3 Alternate Queenstown Hikes You Won't Find In Any Guidebook

Updated: Aug 8, 2019

Hiking up The Remarkables, Queenstown
Photo by Josh Withers, The Remarkables

It's that time of year again! Time to pack away the ski gear, dust off the hiking boots and start planning those summer adventures. Here's a few Queenstown hikes you won't find talked about in any of the guidebooks.

There are many amazing day hikes around Queenstown, many of which have become overrun with those on the hunt for their obligatory mountain top pic (thanks, Instagram!). In saying this, there are still plenty of lesser known trails to escape to. Every year our group of friends write a new list of adventures and goals we want to tick off over the summer. Last year we managed to complete a few rewarding and unique hikes that you won't find anyone talking about. So here I am, telling you about them!

Safety Tip: The following hikes are classed as advanced. A good level of hiking experience and route finding is recommended. For further information on staying safe whilst hiking, refer to the outdoor safety code and if in doubt head into the local Department of Conservation office for a chat.

Hiking Wye Creek to Lake Alta
Heading up the valley with Double Cone in view

Wye Creek to Lake Alta Route

This hike required a little bit of thought and pre-planning but after some car juggling we were off. We began at the Wye Creek car park and headed up through the bush line, where a defined trail is easy enough to make out (make sure to follow signage and markers). Upon emerging from the bush, the track becomes much less defined, however coloured markers do a good job at showing the way. Anyone with a map and some route finding experience won't have much of a problem here. The track essentially follows the valley to the end, passing idyllic streams and waterfalls (some perfect for a dip if you can brave the water temperature) along the way. Once we reached the end of the valley we started our assent, (eagle-eyed hikers will notice some cairns leading the way up the eastern slope but If you don’t see these, don’t worry too much). Pick your route and away you go. This assent was enjoyable and had some very rewarding views. It was a slight scramble in parts and in wet weather could be rather treacherous and not advisable (note: always check the weather forecast before heading off and let someone know where you're going). Once at the top we reached a group of alpine lakes/tarns. We followed the route between the tarns (a topographical map came in handy here), leading up to the saddle below Double Cone. From there we dropped down into Lake Alta and followed the snow-less ski runs back to the car park were we had strategically left the second vehicle that morning.

Time: 6-8hrs one way.

When to go: Dec - Mar (once the snow has all melted)

Highlights: waterfalls, beech forest, fun scrambles, alpine lakes and tarns.

Tip: leave a car at The Remarkables ski field car park (where you will finish) and drive another to the Wye Creek car park to begin the hike. This can be quite time consuming. For less hassle, get in touch about our hiking trail transfer service.

Hiking the Brow Peak Route
Hiking the ridge with Brow Peak in the background

Brow Peak Route

The Brow peak route is ideal for both hikers and trail runners alike. It combines steep climbs and undulating ridge lines with incredible views to reward those who take up the challenge. Again, some pre-planning and car juggling came in very handy here. We began at the Arrow River car park, near Dudley's Cottage where we followed the Sawpit Gully track in a clockwise direction. Upon reaching Eichardt's Flat (the highest point on the Sawpit Gully track, you’ll see the large sign) we diverted up the spur towards Big Hill. It's was a steep climb that fast rewarded us with incredible views over Arrowtown and Lake Hayes. Once at the saddle we followed the track West (away from Big Hill) and around the back side of Brow Peak (a quick detour from the track will take you to the summit if you are wanting to bag the peak). The track works its way around to the top of the ridge line where the view opens up 360 degrees to take in all the surrounding areas (The Southern Alps, Mount Aspiring National Park, The Remarkables, Queenstown, Gibbston Valley etc.). The track was well defined and markers can be easily spotted along the way. The ridge line made for awesome hiking with scenery, landscapes and rock features that we're very reminiscent of Lord of the Rings. We were met with some short but steep climbs and small scrambles to finish off the route as we entered the Coronet Peak ski field boundary. From here we followed the ski run back down to the base building and car park where again we had earlier left our second vehicle.

Time: 5 - 7hrs one way.

When to go: Summer (Dec - Mar).

Highlights: 360 degree views of Arrowtown, Queenstown and surrounding mountains from the ridge line, few to no other hikers.

Tip: leave a car at Coronet Peak ski field car park (where you will finish) and drive another to the Arrow River car park to begin the hike. This can be quite time consuming. For less hassle, get in touch about our hiking trail transfer service.

Hiking Cecil Peak, Queenstown
Hiking Cecil Peak

Cecil Peak

This is a hike that you'll find many people talk about wanting to do, but rarely anyone who has actually done it. For most, it's kind of like Queenstown’s ‘end of the rainbow’, always in view but never reachable. After years of talking about doing it, we finally managed to tick this one off the list, and boy was it worth it! Myself, along with 10 other friends cruised across the lake in the wee hours of the morning to start our adventure up the Queenstown icon. We landed at Collins Bay, where we mapped a vague route up Garden Spur and then headed off. The hike was challenging and steep with some small scrambles thrown in for fun (nothing technical). Just below the peak we reached what I only can describe as a natural zen garden, with tranquil streams, beautifully coloured moss, and stunning rock formations (it made for a perfect lunch spot). We attempted to summit but made the call to turn back as we deemed it unsafe to continue without the appropriate safety gear (helmets, ropes etc.). We explored a little further and slowly made our way back over to the top of Island Spur to get some epic views of Queenstown from the other side of Lake Wakatipu. It was here that we awaited our return transportation to arrive. In uncharacteristic ‘baller’ fashion, we had pre-arranged to be picked up by helicopter and flown back to town, where we toasted our incredible adventure with some celebratory beers.

Time: 9 - 12hrs return (even quicker if you heli back 😉).

When to go: Dec - Mar (check weather forecast and make sure no snow is present).

Highlights: bragging rights, almost guaranteed to be the only ones on the mountain, incredible views of Queenstown from the opposite side of the lake.

Tip: you need to ask permission from the landowner before you climb the peak.

Queenstown Water Taxi's offer private boat charter at $299 each way for their smallest boat. The other option is to find a local with their own boat and sweet talk them into taking you over there!

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