Article: Hiking in Queenstown New Zealand
Hiking in Queenstown New Zealand
The activity we most enjoyed in Queenstown was hiking and here are 3 hikes starting from the top of the Skyline Gondola.
When we visited New Zealand we met a few people who commented on travel destinations/activities “We did the Shotover” or “Oh yeah we did Hawaii” to which someone replied “We’re doing New York”.
Since when did people start referring to their travel experiences in terms of “did”?
I suppose it has something to do with the popularity of so-called bucket lists.
For us the most special experience in Queenstown wasn’t “doing” a pricey adrenaline rushed activity, of which there are many exhilarating ones to choose from, but rather it was something much simpler – a hike starting from the top of the Skyline Gondola station.
From the top of the cable car station you can find 3 good hikes allowing visitors to enjoy an easy, moderate or hard hike up into nature.
We chose the moderate and easy options but you can also find some more details of the hard option further down.
Starting from Queenstown, we took the Skyline Gondola to the lookout on Bob’s Peak. The Gondola journey is quite steep as it rises 450 metres (about 1,500 ft) over a length of 730metres (approx. 2,400ft). For anyone who is scared of heights, don’t worry it is quickly over and it is well worth it, even if you were just going up there for the view. On a clear day, you can clearly see Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables and Cecil and Walter peaks.
Prior to our visit we considered paying a little bit extra to do the downhill ride with the Luge, which is a short raised toboggan. On arrival at the station, we were glad that we didn’t purchase the ticket combined with the Luge. It certainly looked great fun but there were several younger children on the toboggan which slowed it down to a much less than thrilling walking pace!
A friendly lady at the station provided us with some helpful information and a map for our hike and after we bought some sandwiches for the hike, we headed up to the Ben Lomond Saddle.
The Ben Lomond Saddle Trail (Moderate Hike Option)
Initially we took the wrong path and walked a little bit downhill. From the Skyline Gondola station you basically have to head towards the Ben Lomond lookout that is marked on the Skyline loop track and from there you have to follow the signpost “Ben Lomond Track” (see image).
At first you will walk through a forest like area. After around 20 minutes there is a junction called One Mile Creek and from there it is a steep hike for about 1.5 to 2 hours to the saddle.
The trail unravels bit by bit amazing views over the area. It was the 30th of April and there were a few icy patches along the track so you have to make sure you wear good shoes.
After being surrounded by numerous tourists at the lookout at the Gondola station, it felt as so you were transported to a completely different place. Only a few people passed our way and you could really take in the beauty of it all. There was one Japanese couple that took a wonderful picture with their Winnie the Pooh soft toy.
Eventually we reached a track to the right that was the Ben Lomond Saddle. If you continue the normal path then you can do the entire hike to the peak of Ben Lomond. We walked along the saddle path for a while. We stopped when the track was still manageable but could see that further along the path narrows and overall it didn’t seem so safe.
It was very peaceful up there and the views over the Lake and the Mountains were magnificent.
The entire hike (return) up the Ben Lomond Saddle is 3 to 4 hours long for most people in good weather.
Ben Lomond Track (Hard Hike Option)
The entire hike to the Ben Lomond Summit is 6-8 hours (return) over a distance of 9.5km (5.9miles). This hike is more difficult and you really have to plan it well so you can finish it in daylight.
On our way back down we met an American soldier (on vacation!). He made a good chit-chat companion and his speed certainly shortened our journey time.
At the end, when we nearly reached the Skyline Gondola station, we decided to add on the Skyline Loop Track.
The Skyline Loop Track (Easy Hike Option)
This trail is an easy hike and it takes about 30 minutes from the Gondola station. It is basically leading you past the luge track, the reservoir and then you walk back down to the station. You can also have some great views from there and see the ski lift and admire the paragliders flying down into Queenstown.
All in all we had a great value for money day out. Not only were we able to ride the steepest cable car lift in the Southern Hemisphere, we also had nature, beauty and peace from the usual tourist masses.
How to get to the Gondola Station in Queenstown? The station is located at Brecon Street.
Opening hours of the Gondola: The Gondola is open year around from 9am and the last entry for uplift guests is 9pm.
The last departure from the top terminal is when the restaurant is closing.
Price of the Skyline Gondola (last checked January 2017)
Gondola: NZD 33.00 (adult), 21.00 (child) and 90.00 (family)
Note: As you may be able to see on the ticket, it was NZD 27.00 in April 2014 for a normal adult return journey. However, this has since increased.
You can also take a mountain bike up the Gondola and then ride downhill on some very tough trails. We saw some near the end of the trail in Queenstown. The speed they had along the tough path was quite astonishing.
Additional prices like for mountain biking and other activities are mentioned on the Skyline Queenstown website here.