Queens Drive – Wye Creek Circuit (autumn), Remarkables Range NZ

The Queens Drive-Wye Creek circuit is a great walk high up in the Remarkables Range, with unparalleled views of the Queenstown area, steep drop offs, and rugged alpine scenery. Not one for those with a fear of heights!

Queens Drive-Wye Creek Circuit (autumn), Remarkables Range

Our second time to do this really excellent circuit walk, which offers extensive views over Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu, rugged alpine scenery, and enough exposure on the Queens Drive portion to get the heart pumping. You won’t find many more dramatic and yet accessible day-walks than this.

We first did this walk in summer of 2018/19, and you can see that post here. It was a bit easier  on this occasion in March, when there was no snow at all on the somewhat hair-raising Queens Drive portion of the route. Definitely one of the best day-walks I’ve done, but you need a head for heights, and basic navigation skills.

I noticed the fear I experienced on the Queens Drive had pretty much gone this time, so I was able to relax and enjoy the spectacle. The scenery was much the same, but I enjoyed it so much I wanted an excuse to write another post and include more photos, so here it is again… 

Track notes at the end.

Queens Drive – Wye Creek Circuit (autumn): The Scenery

I think the lighting was a little better for photography than when we first did this walk, although it was still pretty flat and overcast.

Queens Drive-Wye Creek Circuit (autumn), Remarkables Range
Looking back towards the ski field area from Shadow Basin Lookout.
Queens Drive-Wye Creek Circuit (autumn), Remarkables Range
A big panorama of the Queenstown area and Lake Wakatipu, taken at Shadow Basin Lookout.

Queens Drive-Wye Creek Circuit (autumn), Remarkables Range

Queens Drive-Wye Creek Circuit (autumn), Remarkables Range
The Queenstown area.
Queens Drive-Wye Creek Circuit (autumn), Remarkables Range
Queenstown
Queens Drive-Wye Creek Circuit (autumn), Remarkables Range
Sophia looking relaxed on the Queens Drive. She wasn’t for much of the way.
Queens Drive-Wye Creek Circuit (autumn), Remarkables Range
You get a sense of scale on this one: Sophia is bottom left.
Queens Drive-Wye Creek Circuit (autumn), Remarkables Range
A panorama overlooking Queenstown and beyond.
Queens Drive-Wye Creek Circuit (autumn), Remarkables Range
Very rugged. I took so many shots like this but had to pick just a few.
Queens Drive-Wye Creek Circuit (autumn), Remarkables Range
This photo would have been better with Sophia in it, but you can get an idea of how the land just drops away. The Queens Drive keeps close to the cliffs, and it’s easy to follow this line when there is no snow at all.

Queens Drive-Wye Creek Circuit (autumn), Remarkables Range

Queens Drive-Wye Creek Circuit (autumn), Remarkables Range
Entering the big boulder field after the Queens Drive.
Queens Drive-Wye Creek Circuit (autumn), Remarkables Range
Crossing the big boulder field after the Queens Drive. We kept a bit higher and to the left this time, possibly shortening the route a little, although it made the eventual descent a bit steeper.
Queens Drive-Wye Creek Circuit (autumn), Remarkables Range
A cute alpine plant.

Queens Drive-Wye Creek Circuit (autumn), Remarkables Range

Queens Drive-Wye Creek Circuit (autumn), Remarkables Range
Lots of interesting boulders. I tried very hard not to take too many pictures of boulders, but failed. I am nevertheless only posting this one.
Queens Drive-Wye Creek Circuit (autumn), Remarkables Range
Our lunch spot on the edge of the boulder field.
Queens Drive-Wye Creek Circuit (autumn), Remarkables Range
The big tarn in Wye Creek Basin. I took a 5 minute diversion to get a picture with the whole of the tarn in it.
Queens Drive-Wye Creek Circuit (autumn), Remarkables Range
You know the views are good when Sophia bothers to get out her phone to take a picture.

Queens Drive-Wye Creek Circuit (autumn), Remarkables Range

Queens Drive-Wye Creek Circuit (autumn), Remarkables Range
The Wye Valley.
Queens Drive-Wye Creek Circuit (autumn), Remarkables Range
The Wye Valley.
Queens Drive-Wye Creek Circuit (autumn), Remarkables Range
The big tarn in Wye Creek Basin.
Queens Drive-Wye Creek Circuit (autumn), Remarkables Range
I took a similar picture of this spot last time, but lighting and colours were quite different this time.

Queens Drive-Wye Creek Circuit (autumn), Remarkables Range Queens Drive-Wye Creek Circuit (autumn), Remarkables Range

Queens Drive-Wye Creek Circuit (autumn), Remarkables Range
Alpine plants.
Queens Drive-Wye Creek Circuit (autumn), Remarkables Range
A big panorama of peaks at the back of the Remarkables.
Queens Drive-Wye Creek Circuit (autumn), Remarkables Range
This is the final climb to the Wye Saddle. A bit tiring through boulders. From the saddle you drop down to Lake Alta and then back to the ski field car park.
Queens Drive-Wye Creek Circuit (autumn), Remarkables Range
Looking back into Wye Creek Basin from the saddle.
Queens Drive-Wye Creek Circuit (autumn), Remarkables Range
Lake Alta as we descended from the saddle.
Queens Drive-Wye Creek Circuit (autumn), Remarkables Range
Descending to Lake Alta.
Queens Drive-Wye Creek Circuit (autumn), Remarkables Range
Lake Alta from the near the shore. It’s a great spot but not easy to portray the scale in photos.
Queens Drive-Wye Creek Circuit (autumn), Remarkables Range
Looking south down Lake Wakatipu from an informal lookout on the drive down.
Queens Drive-Wye Creek Circuit (autumn), Remarkables Range
Sophia admiring the view from an informal lookout on the drive down.

Track Notes

Queens Drive-Wye Creek Circuit, Remarkables Range
We walked this circuit anti-clockwise. (The vehicle track to Shadow Basin Lookout does not follow the chairlift as neatly as I have depicted, but it’s obvious without snow cover and so you will have no trouble finding your way.)
Shadow Basin and Queens Drive

Starting at The Remarkables ski field car park, you walk up the road a bit until a junction with another vehicle track to the right. Take this right turn and follow the track beneath the Shadow Basin Chairlift to the viewpoint over Lake Wakatipu and Queenstown.

Queens Drive-Wye Creek Circuit (autumn), Remarkables Range
This is at the top of the ski lift on way to Shadow Basin Lookout. There’s a cairn in shot which marks the beginning of a short constructed path through a boulder field. If you miss it (as we did on the previous occasion we did this walk), then you will have to boulder hop your way to the lookout.

If you don’t like heights you can go back down from here, but otherwise your adventure is about to begin. The Queens Drive starts just 20 or 30 metres to the left (south) of the lookout, and climbs steeply to then run along the western face of The Remarkables. This section is dramatic and a bit scary, but in good weather and with little snow I doubt there is any real danger.

Queens Drive-Wye Creek Circuit (autumn), Remarkables Range
This is the initial route up onto the Queens Drive. It’s quite steep and on loose scree, but it get’s easier after this, although there are more dizzying heights later on.
Queens Drive-Wye Creek Circuit (autumn), Remarkables Range
The start to the Queens Drive viewed from Shadow Basin Lookout.
A Boulder Field, Wye Creek Basin, and Lake Alta

You’ll eventually emerge onto a large boulder field: just head on through this, eventually keeping to the left to enter Wye Creek Basin along the edge of the biggest tarn, and drop down to the middle of the tarns to join the Wye Creek Route. This route is marked on some maps but I don’t think we ever saw a proper track, so you have to do your best not to tread on delicate alpine plants as you head up to the saddle on the left of point 2050m. From there the track is obvious enough as it heads down to Lake Alta, and then returns to the ski fields and car park.

Author: Edward Hathway

I'm a clinical psychologist and keen hiker.

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