Hiking the Ben Lomond Track, Queenstown
The most iconic (and surely the best) day hike in Queenstown takes you above picturesque Lake Wakatipu to the summit of Ben Lomond, the mountain which looms over Queenstown (but is hidden from view from most parts of town). There are so many amazing views on the Ben Lomond Track, but the hike isn’t without its difficulties, especially in winter. Keep reading for more information on this fun day walk!
An easy (or hard) start
The Ben Lomond Track starts at the top of Bob’s Peak, a forested hill above Queenstown. Luckily this is where the Skyline Gondola goes, and you can shave a good chunk of time (and effort) by riding up and starting your hike from the top. Otherwise you’ll have to head up the Tiki Trail, a steep track through the forest which apparently takes an hour. It doesn’t seem like there are many views along the way so if you have the funds, I’d highly recommend skipping it (your legs will thank you later). You’ll see great views from the top of the Gondola, and from there you’ll find the start of the Ben Lomond Track.
The Hike to Ben Lomond Saddle
The track starts off pretty easily and the views don’t take long to arrive. We did this walk on the last day of winter (August 31st) and before long we encountered some shady parts of track full of ice, snow and mud. It was slow going but we could see the impressive face of Ben Lomond ahead which distracted us. This section would be fairly easy in better conditions – it’s continuously uphill but the gradient isn’t too severe.
You’ll soon come to a junction where you’ll see the track continue uphill towards the saddle and summit. Turn up the other small hill though and you’ll get some different views – we thought it looked a little like Roys Peak.
From there head back to the junction and up to the saddle. This part of the track was completely covered in snow and the views back over Lake Wakatipu were special. Snow makes walks like this hard but extra rewarding. After trudging up through the snow we made it to a wooden seat surrounded by mountains. Gia decided to stop there, and I continued to the summit.
Ben Lomond Summit
You can see the summit of Ben Lomond from most of the way up, and it sure is an impressive looking mountain. Being covered in snow and all, it looked like a “proper” mountain and about half way up I realised it was going to be harder than I thought (I told Gia I’d be an hour, but it took me close to two to get there and back). The snow and ice got thick as I neared the top and it was very slippery – it wasn’t a pleasant walk but with some of the best views I’ve seen in New Zealand all around me I wasn’t complaining (well, I wasn’t complaining much).
After heaps of scrambling, slipping and resting on rocks, I finally made it to the summit. There was one other guy at the top, but he was taking photos in a different spot and it felt like I had the whole mountain to myself. The views are incredible in every direction – you can see heaps of Lake Wakatipu and its surrounding mountains as well as the mountains and valleys on the other side. According to a guy we met later you can see Mount Aspiring and even Mount Cook in the distance – I can’t confirm that though!
It was tough coming back down from the summit and I slipped over a few times. I slid down one section and got a couple of little cuts on my hands. My hands also got cold as I wasn’t wearing gloves and had to keep putting my hands on the snow to stop from falling over.
To summit or not to summit?
The walk from the saddle to the summit is tough and isn’t for everyone. We met a few people who didn’t make it all the way and you shouldn’t feel back if you don’t either. The views from the saddle (and all the way up to that point) are beautiful and it’s more than worth doing this walk to that point. It didn’t feel particularly dangerous to me but if you’re not used to walking on ice and snow and haven’t done many big hikes like this you might struggle. Gia went about a quarter of the way up and turned back – she was happy with what she saw though, and it turned out to be one of her favourite NZ hikes. In summer it’d be a lot easier and the views, despite there not being much snow, would still be great.
Getting to the Ben Lomond Track
Again, saving an hour of uphill hiking by taking the gondola up is a good idea if you can spare the cash. Otherwise, you’ll be walking up the Tiki Trail, which starts next to the gondola. The Skyline Gondola is located at the end of Brecon Street and you can easily walk from town. There are free parks (maximum time of four hours) near the gondola but four hours isn’t long enough (unless you’re pretty much running up) and you don’t want to get a parking ticket! We parked on Man Street, a five-minute walk to the gondola, and were lucky to get a park that close. If you’re staying in town and your car is already parked it’d be easier just to walk. Or, there are also some paid parking places nearby.
Other Queenstown Hikes
There are lots of other hikes around Queenstown, including Queenstown Hill, Moke Lake and Bob’s Cove. You can also head a little further afield to Glenorchy and Paradise, where you’ll find a couple of my favourite short walks in New Zealand.
Are you planning a trip to New Zealand? Check out my two-week South Island itinerary!
I was hosted by Skyline Gondola. All thoughts and opinions are my own.