Lake Alta – Shadow Basin Lookout Circuit, The Remarkables, Queenstown NZ

A circuit walk high up in the Remarkables taking in Lake Alta and Shadow Basin Lookout. Alpine scenes and spectacular views abound!

Queens Drive & Lake Alta, Remarkables

It’s a straightforward walk up to beautiful Lake Alta from the Remarkables ski field car park. And another short option is to climb to wide open views of Lake Wakatipu and Queenstown from Shadow Basin Lookout. If you are willing to do some boulder hopping and navigate one steep section, then you can combine the two into a circuit. You’d be hard pressed to get so much alpine scenery and epic views from any comparably sized walk in NZ.

Track notes at the end. For anybody with a real head for heights you can consider venturing from Shadow Basin Lookout onto Queens Drive, an unmarked route high up on the west face of the Remarkables. You can see that route marked on the photo below. You can go on to complete a fabulous circuit, returning via the Wye Creek Tarns and Lake Alta: see that post here.

Queens Drive & Lake Alta, Remarkables
The Remarkables viewed from Remarkables Park car park. Queens Drive can be seen marked by a thin red line at the top. We walked about half way from left to right, then back again. We’d complete the full circuit via Wye Creek two years later.

Lake Alta – Shadow Basin Lookout Circuit: The Scenery

Shadow Basin Lookout
Queens Drive & Lake Alta, Remarkables
Looking back at tarns on the track to Shadow Basin Lookout.
Queens Drive & Lake Alta, Remarkables
Shadow Basin Lookout: A panorama of Lake Wakatipu and the Queenstown/ Frankton area.
Queens Drive & Lake Alta, Remarkables
Shadow Basin Lookout: The Queenstown area viewed from Shadow Basin Lookout.
Queens Drive & Lake Alta, Remarkables
Shadow Basin Lookout: Cecil Peak (1978m) and Lake Wakatipu.
Lake Alta
Queens Drive & Lake Alta, Remarkables
This view was our consolation for returning back along the Queens Drive Track. We had lunch here and descended steeply from this rocky ridge to the shores of Lake Alta.
Queens Drive & Lake Alta, Remarkables
A colourful Lake Alta with Single Cone and Double Cone behind (Feb 2024).
Queens Drive & Lake Alta, Remarkables
Single Cone and Double Cone (March 2008)
Queens Drive & Lake Alta, Remarkables
Walking down the road from the Lake Alta Track back to the ski fields car park.
Queens Drive (part)

Here’s a few shots from our side trip part way along the Queens Drive. It starts just to the left (south) of Shadow Basin Lookout. It’s not that obvious. Check out my post on the full walk for detailed tracks notes.

Queens Drive & Lake Alta, Remarkables

Queens Drive & Lake Alta, Remarkables
Rocks on the west face of the Remarkables. This is the face viewable from all around the Queenstown area.
Queens Drive & Lake Alta, Remarkables
Snow was covering much of the track, which was steep in places, making things harder for us.
Queens Drive & Lake Alta, Remarkables
Sophia checking out the view from the Queens Drive track.
Queens Drive & Lake Alta, Remarkables
Big snow drifts were making it hard to negotiate the track.
Queens Drive & Lake Alta, Remarkables
The slopes just dropped away.
Queens Drive & Lake Alta, Remarkables
Returning after deciding it was all a bit too much.
Queens Drive & Lake Alta, Remarkables
Sophia on the Queens Drive track. Lake Wakatipu, Cecil Peak and Bayonet Peaks behind.
Queens Drive & Lake Alta, Remarkables
Looking back towards Frankton and Queenstown. I took this shot in a fairly precarious spot.

Track Notes

Shadow Basin Lookout & Lake Alta, Remarkables Range
The shortest variation is to take the marked track straight up to Lake Alta, but we did a loop via Shadow Basin Lookout and returned along the Lake Alta Track.

We walked this circuit anti-clockwise. The route follows a vehicle track until near Shadow Basin Lookout. There’s then a short track through a boulder field to reach the lookout. If you are not continuing on to the Queens Drive then back track from the lookout and cross a boulder field to the ridge, then find a spot to drop steeply to the lake.

We intended to do a much longer loop, and would complete the Queens Drive – Wye Creek loop in January 2019. We realised then we had gone only about halfway along the Queens Drive on this occasion.

On our first trip to Queenstown in 2008 we walked up to Lake Alta and back from the car park, and I’ve included a few pics from this day also. If you wanted to visit the lake and lookout without the off-track portion, then consider just walking up and down both tracks. Neither are all that long. 

Author: Edward Hathway

I'm a clinical psychologist and keen hiker.

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