Queens Drive – Wye Creek Circuit, The Remarkables NZ

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

Queens Drive - Wye Creek Loop, The Remarkables

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.

Appropriate Walking Conditions

We had to turn back on our first attempt at this walk because too much snow on Queens Drive made that track a bit risky. I recommend doing this walk in mid summer to autumn when there is less snow. When viewing The Remarkables from below, if there is an almost continuous line of snow across the top then you’ll probably want to take some crampons. Mind you, we saw a European guy taking the snowy sections well and truly in his stride on that first attempt, so experienced alpine walkers might feel more comfortable. Track notes at the end.

Queens Drive – Wye Creek Circuit: The Scenery

You might also like to have a look at my pics of the first half of Queens Drive from our first attempt at this walk. A bit more snow and very clear weather.

Queens Drive - Wye Creek Loop, The Remarkables
Lake Wakatipu surrounded by some familiar landmarks like Cecil Peak (centre left), Bayonet Peaks (left), Queenstown and Ben Lomond on the right, and Jacks Point bottom centre.

 

Queens Drive - Wye Creek Loop, The Remarkables
Sophia on the Queens Drive: roughly centre of picture.

 

Queens Drive - Wye Creek Loop, The Remarkables
Another section of the Queens Drive with Sophia just visible to the right of centre if you squint.

 

Queens Drive - Wye Creek Loop, The Remarkables
This wasn’t the steepest part of the track but you get the idea.

 

Queens Drive - Wye Creek Loop, The Remarkables
Sophia waiting for me to hurry up and finish taking photos, on the Queens Drive.

 

Queens Drive - Wye Creek Loop, The Remarkables
Another shot of the lake views, from further along the Queens Drive. I took so many shots that all looked a bit the same without ever capturing the true drama of the location.

 

Queens Drive - Wye Creek Loop, The Remarkables
Entering the extensive boulder field at the end of the Queens Drive.

Queens Drive - Wye Creek Loop, The Remarkables

Queens Drive - Wye Creek Loop, The Remarkables
The summit of the Remarkables looms overhead.

 

Queens Drive - Wye Creek Loop, The Remarkables
Sophia looks up at the summit of The Remarkables.

 

Queens Drive - Wye Creek Loop, The Remarkables
Lots of nice rock designs on this walk. Here’s just a few.

 

Queens Drive - Wye Creek Loop, The Remarkables
I quite liked the stark aesthetic, and also the scale in this scene, which I tried to portray by waiting patiently for my small blue wife to walk in front of a large boulder. The things we do…

 

Queens Drive - Wye Creek Loop, The Remarkables
I loved these alpine plants that I saw for the first time on this walk, and at least this one appeared to love me back.

 

Queens Drive - Wye Creek Loop, The Remarkables
Plants just magically growing out of the rock! Or so it seemed.

 

Queens Drive - Wye Creek Loop, The Remarkables
I liked this cosy combination of alpine plants.

 

Queens Drive - Wye Creek Loop, The Remarkables
One day we’ll do the walk up or maybe down Wye Creek.

Queens Drive - Wye Creek Loop, The Remarkables

Queens Drive - Wye Creek Loop, The Remarkables
We enjoyed having a bit of snow to frolic in.

 

Queens Drive - Wye Creek Loop, The Remarkables
Wye Creek

Queens Drive - Wye Creek Loop, The Remarkables

Queens Drive - Wye Creek Loop, The Remarkables
The big tarn in Wye Creek Basin.

 

Queens Drive - Wye Creek Loop, The Remarkables
Wye Creek

 

Queens Drive - Wye Creek Loop, The Remarkables
There were various tarns in Wye Creek Basin.

 

Queens Drive - Wye Creek Loop, The Remarkables
Looking back at the Remarkables: Single Cone here I think.

 

Queens Drive - Wye Creek Loop, The Remarkables
Wye Creek Basin

 

Queens Drive - Wye Creek Loop, The Remarkables
Dainty fern like plants.

 

Queens Drive - Wye Creek Loop, The Remarkables
I liked these small version of New Zealand’s rather spiky spear grass. The small angry dog of the plant world.

 

Queens Drive - Wye Creek Loop, The Remarkables
Wye Creek Basin panorama.

 

Queens Drive - Wye Creek Loop, The Remarkables
Wye Creek Basin

 

Queens Drive - Wye Creek Loop, The Remarkables
One of the tarns higher up in Wye Creek Basin.

 

Queens Drive - Wye Creek Loop, The Remarkables
Wye Creek Basin

 

Queens Drive - Wye Creek Loop, The Remarkables
Lots of snow here as we ascended to the saddle which accesses the route back down past Lake Alta, then through the ski fields to the car park at the start.

 

Queens Drive - Wye Creek Loop, The Remarkables
Lake Alta

 

Queens Drive - Wye Creek Loop, The Remarkables
More interesting alpine plants. Or at least I find them interesting because I’m not in alpine areas that often.

 

Queens Drive - Wye Creek Loop, The Remarkables
Lake Alta, Double and Single Cone.

Track Notes

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 vehicles track to the right. Follow this beneath the Shadow Basin Chairlift to the viewpoint over Lake Wakatipu and Queenstown. 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 a few 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.

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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