Ben Lomond Track, Queenstown NZ

Climbing Ben Lomond (1748m) is a must do for any reasonably fit hiker visiting Queenstown. The route we take to the top starts on the edge of town, and at first passes through beech forest, then pine forest, and once above the treeline it’s tussock grass until the summit, where there are 360 degree views of the Southern Alps, the Remarkables and Lake Wakatipu.

Ben Lomond Track, Queenstown

Standing on the summit of Ben Lomond on a clear enough day, you can blindly point your camera in any direction and come away with an epic landscape shot. There are 360 degree views of the Southern Alps, Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables, and depending on the weather conditions these views might look very different, as the photos that follow will demonstrate.

The steep but steady 1400m climb is very satisfying if you like that sort of thing (as I do). There’s quite a variety of vegetation, starting in native beech forest, then non-native pine, and above the tree line it’s tussock grass until the summit. If you only make it to the saddle at 1316m of elevation the views over the Southern Alps are already excellent, and you can also take a turn off about half way up, and take a short walk up to point 1121m for great views of Queenstown Hill and the Remarkables. For the less fit or the time poor there’s a cable car/gondola that runs up to 812m above sea level from where there are also grand views (although I’ve never been).  You can walk from the gondola viewing point to meet up with the main track to the summit. The photos that follow are from a few different occasions. Track notes at the end.

Ben Lomond Track, Queenstown
One of the problems with being a world famous hiking blogger is the paparazzi are always trying to get photos of me doing my thang  😉

The Scenery

17th May 2017

Sophia was sick this day so I climbed the mountain by myself, and was very pleased to find two kea hanging around at the summit, no doubt waiting for an opportunity to steal somebody’s food. I set off late and was really shifting it to make sure I got back before nightfall, so I only took pictures from the summit.

Ben Lomond Track, Queenstown
I was fully stoked to get this shot. The world’s only alpine parrot, kea are an impressive size, and when they spread their wings they reveal a bright reddish orange underside. Very grand.
Ben Lomond Track, Queenstown
Another stately kea shot.
Ben Lomond Track, Queenstown
Kea doing what kea do best: breaking into people’s bags and stealing shit. One appears to be standing guard, meaning ‘they’re organised!’ (quote from Chicken Run). I know their reputation so I didn’t take my bag off or get any food out.
Ben Lomond Track, Queenstown
Look at that beak!
Ben Lomond Track, Queenstown
Lake Wakatipu behind low lying cloud.
Ben Lomond Track, Queenstown
Lake Wakatipu, with a tiny hiker in the foreground. (Not actually tiny; just looks tiny in this shot.)
Ben Lomond Track, Queenstown
Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables in shadow.
Ben Lomond Track, Queenstown
Dark mountains. No filter applied to this shot – the light just did strange things.
Ben Lomond Track, Queenstown
Looking north-ish.
Ben Lomond Track, Queenstown
Non-native fauna.
Ben Lomond Track, Queenstown
Another shot looking north-ish. Fuzzy clouds to the left.
Ben Lomond Track, Queenstown
Autumn colours at the bottom. Probably not native trees.
Ben Lomond Track, Queenstown
No filter applied to this shot, just an insanely red tree.

June 19th 2016

When attempting to climb Ben Lomond in 2016 we stopped at about half way because the summit was clouded in, and I think we had set off rather late as it was. Nevertheless, our short side trip to point 1121m was a nice variation that I can recommend. We walked to the summit just the next day in quite wintery conditions. Those photos to follow.

Ben Lomond Track, Queenstown
The Remarkables through a gap in the pine trees.
Ben Lomond Track, Queenstown
Us at point 1121m, looking schmick in our hiking gear. Picture taken by a young lass from New York.
Ben Lomond Track, Queenstown
The Remakables (2319m) in the background and Queenstown Hill (907m) in the foreground.
Ben Lomond Track, Queenstown
Queenstown Hill in the foreground. Not seen it from this angle before.
Ben Lomond Track, Queenstown
These clouds stopped us from continuing on to the summit, but it cleared not long after we descended.
Ben Lomond Track, Queenstown
Love those clouds. The Remarkables behind.

20th June 2016

Up to the summit this time.

Ben Lomond Track, Queenstown
Sophia climbs through beech forest. Early on the track follows an old pipeline.
Ben Lomond Track, Queenstown
Just above the bushline. Ben Lomond summit ahead.
Ben Lomond Track, Queenstown
The summit getting a bit closer.
Ben Lomond Track, Queenstown
Views of the Remarkables from about half way. The hill to the right was were we walked the day before (point 1121m).
Ben Lomond Track, Queenstown
Views from a bit above the saddle, on the final ascent to the summit.
Ben Lomond Track, Queenstown
Views from the summit. Pretty misty by this time. We should have got up a bit earlier but I needed my beauty sleep.
Ben Lomond Track, Queenstown
Remarkables (2319m) to the right, Bowen Peak (1631m) to the left, and the Crown Range behind.
Ben Lomond Track, Queenstown
Sophia arriving at the summit (1748m).
Ben Lomond Track, Queenstown
Sophia begins the descent.
Ben Lomond Track, Queenstown
Bowen Peak (1631m). A where’s Wally moment; only it’s Sophia hiding there somewhere (to the right). When I grew up it was Lowly Worm by Richard Scarry, rather than Wally, that I looked for on each page of a book.
Ben Lomond Track, Queenstown
Me doing my bit for the wilding pine eradication program.
Ben Lomond Track, Queenstown
Hiking cred.

28th December 2014

Ben Lomond Track, Queenstown
Ben Lomond summit from about half way.
Ben Lomond Track, Queenstown
The Remarkables with Frankton to the left and Kelvin Peninsula to the right.
Ben Lomond Track, Queenstown
The Remarkables and Lake Wakatipu. I don’t think I was using my panorama function much at this time because I could have taken in a bit more and framed this better. The colours also look a bit dull.
Ben Lomond Track, Queenstown
Looking roughly north.

31st December 2012

Just one shot from our first time up the mountain. It was a beautiful clear day but the shots I took with my point and shoot camera are not quite as good as my later photos: a bit washed out.

Ben Lomond Track, Queenstown
Sophia and me on our first time up the mountain in 2012. I look painfully young here even though it was less than 6 years ago.

Track Notes

There are brief notes on the DOC website. They recommend starting at Brecon St or Skyline access Rd, but we’ve always started at a different spot up a short unnamed road off the roundabout at the junction of Lake Esplanade/ Queenstown to Glenorchy Road/ Fernhill Road, where there’s a car park and a small disused hydro power station. I recommend this because it starts in attractive beech forest. The track is pretty straightforward except for one spot in the beech forest, where it’s possible to miss a right turn and follow a false track until it peters out. Just turn back and pick up the track again. This section follows an old pipeline which used to service the power station. The track later enters pine forest where it crosses mountain biking trails, and eventually emerges from the trees and climbs steadily to the saddle, and then rises steeply to the pointy summit. It’ll take about 6 hours at a steady pace, although if you’re full of beans it can be done in under 4 hours. It’s also possible to walk up Ben Lomond  from Arthurs Point, but we’ve never done it and I think it’s quite a bit longer (as in longer than a day walk).

Author: Edward Hathway

I'm a clinical psychologist and keen hiker.

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