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Queenstown Hill walk & what to expect of the trail

windy day on top of Queenstown hill

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Queenstown is a backpackers’ haven and for good reason! It is the home to some of the most stunning landscapes and walking tracks including the popular Queenstown Hill walk. It’s practically a staple activity of every backpacker that visits Queenstown!

It’s such a beautiful town nestled in New Zealand’s “southern alps”. With a view of bright blue lakes and snow-capped mountains in every direction, it’s no surprise it is a tourist favourite.

Queenstown is close to multiple walking trails and hikes but what makes the Queenstown Hill walk so great is that it is literally in Queenstown. You don’t need to drive to access it like you would for Bob’s Cove for example.

This is a year-round trail but it can snow during the colder months. Although the trail is still open, it is still highly advised to use caution for your safety.

Country:New Zealand
Currency:New Zealand Dollar / NZD
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Sign to the summit and loop track

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Don’t forget to get travel insurance to cover you if something bad happens. One company I have personal experience with is Safety Wing. Not everyone needs the same coverage, so make sure you get a personalised quote that suits you and your trip plans.


me standing in front of the mountains on the queenstown hill hike
Standing in front of mountains on Queenstown Hill

Hike Stats

This hike is classed as a moderate level of difficulty and is accessible for most fitness levels. It has a lot of gradual inclines and only 2 steep sections. It feels like the longest part of the trail is inside the treeline, which also is the steepest.

Length of trail:

4.8 km

Elevation gain:

399m

Time to complete:

2 hour 30 min average

Although it is very easy to follow the trail without getting lost, if you would prefer to follow the trail on my favourite hiking app AllTrails, you can do so here.

AllTrails is an in-depth website that lists walking trails and hikes around the world with stats and pictures so you know what to expect. It has a handy app that you can use directly from your phone too! I never leave home without making sure I have my trail maps downloaded in advance!

I’d recommend getting an eSIM through Airalo for your New Zealand trip so you can easily stay connected the entire time. This will help you follow navigation apps as well as communicate if there are any issues.

Also, to make sure you’re prepared for your day hike to the top of Queenstown Hill, check out this packing list you can download.


Location of the Queenstown hill walk

Queenstown hill is probably the most well-known hike in all of Queenstown. It is a well-walked trail starting in a quiet residential area that takes you to the summit overlooking the entire town and parts of Lake Wakatipu.

Most people will opt to walk to the trailhead from elsewhere in town, but there is the option to drive. I personally wouldn’t recommend driving as the roads in the residential area get very congested. Plus, Queenstown is small enough to walk from one side to the other without too much effort.

Be aware: The car park is tiny and has room for maybe 6 cars maximum at any one time.

Assuming you are staying near the lakefront (centre of town) it would take you just under 20 minutes to walk to the trailhead. So it’s totally easy to do!

Check out these other hikes in New Zealand:


What to expect on the trail

view of the mountains and lake through the trees on the trail
View through the trees during the trail

Forest

After you leave the residential areas, you will start to ascend up a gradual hill through a well-walked and wide concrete path. It has pretty sharp turns and a few subtle viewpoints and picnic benches that allow you to see a little bit of the view through the trees.

The little view you see doesn’t prepare you for the even better views from the summit.

It is a relatively steep incline at this stage so it can become tiresome for those who are less physically able. But due to having a few benches dotted along the track, you can take a number of breaks!

As you continue along the path you can’t go wrong as the entire trail is clearly marked. There is one section with a loop that takes you to two small artistic structures but it is easy to get back on the trail.

One thing you might notice as you travel through the deeper parts of the forest trail is the many Inukshuk that have been put together along the treeline. As you can see from my photo below, there are lots of them.

If you are not familiar with them, Inukshuk are traditional structures originally created by the Inuit people indigenous to northern Canada. They build these small rock structures (sometimes in the shape of a human) as landmarks to help them find their way.

Inukshuks in Canadian forest trail
Inukshuks and rock formations in the forest trail

Hills

As you get out of the treeline you will start heading up over the few hills that eventually merge together. Over these hills, you will get some surprises including some 4-legged friends, a pond and some views in the opposite direction.

The mountain range behind you (opposite direction to Queenstown) can be seen at this stage and features Coronet Peak.

As you progress over these few smaller hills, the terrain will slowly flatten out but you will find the trail windier. Eventually, it will plateau just before the final ascend to the summit and the best views.

goat on a rock on the Queenstown Hill walk
Goats on the hill
goats and a great view of Lake Wakatipu from the Queenstown hill walk
Goats walking the trail

There are wild goats?!

As an animal lover, I was so excited to see wild goats walking free along the trail. I had no idea there was a herd of goats on the hill until we saw them. They spend their days grazing in the patches of grass throughout this hilly region.

There have also been reports of these “feral” goats leaving the hill and travelling into the town below in search of food in the locals’ rubbish bins. This caused some frustrations among the residents and gave the goats a bad reputation similar to that of racoons (or trash pandas as they’re called) in Canada.

I’ll be honest, I’m quite jealous the goats get to live in a place with such beautiful views every day.

It is advised not to feed or pet the goats. They are not necessarily dangerous but they are not friendly either.

To avoid ending up in a dangerous situation while hiking here near the goats, always be safe by giving them a lot of space.

Small Lake

As you climb higher over the multiple hills you will eventually reach a small lake. Technically it might even be small enough to be classed as a pond. It is located between two hills in a miniature valley with a natural terrain bridge that walks along the edge.

This is a common location where the goats will stroll around eating the long grass on either side. Once you go past this pond, you are almost at the summit! Just a few minutes until you reach the viewpoints from here!

me in the wind on the Queenstown hill walk
Me at the summit on a windy day
views from queenstown hill summit
The view from the hilltop

Summit & views over Queenstown

Ok, so if like me you love a good view, then this is the part of this post for you!

After a long climb (due to multiple picture breaks) we reached the summit. Please be warned the wind can change at a moment’s notice and you might get blown over. We nearly lost our camera tripod because of it!

From here you can see almost all of Queenstown including parts of the Gondola, Lake Wakatipu, Cecil’s Peak, Bob’s Peak and the Remarkables mountain range. It really is a stunning view. And even with some cloud coverage, it’s a fantastic place for some photo ops!

We visited this location in mid-September which is New Zealand winter. Just think how much better the view will be during the sunshine in the summer!

Queenstown – Accommodation

Need some accommodation during your stay in Queenstown? Since it is such a popular destination for backpackers, of course, I’m recommending two backpackers’ hostels!

Absoloot Hostel Queenstown – A modern, clean hostel in the heart of Queenstown and only a 19-minute walk from the trailhead! It’s got a relaxed vibe and arguably the best hostel kitchen in all of New Zealand. I recommend a stay here!

Adventure Queenstown hostel – Another hostel in downtown Queenstown that is within walking distance from the trailhead. One thing that makes this property a little different is that it has a more homely feel that other standard hostels which can make homesick travellers feel a little more comfortable.

sunset over queenstown

Spending some time on the south island? Check out these other activities:


Final thoughts

If you are in Queenstown I highly recommend spending a few short hours walking to the top of the hill. It’s a fan-favourite hike for a reason! It isn’t long enough to take a whole day which means you have plenty of time to head back into town with a rewarding beverage afterwards.

Need help planning your trip?

Check out how to plan a trip abroad & see my travel resources for more.

WayAway – Great for booking flights. They even have a cashback feature for those who fly frequently.
Skyscanner – A comprehensive comparison website showing where to purchase flights.
HostelWorld – The biggest selection of hostels & sociable accommodations.
Booking.com – The largest collection of accommodations worldwide.

Safety Wing – A travel insurance brand for long-term travellers and nomads.

Airalo – An eSIM card company that lets you stay connected during your trip.
Wise – Perfect for transferring foreign currencies.
iVisa – For applying for tourist and visitor visas.

Viator – Great for finding tours and activities worldwide.
Get Your Guide – Another company for finding activities.
Klook – Have some of the best activity deals in Asia.

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