With so much geographic diversity from volcanos to snowcapped mountains and jungles to incredible beaches, it’s no wonder that New Zealand is a hiker’s paradise. Here’s a comprehensive look at the best hiking in New Zealand, from day hikes to multi-day treks.
When is the Best Time to Go Hiking in New Zealand?
There are opportunities to hike in New Zealand year-round, however, the best seasons for hiking are late spring through early fall. Keep in mind, if you’re visiting from the Northern Hemisphere, the seasons are reversed.
During the winter months, the weather is generally poor and many of the roads are unmaintained so snow and ice can be an issue. The high season for tourists and locals alike to get outside runs from November through January. Expect crowds during the summer months.
Practical Tips for Visting New Zealand
New Zealand is an absolutely breathtaking country that is well worth a visit. It’s known for its friendly people and the unbelievable scenery. Due to its small size, it’s really easy to visit many of the best hiking trails in New Zealand. In a day you can go from the beaches of Abel Tasman to the towering peaks of Aokari in just a day.
The best way to get around New Zealand is certainly by road. As the touted “adventure capital of the world” what better way to explore New Zealand than by renting a campervan? You’ll have a house on wheels that’s prime for taking advantage of New Zealand’s best hiking trails.
How Many Days Should I Spend Hiking in New Zealand?
That largely depends on what kind of hiker you are. Hiking enthusiasts may want to spend several days tackling the best day hikes in New Zealand, or even opt to do one of New Zealand’s “Great Walks” or long-distance treks that require multiple days. Keep in mind that you’ll need permits for multi-day hikes in New Zealand.
Less-avid hikers will at least want to check out some of the easier walking trails and hikes across New Zealand. Pick a few hikes in locations that speak to you and plan on spending a day or two on the trail. Many of New Zealand’s hikes are well-established, making them an ideal choice for a beginner hiker.
The Best Multi-Day Trekking in New Zealand
Known collectively as New Zealand’s Great Walks, these multi-day treks offer an array of scenery over multiple days. Nowhere else on earth contains so much geographic diversity in such a small space. Tackle one or all of the 10 Great Walks. We’ve highlighted a few of our favorites below.
Pro Tip: Keep in mind you’ll need permits for all multi-day treks in New Zealand. These often need to be obtained well in advance. Some permits for the most popular trails or tracks sell out in a matter of hours, so be sure to set a calendar reminder and plan in advance!
Spend the Night in the Famous Mueller Hut in Aoraki Mount Cook National Park
By Bailey of Destinationless Travel
The Mueller Hut hike is one of the most beautiful treks in New Zealand. Located in Mount Cook National Park, this hike gains 1000 meters over 5.2 kilometers offering some of the best views of NZ’s tallest mountain – none other than Mt Cook herself!
From up at the hut, you’ll have panoramic views of the area including Mt Cook sitting across the Hooker Valley. The hike to the Mueller Hut isn’t for the faint-hearted though. It is a steep trail that starts off with more than 2,000 stairs.
After the stairs, it is a scramble upwards even further until you reach the hut. Most people take around 3.5 to 5 hours to reach the top. If you are fit enough, this hike can be done in one day. However, I recommend spending a night at the Mueller Hut and enjoying the sunset and sunrise!
The Mueller Hut is one of the nicer huts in NZ offering a large common space, bunk beds, running water, and a pit toilet. In the summer, you must book the hut well in advance online with the DOC. In the winter, it is first-come-first-serve and you must buy a hut pass from the DOC before departing.
The trail starts at the White Horse Hill parking lot only a 5-minute drive from Mount Cook Village. The trail is well marked and easy to find and follow. If you find yourself climbing a lot of stairs after the first one-kilometer of walking, you’ll know you’re in the right place!
The Mueller Hut hike is the perfect 2-day hike for those looking for a challenge with incredible views. In my opinion, it is the absolute best thing to do in Mount Cook National Park and easily one of the best hikes around NZ!
Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult
Distance: 5.2 km one way or 10.4 round trip
Elevation: 1,000 m
Red Tape: A permit is required to sleep in the hut during the summer. This hike can be done in a day too.
Experience the Kepler Track in Fjordland National Park
Famous for its jaw-dropping mountain scenery where skyscraper peaks reach the sea, Fiordland National Park is a must-visit on any New Zealand itinerary. Every year, hundreds of hungry hikers flock to the Kepler Track for a chance to backpack and tramp one of New Zealand’s Great Walks and one of the best trails in the world.
The hiking trail itself is extremely well-maintained as it makes it way across a 60 km loop. You’ll be treated with incredible views of Lake Te Anau and make your way across stunning mountain ridgelines in the Jackson Peaks and Murchison Mountain ranges.
Many people recommend hiking the Kepler Track counter-clockwise in order to take advantage of the beautiful views. Bring a camera, because this is one of the world’s most beautiful treks and certainly the most beautiful multi-day hike in New Zealand
There are three huts along the track, so it’s best to tackle this hike in 3 nights or 4 days in order to soak up the best that this New Zealand Great Walk has to offer. Booking must be made in advance and cost $130 NZD per person for out-of-country visitors. Plan on booking at least a year in advance and visit the DOC website for the most up-to-date information.
Distance: 60 km loop
Elevation: 1,250 m of gain, some sections are quite steep.
Red Tape: Plan on obtaining a permit up to a year in advance.
Abel Tasman Coast Track
Another one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, this amazing coastal track that spans across Abel Tasman national park on the northern tip of the South Island.
Trekkers will love the various hut and beach-side campsites to rest their heads each and every night. As you hike from cove to cove, you’ll discover beautiful tidal pools, pristine beaches, and abundant wildlife. The terrain is sandy, rocky or jungle so be prepared for hot conditions and slow-moving over sandy terrain.
Like all of New Zealand’s Great Walks an advanced permit is required for any overnight excursions via the DOC website. Also, take note that although trails are well-marked and maintained, you’re still walking quite a bit in the sand. You’ll also want to keep an eye on the tides and check a tide table before you head out.
Since this is an out-and-back trail, plan on staying in some areas on the way out, and others on the way back to get a full experience.
With that being said, this amazing coastal track takes between three and five days to complete depending on your route and how many stops you’d like to make.
Distance: 60 km one way
Red Tape: Plan on obtaining a permit up to a year in advance.
Hike the Iconic Milford Track in Milford Sound
by Cat of Walk My World
The Milford Track is not only just one of the best hiking trails in New Zealand, but one of the most famous treks in the whole world. Coined as “the finest walk in the world”, it has been attracting people from all over for decades all wanting to traverse mountains, glaciers, waterfalls, and pristine forest before reaching the iconic Milford Sound.
The scenery is some of the most spectacular we’ve ever seen, the forests feel like you’ve stepped straight into a scene from The Lord of The Rings and you’ll even get the chance to see New Zealand’s tallest waterfall, Sutherland Falls, which is so powerful it sounds like a jet engine from kilometers away! Fiordland is not known for its weather but that usually means there will be hundreds of waterfalls cascading down the mountains making you almost grateful for the rain!
If you have the energy after the day’s hiking there are lakes to swim in, glow-worm dells to explore and incredible stargazing opportunities. It’s so much more than just a hike.
The Milford Track is one of New Zealand’s “Great Walks” – a category that is reserved for the country’s best multi-day hikes (best meaning scenery as well as facilities and maintained trails).
You’ll take a gorgeous boat trip across Lake Te Anau to start the hike and you instantly feel a million miles away from civilization. The trek takes 4 days, staying in designated huts each night. The huts are pretty luxurious by hiking standards and come with mattresses, gas burners, and are all in spectacular settings.
Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult
Distance: 54 km excluding side trails, one way. You take a ferry back to the start of the trail.
Elevation: 1170 m of gain excluding side trails
Red Tape: A permit is required. remember, numbers on the track are strictly controlled and book out for the entire season the day they go on sale, usually in the first hour so make sure you’ve set your alarm for the hour reservations open!
The Complete List of the Best Day Hikes in New Zealand
Don’t have time for a multi-day trek in New Zealand? No problem! You can still find endless amounts of beautiful scenery along New Zealand’s amazing day hikes. These hikes vary in difficulty just as much as the scenery of the country changes with each kilometer. Here’s a look at the best day hikes in New Zeland
Incredible Hiking Trails in the South Island
Many people who visit New Zealand don’t have time to visit both islands. The South Island boasts endless beauty and diversity that truly has to be seen to be believed. There are far more hiking trails in the South Island than the north and the best day hikes in the South Island of New Zealand are very accessible.
Missing: Mueller Hut (can also do as an overnight)
Explore the Franz Joseph Glacier
by Thais of World Trip Diaries
This 1h 30 min track is an easy hike in New Zealand’s South Island that takes you from the car park to the Franz Josef Glacier Observation Point. You don’t go near or onto the ice, but you get the chance to peep this magnificent glacier. The Franz Joseph Glacier Trail is a great option for things to do in Franz Joseph if you book a glacier tour that gets canceled.
Depending on the conditions the Franz Joseph Glacier could be near or far from the observation point. The hike is easy, and child-friendly, making it some of the best hiking in New Zealand. The path is clearly marked, but it’s rocky and uneven, sometimes crossing little streams, so not for wheelchairs and prams or strollers.
The beginning of the track is flat and mild, but exceptionally beautiful. You cross the moss-covered rocks, and pass a beautiful waterfall. As you wind your way towards the glacier you’ll follow the glacial runoff carving the valley bottom. By the end of the track, there’s a short climb where you aren’t advised to stop due to rockfall. Be sure to take a rest before this point so you don’t tire out. That climb takes you to the observation area.
Make sure you don’t cross the barriers and follow all signage. Conditions can change – river levels can rise, rockfall can change the path, and sometimes, the track needs to be closed. Wear suitable footwear, as the path is mostly on a rocky surface, and enjoy the view!
Distance: 2.25 km point-to-point
Elevation: 264 m of gain
Red Tape: None
The Hooker Valley Track is Closed
Located in the famous Hooker Valley near the base of Aoraki Mountain or Mount Cook, the jaw-dropping Hooker Valley Track is home to one of the best multi-day hikes in New Zealand. However, it’s unfortunately closed for restoration until further notice.
Parts of the trail are still accessible, but they do not do this Great Walk justice. Stay tuned as I will update you once the track opens.
Visit the Land of Lord of the Rings Along the Roby Roy Glacier Track
By Chris of Explore Now or Never
There’s no shortage of phenomenal hiking tracks in New Zealand, but the Rob Roy Glacier Track on the west coast of the South Island offers a big pay-off for a day hike. The Rob Roy Glacier Track is a 60-minute drive from Wanaka into the wonderland of Mount Aspiring National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage area. Not to mention, the famous Lord of the Rings movie was also filmed here.
Wander through the dense beech forest with Kea birds calling in the distance. Make your way through this amazing landscape with turquoise streams crisscrossed by beautiful swinging bridges. At the end of the hike, you’re treated to the beautiful Rob Roy Glacier cascading into the valley.
Even though the New Zealand government labels this as an “easy” hike, we found it to be moderately difficult due to the elevation gain. It’s a three to four hour “out and back” hike of 10 km (6.2 miles) where three-fourths of your time is up a steep incline.
As you ascend, you’ll catch glimpses of the snow-covered glacier. There’s no question that the Rob Roy Glacier track is one of the best hikes in New Zealand.
Also of note: You can do this hike as the first leg of a multi-day tramping experience and overnight in the adorable mountain huts here!
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Distance: 10 km out-and-back with the option to add multiple days if you keep going.
Elevation: Unknown. If you know, please drop me a line! I always strive to have the most up-to-date information.
Red Tape: None
Soak up the Scenery Along the Castel Hill Track in Canterbury
By Nadine of Le Long Weekend
The Castle Hill track near Christchurch may not be the South Island’s most challenging walk, but what it lacks in endurance, it more than makes up for in spectacular scenery.
A little over an hour’s drive from NZ’s Garden City, the Kura Tāwhiti Conservation Area that encompasses the Castle Hill track is an incredibly unique and sacred place. Oddly shaped limestone boulders dominate the karst landscape, which was once submerged under an inland sea. Don’t forget to cast your eyes downwards once and a while too – for this area is home to some of Canterbury’s rarest plant life.
The short track cuts a path through the magnificent scenery, but it’s not obligatory to stick to it. Wander through the formations, discover hidden caves, and climb the craggy rocks if you dare! A walk around Castle Hill is a fun family day out from Christchurch, and one of the most memorable New Zealand experiences you can have.
Just be sure to take everything you need with you for the day as there are no facilities nearby. Pack a picnic to make the most of the rural tranquility in the summer months, or take your snow sled and slide down the gentle slopes in winter. Stick to the designated area and steer clear of the gated farms that neighbor the reserve.
Distance: 2.6 km loop
Elevation: 65m of gain
Red Tape: None
Hike the Mount Robert Circuit in Nelson National Park
By Sarah of A Social Nomad
This circuit track is located within Nelson Lakes National Park on New Zealand’s South Island. The walking is easy, although some parts of the track have shale and care needs to be taken on the steeper parts. It’s relatively short, just a 9-kilometer route, but if you wish to extend it you can walk on to the Angelus Hut tracks.
The track starts at 880 meters and the maximum elevation is 1430 metres with steady gain, so prepare for lots of uphill walking. There is freshwater (sometimes) at the Bushline Hut, but there are also stream en route if you carry a filter water bottle. There isn’t much shade along the way, so don’t forget to pack your sunscreen too!
You’ll only want to attempt this hike on a clear, good weather day, as the route up to the Bushline Hut on Paddy’s Track is quite exposed. However, the trail offers incredible views of Lake Rotoiti.
Overall, the route is well signposted and the DOC suggests that the circuit should take 5 hours, although most people seem to complete it in half the time. Once at the top, you return to the car park via the Pinchgut Track – through woods and along a graded track.
There’s a glorious view of the KEA Hut, built by skiers in 1931, and while it’s not possible to go inside it does make for a lovely photo opportunity.
Distance: 9 km loop
Elevation: 600m of gain
Red Tape: None
Take a Stroll Along the Outlet Track at Lake Wanaka
By Irene of RoadGoat.
The Outlet Track at Lake Wanaka is the best trail in New Zealand for walkers and bikers. The track starts at the Clutha River/Mata-Au and ends at the Lake Wanaka Outlet Road and Hikuwai Reserve in Albert Town. The river is also popular for trout fishing.
The trail is 3 km one way, and takes about an hour to hike. The trail is easy to walk and is stroller friendly, making it a fun and easy family activity. And don’t leave your four-legged friends at home! Dogs are allowed on the trail if they’re kept on a leash.
There are no fees or permits required for this trail, making it extremely accessible. There’s plenty of shade along the track, so no need to worry about the excessive sun. There are a few beautiful beaches and grassy patches as well, making for good picnic areas to stop and eat and just enjoy the scenery.
For those that opt for biking, consider using the Hikuwai Track during busy times to avoid accidents with walkers. Whichever you choose, the views along this trail are really hard to beat.
Distance: 6 km, 3 km one way
Elevation: 339m of gain
Red Tape: None
Soar to New Heights by Hiking Roys Peak in Wanaka
By Annie from Off Goes Annie
The beautiful Roys Peak Trail from Wanaka is without a doubt one of the best hikes on New Zealand’s South Island. With an elevation of 1228m across a 16km return track, this hike is as stunning as it is challenging. The whole tramp takes between four and six hours, whilst the phenomenal summit views are worth every second of it.
With the start of the track located just 6km outside of Wanaka down Mt Aspiring Road, Roys Peak makes for the perfect morning climb and one of the most accessible day hikes in New Zealand. Ensure you arrive early as the car park gets incredibly busy by 9 am.
Although a fair level of fitness is required to ascend, the first hour is by far the most difficult as you quickly gain height up the peak. What’s brilliant about this hike is that you don’t have to get all the way up to the summit in order to enjoy the wonderfully rewarding panoramic views of this alpine area.
Many people only walk as far as Roys Peak Saddle, which is the main photo opportunity, located around ¾ of the way to the top. It’s important to note that Roys Peak is definitely a fair weather tramp – in the depths of winter, crampons and ice climbing equipment is required to ascend safely, so make sure to seek local advice first.
Distance: 16 km
Red Tape: None
The Best Day Hikes in New Zealand’s North Island
The North Island deserves more credit than the internet ever awards it. Known as the metropolitan heart of New Zealand, not many people think of nature when they think of the North Island. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Sure, the South Island boasts endless natural wonders, but there is still plenty of amazing hiking tracks on the North Island of New Zealand.
I Spy Snow-Capped Volcanoes at the Pouakai Crossing
For a serious wow factor, pack your bags for this intense day hike to Pouakai Crossing in Egmont National Park. Avid hikers may choose to tackle this incredible hike in one day, while the more leisurely hiker may find it valuable to spend the night in one of the huts along the route.
Bring your navigation skills and a map for this 19km one-way backcountry adventure. The trail makes its way through alpine scrub and scree as you make your way to stunning volcanic vistas featuring Mount Taranaki.
Stop at the Holly Hut or Pouakai Hut for an overnight (advanced permit required) or make the push in one 10 hour day. Unlike many of the other hikes on this list, the Pouakai Crossing doesn’t see nearly the amount of traffic and you’ll get a real wilderness feel with epic volcanic views.
Just don’t forget to pack gaitors and boots, this one can be muddy!
Hike to Cathedral Cove
Located along the Coromandel coastline, this simply walking path takes you to three separate bays for a seaside hike in New Zealand you won’t forget.
Start from Hahei and head straight into the stunning Gemstone Bay valley, take the optional side loop through a grove of puriri trees before heading back and up to the track’s high point. This offers beautiful seas side views and makes for a nice spot to rest.
In true New Zealand fashion, follow the path along the coast into a moody pine forest then out to a natural rock arch that joins the two beaches of the famous Cathedral Cove. Soak in the views and bring your camera for this unique seaside alcove.
Difficulty: Easy with some grade
Distance: 205 km loop
Elevation: Unknown. If you know, comment below!
Red Tape: None, but keep an eye on the tides so you can access the Cathedral.
Take an Island Stroll at the Paekakariki Escarpment
By Jub at Chur New Zealand
The Paekakariki Escarpment Track is a favorite walk for locals after a good workout and awesome views. The track which can be started from either end goes between Paekakariki and Pukerua Bay. The two small towns are accessible by car and/or train.
What makes the walk so special is the incredible views you get looking out towards Kapiti Island. People have always appreciated the views driving along the Centennial Highway between the two towns, so when the track opened to the public in 2016, it didn’t take long to become a favorite as it edges along the hill above train tracks and highway. It’s also a part of the Te Araroa Trail.
It’s isn’t an easy hike (it’ll take 2-4 hours), with ~500 stairs to navigate along the way, though people of all ages take it on, it’s certainly a wonderful thing to do in the North Island. If it’s windy, keep a close eye on children as the track does get narrow at times with steep drop-offs.
Along the way you’ll cross to awesome swing bridges, native bush, and if you’re lucky you’ll see tuis.
The most popular way to complete the walk is starting in Paekakariki, and walking towards Pukerua Bay. When you finish in Pukerua Bay, catch the train back to Paekakariki for a well-earned bite to eat at the local cafes. If you’re super keen, you could walk back.
Distance: 9.6 km loop
Elevation: Unkown. Approx 200 m max elevation
Red Tape: None.
Explore Volcanos along Tongariro Alpine Crossing
By Gabor of Surfing the Planet
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is not only one of the best hikes in New Zealand but in the world. It stands out because of its fascinating and varied volcanic landscape. The circular trail goes through a volcanic terrain full of beautiful volcanic cones and pristine alpine lakes. The trail can be walked during the whole year, although the Tongariro Crossing in winter usually requires crampons and other technical equipment to go through the steep snowy part.
There are several highlights of the trek, but probably climbing the Red Crater is the most amazing part. In addition to the intense red color of the landscape during the climb, you will have a fascinating view from the top. When you arrive at the peak, you will be amazed by the view of Mount Ngauruhoe (Mount Doom for Lord of the Rings lovers) on one side, and the large Central Crater and the Emerald Lakes on the other side.
There’s a parking place at both ends of the trail, but it’s recommended to take a shuttle bus from Whakapapa village to Mangatepopo. You will start the trail there and finish it in Ketatahi, from where you can use the same shuttle bus to get back to Whakapapa.
Take note, you can add on to this trek in order to make it multiple days along the Tongariro Northern Circuit.
Difficulty: Moderate to difficult
Distance: 20 km loop
Elevation: Approx 900 m
Red Tape: None. Guide and technical gear recommended in winter.
Take the Ferry to the Tarawera Trail
By Alex of Weekend Kiwis
The Tarawera Trail off Rotorua is more of a local gem and not as famous as the Great Walks, but it’s proximity to Auckland makes it a fun jaunt. If you like hiking and you love free hot pools to bathe in along the way, this is one for you!
The Tarawera Trail is a one-way hike and can be done in either direction. It’s 15km long and takes about 5 hours from start to finish, depending on fitness and breaks you take.
Park your car at the Lake Tarawera Landing. Next, you’ll board your pre-booked water taxi that will bring you to Hot Water Beach at the start of the trail. If you want, you can take a swim in the hot spring.
The walking trail is very well marked, you really can’t get lost. The path leads you on an undulating path over the hills that flank the lake. It’s a lot of up and down but never for too long or too steep. The vegetation seems to change every time you hit another valley and you’ll walk through native bush, Nikka Palms, reach viewing points and little beaches along the lake.
Just over an hour into your walk, you’ll see a long-drop toilet appear in the middle of nowhere. From there, pay attention to a small path that leads away from the main walking trail. Follow it for a few hundred meters and you’ll find a lovely hidden hot pool for a break. Don’t stay too long, though, as you still have about 4 hours ahead of you before you reach your car again.
The hike isn’t a technical one and can be done by anyone who doesn’t mind the 15 km walk. We saw lots of families with younger kids and toddlers in their backpack-seats. Just make sure you bring snacks and enough to drink as there is no drinking water along the way.
Distance: 15 km
Red Tape: Definitely book your ferry transport in advance
When it comes to the best hikes in New Zealand, you literally have a smorgasbord of trails and tracks to choose from! It would take a lifetime to hike them all, but wouldn’t that be a lovely way to spend your time.