Nine Day Walks to challenge yourself
New Zealand’s Great Walks are an incredible achievement for anyone, no matter their experience level. But if you’re a confident hiker, prepared for the outdoors, and up for a more challenging adventure, New Zealand is lucky to have a number of tracks that will put your fitness to the ultimate test – with the reward of exceptional views.
As part of TourismNZ's 30th Anniversary of the Great Walks, we decided to share some stories to celebrate this incredible aspect of New Zealand's tramping culture. Our team share their top picks for challenging day walks to up your game in tramping skills.
Header photo: Alex Knob, Campermate
This track takes you through an alpine environment with rapidly changing weather conditions at any time of the year. It is best to be experienced in strong winds, heavy rainfall, and rapidly changing temperatures to tackle this track. At times the track is made up of loose and uneven rock. You will be rewarded with stunning views of Mt Ruapehu and Mt Ngauruhoe for your efforts. Remember not to touch or swim in the water – it helps keep the pristine alpine lakes free of weeds.
- Nelson Lakes National Park
If you are looking for a picturesque environment with abundant hiking options in your itinerary, look no further than this stunning National Park. Hiking options range from short walks to full days and multi-day options depending on how much time you have. An overnight trip to Bushline Hut or Lakehead Hut both provide excellent alternative adventures. At 1,280m high, Bushline Hut affords beautiful views over Lake Rotoiti and the St Arnaud Range. Use the region filter in Plan My Walk to find a track that suits you.
A day trip up to Luxmore Hut will test your fitness and your stamina. Part of the Kepler Track Great Walk, it’s a great way to get up high fast and marvel at the views of Fiordland. A strenuous walk, it presents views stretching across Lake Te Anau and Lake Manapouri on one side with the Murchison and Kepler mountains on the other. You can get a water shuttle to the bottom of the climb to shorten the day and take on the hard climb up to Luxmore Hut with plenty of water, sturdy footwear and a jacket.
This challenging walk is not one to take lightly, and best hiked in summer, it involves being prepared for and knowledgeable on the elements. Once you’re past the saddle track, the final section is very steep, so beware those with a fear of heights. With 1,438m of elevation gain, you’ll be rewarded with 360-degree views over Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu, including Mt Earnslaw, and Mt Aspiring. Before starting, assess the weather, practice layering your clothing, and packing correctly, as the climb takes you high into a serious alpine environment.
This challenging full day loop, suitable for experienced hikers only, offers stunning views of Mt Taranaki and Fanthams Peak on a good day. The full loop includes multiple stream crossings and a section above the bush line in an alpine environment, so this is only suitable in clear weather and in summer – its recommended sticking to the lower track. If you’re after something slightly shorter, or for outside the summer season, try the walks around Dawson Falls or North Egmont.
This stunning walk through West Coast rainforest is for experienced and well-equipped trampers only. It’s a steady 4-hour climb that leads to mesmerising views of glaciers, mountains and seascapes. Stop at Christmas Lookout for a rest, a bite to eat, or to soak in the scenery. Keep an eye out for New Zealand native birds which frequent this area. Outside the summer season there is likely to be snow beyond this point, so don’t continue unless you’re comfortable in alpine areas in winter conditions.
This coastal track near Nelson offers expansive views and an incline to test the lungs. Passing through beautiful and varied native forest, it’s a great alternative to Abel Tasman or the Heaphy Track. Photo: Tom Harris
The tracks on Ulva Island are well worth a trip for before or after the Rakiura Track. Abundant with birdlife and seeped in untouched nature, it’s an insight into an environment mostly unchanged by human activity and one of the few pest-free open sanctuaries in New Zealand. If you’re after something extra on Rakiura/Stewart Island, Ackers Point affords fantastic views over the Titi/Muttonbird Islands and Foveaux Strait. If you’re lucky, you may even spot a kororā/little blue penguin.
Situated off the Milford Sound Highway, this 3 hour return advanced walking track is an experience of wild Fiordland. Only suitable in summer, and for fit and confident hikers who are well-prepared for a challenging environment, the walk includes waterfalls, an alpine lake, a glacial carved hanging valley and a taste of real wilderness. If you are suitably experienced and prepared, the magnificent alpine reflections are a treasure to witness. Photo: Tom Harris
Celebrating the Great Walks
As part of TourismNZ's 30th Anniversary of the Great Walks, we decided to share some stories to celebrate this incredible aspect of New Zealand's tramping culture and showcase other incredible options to up-skill and explore. Read the other stories in the series:
- How tramping has changed over 30 years
- Unmissable highlights on NZ's Great Walks
- 5 Short Walks to stretch your legs while road tripping around the South Island
- Alternative 'Off-The-Beaten-Track' walks
Prepare for your adventure
Using the free Plan My Walk app can help you plan and prepare for your next New Zealand walk. Learn about the track and check for any alerts, read other’s track reviews, check the weather, and get help from the suggesting gear list. Download it, or head to the website planmywalk.nz.
Make sure you also check out the Department of Conservation’s website for everything you need to know about the tracks.