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.
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.