Five of the Best Day-Hikes Near Queenstown NZ: Glenorchy Edition

Experience some of New Zealand’s best scenery on these five classic day-hikes near Glenorchy, just 45 minutes drive from Queenstown.

The sleepy village of Glenorchy sits in a dramatic landscape at the northern end of Lake Wakatipu. It’s a spectacular 45 minute drive from Queenstown along the shore of the lake, and worth making the trip for the drive alone. The scenery on offer is amongst the best in New Zealand, and there are some really world-class hikes in the area, including the famous multi-day Routeburn Track.

Following are five of my favourite day-hikes around Glenorchy. There are majestic mountains, alpine lakes, glaciers, tumbling streams, and atmospheric beech forest. And you might be joined by some of New Zealand’s friendly bird life along the way.

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Best Day-hikes in Queenstown, New Zealand

My pick of the best full day-hikes around Queenstown, New Zealand’s adventure capital, with a few shorter options thrown in.

Queenstown is truly a hiker’s paradise. There’s dramatic scenery in all directions, and the mountains are filled with well maintained hiking trails. And as a major adventure-tourism destination the area is well serviced and cosmopolitan.

Plenty of tourists visit the area, and yet it seems the majority of people choose not to go hiking. In fact, I’ve sometimes not seen a single other person on the best hikes in the area. So if you are willing to put in the effort, you can have New Zealand’s magical scenery mostly to yourself.

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Cloudy Peak ascent, Central Otago NZ

A great sample of Central Otago’s unique scenery on this long and relatively unknown walk to the summit of Cloudy Peak (1526m), north-east of Cromwell.

Quintessential Central Otago scenery on this long walk to the summit of Cloudy Peak (1526m), not far from Cromwell. Once you begin the ascent onto higher ground there are great views of golden tussocked and wrinkly hills and valleys, contrasted with flat-as-a-pancake plains in the distance, and from the summit you have partial views of the attractive St Bathans Range. Continue reading “Cloudy Peak ascent, Central Otago NZ”

Crown Peak ascent, near Arrowtown NZ

Excellent winter scenery on the ascent up Crown Peak (1735m) from in Arrowtown, near Queenstown. 360 degree views from the summit are a highlight.

The walk up Crown Peak (1735m) from Arrowtown is yet another underrated hike near Queenstown. There were excellent 360 degree views from the summit rocks, and a variety of scenery with Central Otago’s roly-poly mountains and wrinkly ridgelines, some pointy peaks, valleys, the Wakatipu Basin, and a nice angle on Lake Wakatipu itself. Continue reading “Crown Peak ascent, near Arrowtown NZ”

Sugarloaf Pass to pt. 1290m (winter), Mt Aspiring National Park NZ

The 360 degree views from point 1290m just above Sugarloaf Pass, near the start of the Routeburn Track, are amongst the best we’ve seen in New Zealand. So on our trip to Queenstown in winter 2019 we decided to do this walk again, hoping that the rather modest snowfall in the first weeks of winter would nevertheless add to the already fabulous views, and we weren’t disappointed.  Mt Earnslaw/ Pikirakatahi is a highlight, as are the Humboldt Mountains. And the beech forest on the ascent and descent was even prettier than I remembered, with some friendly birds adding to the experience. Continue reading “Sugarloaf Pass to pt. 1290m (winter), Mt Aspiring National Park NZ”

Brow Peak via Big Hill Saddle (winter), near Arrowtown NZ

The wrinkly mountains and valleys at the back of Arrowtown are a highlight of this walk up Brow Peak (1456m).

This walk up Brow Peak (1456m) was a real find for me when I first did it in the summer of 2018/19. A really high quality walk that I hadn’t done yet, just out the back of Arrowtown, and so only about 25 minutes drive from Queenstown. At that time I started the walk in the afternoon, finishing not much before dusk. The fading light cast shadows over numerous wrinkly mountains and valleys, which made for excellent views on the way back in particular. In winter you pretty much get this lighting all day, plus some snow to top it all off (literally). Continue reading “Brow Peak via Big Hill Saddle (winter), near Arrowtown NZ”

Mt Alaska ascent (winter), near Glenorchy NZ

An ascent of Mt Alaska (1965m) in winter. This walk was an instant favourite when I first did it in summer 2018/2019, and winter added a whole new dimension.

I did this walk for the first time in the summer of 2018/19 and it became an instant favourite. When Sophia and I came back to Queenstown the following winter it was first choice to kick off the holiday, and it did not disappoint. Much of the scenery was unsurprisingly enhanced by snow, although I just went back to see my photos from summer and realised the colours were very nice then, so you can’t lose really. Continue reading “Mt Alaska ascent (winter), near Glenorchy NZ”

Rock Peak from Crown Saddle, Pisa Conservation Area, Otago NZ

A straightforward walk to Rock Peak (1490m) through tussock grass at the southern end of the Pisa Conservation Area.

This walk from Crown Saddle (1070m) to Rock Peak (1490m) provides easy access to the tussock-grassed Pisa Conservation Area. It’s easy walking along a vehicle track, and there are views the whole way over the Crown Range, the Wakatipu Basin, including the back of the Remarkables, and the Gibbston Valley wine region. Continue reading “Rock Peak from Crown Saddle, Pisa Conservation Area, Otago NZ”

Queens Drive – Wye Creek Circuit, The Remarkables NZ

A dramatic and sometimes hair raising circuit walk high up in The Remarkables Range above Queenstown.

This lesser known walk in the prominent and dramatic Remarkables Range near Queenstown is a real humdinger, and will feel quite adventurous for all but the more experienced hikers. After a shortish climb to Shadow Basin Lookout from the ski field car park, there are extensive views over Lake Wakatipu and surrounds, then stark cliffs and hair raising drop offs on Queens Drive, which runs across the western face of the Remarkables at 2000m of elevation.  The walk then enters an extensive boulder field with the Remarkables summit cliffs towering overhead, followed by the picturesque Wye Creek Basin, and then back to the skifields via Lake Alta. Continue reading “Queens Drive – Wye Creek Circuit, The Remarkables NZ”

Mt Alaska ascent, Whakaari Conservation Area NZ

Really spectacular views from the summit of Mt Alaska (1965m), but there’s plenty of great scenery on the way up if you want a shorter walk. Highly recommended.

The views from the summit of Mt Alaska (1965m) are some of the best I’ve seen, and climbing this mountain isn’t as difficult as some other walks around Glenorchy. You don’t have to go all the way to the summit for excellent views, but if you have the time and energy I highly recommend it. Continue reading “Mt Alaska ascent, Whakaari Conservation Area NZ”