a great option for hikers who may be short on time but still want to see more than just one of New Zealand’s Great Walks. We reckon why not see three Great Walks…in three days? Our Fiordland Great Walks package lets you join us for a three-day tour of the Kepler, Routeburn and Milford tracks.
At Trips &Tramps we know what’s beautiful about our country and our goal is to help visitors experience it first-hand with a guided hike. Because a picture on a postcard doesn’t come close to standing on that mountain summit or hearing the birdsong in the trees, does it?
If this sounds like a trip you’d like to be part of, get in touch. We’d love to show you around our special corner of the world!
Written: 10 articles
Enjoy a guided day walk from Te Anau to Key Summit on the renowned Routeburn Track, a New Zealand Great Walk. Ascend through lush forest to an alpine environment with panoramic views for an incredible hiking experience!
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