Queenstown, New Zealand
One of my new found loves has definitely been mountain biking and I feel very fortunate to live in Queenstown, New Zealand where we have some awesome trails basically in our back yard! Literally, as I hang up my laundry I get to watch the mountain bikers on their last few downhill bits before heading back up the gondola to the top. This is the trail I ride the most -but it isn’t me in the video. I find riding almost meditative (especially the uphill and cross country) and the more I ride the more lessons I keep getting taught. I realize that these lessons don’t just relate to mountain biking but easily carry over into my daily life so I wanted to share them with you.
1. Look where you want to go. I have heard this in other places (gymnastics, skiing, etc) and I use this in many aspects of my life. When biking, if you focus on that tree you don’t want to hit or the edge of the bridge you don’t want to fall off of you’re bound to wind up there. Focus on the trail ahead of you and the path at the end of the bridge, not the dangerous distractions off to the side and you’ll be smooth sailing. Think positive, focus on what you WANT, not what you don’t want out of life.
2. Granny gear isn’t going to get you up the hill. This is one of my favorite lessons. There is this small but very steep hill that comes right out of a downhill and for the the last two years I’d get ready for this hill by trying to get enough speed on the downhill and put it into my lowest “granny gear” to get up the hill. Every time I would lose power 1/2 way up the hill and had jump off my bike and walk it the rest of the way. The other day I realized I kept doing the same thing over and over again and it clearly wasn’t getting me the results I wanted so I tried something new (sound familiar? That’s a lesson in itself!). Instead of going for the “easy” gear I went up a couple notches. By putting it into a “harder” gear I had more power and more traction and made it up the hill with no problems. What are you doing in your life in the easiest gear that isn’t getting you where you want to go? Step it up a notch – you’ll get to the top.
3. Don’t look at the giant hill. This is for those times that you come to a giant steep hill that you think – “I can’t possibly pedal up that!” Don’t get overwhelmed with such a large task ahead of you, aim to knock out bit by bit. When I get to that giant hill I pick little goals to work towards – “I’ll make it to that rock then walk the rest”. But what happens is I make it to the rock with no problem then don’t want to quit, so I say “Just get to that stick, now that leaf, now that other rock.” Before I know it I have conquered the hill one bit at a time and never felt overwhelmed. Little goals will help you reach your bigger goal.
4. Don’t give up – you will get better each time. After 8 months of being off our bikes, Chris and I were eager to get back into it and jumped on our bikes and began to tackle the hill behind our house. This used to take us 45 minutes, walking some of it and taking some breaks. Our first time back was embarrassing. We were so out of shape and ended up pushing our bikes up most of the hill and it took us about an hour. The ride back down was just as bad – our arms and legs were jello. It wasn’t fun and it made me wonder what I loved so much about biking. Of course I just wasn’t fit at the time and needed to get back into it. That was two months ago and now I feel myself getting better every time I ride. I can pedal up the entire hill without pushing and limited breaks. My downhill skills are getting better as well. I keep track of how long it takes me and how many breaks I take. I can literally see how I am getting better each time I ride. You are getting faster, better and stronger everyday you work towards your goal.
5. Get off your seat!! When I was a newer mountain biker I felt safer sitting on my bike seat going downhill and Chris would holler at me – “Get off your seat!” You’ll get better if you get off your seat and stand on your own two feet. Your legs will get stronger, you’ll find your balance and you will have more fun when you aren’t sitting on your ass.
Now if only I can get as good as these guys here – gorgeous video!
Just to be perfectly clear – this is NOT a trail guide, map, etc. I’m not 100% sure we went the correct way.
It starts like the other hikes in the area, drive up to the parking area and start walking up the road. At the first fork take it to the right. Once at the first saddle find the old goat trail amongst the scree and follow it to the rock garden. Continue around the peaks then over Wye saddle and down by Lake Alta and back on the road to the parking lot. The goat trail looks a lot more sketch than it actually is (that being said I wouldn’t do it if there was still snow on the tops). Many times rocky, scree covered skinny trails over extreme heights get me a bit freaked out but this didn’t really affect me at all.
I really enjoyed the walk along the face but after over an hour of boulder hopping I got a bit over it. There isn’t a ton of elevation gain and I read that it is marked as an “easy” hike that takes 3-4 hours. I wouldn’t call this easy due to the heights, the lack of trail, alpine nature, boulder hopping, etc. and the total loop took us 5 1/2 hours – we aren’t slow pokes – but maybe we missed the trail a bit.
Go prepared – good shoes, hiking pole(s), lunch, water, layers, etc. Not for kids or dogs.
Other hikes in the area are Lake Alta or just do the first 45 minutes of this hike to get you to an awesome view of Queenstown. On our list is still Double Cone.
Here is our little photo journal of our hike, enjoy and let me know if you have questions.
This first picture was taken from tramper.co.nz and shows where the trail cuts across the face of the mountain.
After lunch we finished with the skinny trail and made it to the rock hopping section. Definitely not on a “trail” just headed in the general direction. We saw a small rock fall start ahead and above us on the mountain. Made us not waste anytime in this section while not rushing too much and twisting an ankle. Many of the rocks are wobbly and barely balancing on whatever they landed on. It was pretty exhausting mentally and physically. We crossed a couple snow patches as well.
Hope you enjoyed this! Let me know if you come to New Zealand – we’ll take you on a hike!
This has been my New Year’s Day hike the last two years. It’s important to start the year the way you would like to continue it. Starting out hungover and feeling unhealthy is not the way I want my year to be.
Going up to the top of Bob’s Hill via the Skyline Gondola or hiking is a must do while in Queenstown. There are three different ways to get to the top of the Gondola
1. Ride the Gondola – $25NZ round trip and enjoy the Luge, cafe, short walk and the view from the top. One way tickets are also available.
2. Walk up from the base of the Gondola – there is a walking track that takes about an hour.
3. Walk up the old forest road that starts at the top of Glasgow Street. There is some parking there and gets you up a bit of the hill. We do this the most as it is near our house.This takes about 45 minutes.
Once at the top you’ll see signs for the Ben Lomond track. This is a BIG walk and by taking the gondola up you cut out about 500m of elevation and about 60 min of hiking. It’s about 11km from the bottom of the gondola and about 1500 meters of elevation gain. From the gondola allow about 5 hours (we did it in 4 1/2 the other day with lunch at the top and a couple short breaks along the way) or 6 hours from the bottom round trip.
Make sure the weather is clear and pack a layer as it may be windy/breezy/wet up on top. Bring plenty of water and lunch or snacks for the top. The views are 360 degrees of amazing up there.
There is an easy to follow trail for the first hour that gets you to the saddle – even this is a nice walk with great views and worth doing. The next 45 minutes is up, up, up the rocky steep path to get you to the top. Hiking poles would be useful.
Below you can see what you have in store. This first picture was taken from the Queen’s Drive hike around The Remarkables.
Mt. Cook is a must see on your trip to New Zealand, especially on a clear day!
There are some great things to do in the area and if you are lucky enough to have time and good weather I would suggest spending at least one, if not two nights there.
Here are some of the things we have done while there and my “perfect itinerary”, if money weren’t an object and I controlled the weather might look something like this.
Arrive at Mt. Cook with time to hike to Mueller Hut and do an overnight stay.
Watch the avalanches, enjoy the sunset and sunrise and some amazing star gazing.
After a leisurely morning start the next day take short walk from Mueller Hut (if there is one) then head back down the steep face and maybe a short detour to Kea Point.
There are some other short walks to do or take a drive out towards Blue Pools that would be worth a look to see some of the icebergs from the Tazman Glacier. If you have money burning a hole in your pocket book a boat trip with Glacier Explorers to get right up close to the icebergs – but you don’t get right up next to the glacier – a bit too dangerous. At $140 a person it’s a bit steep. Here are some pictures from our trip with Glacier Explorers.
Day three head to Hooker Valley and come back for a great picnic lunch. Head out to catch a helicopter ride over the peaks to give your legs a rest. If the helicopter is a bit out of your budget how about a $16 3-D movie at the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Center which will take you to the top of Mt. Cook from the safety of your theater seat?
As for accommodations, I have only ever car camped at Whitehorse Hill which is $6 per person per night, flush toilets, shelter/”kitchen” area that has boiling water and tables. There are also showers near the gas station a 10 min walk away. There are a couple hostels and of course fancy hotels. The camping does us just fine. I can’t really recommend the restaurants as must visit places, but they are fine if you don’t feel like cooking.
This is one of the easiest walks that I have done in the Mt. Cook area. Granted, I haven’t done all of them, yet.
It’s a gravel path that I did the morning after our Mueller Hut hike and before our Hooker Valley hike. It only takes about 15-25 minutes each way. A great short trail run, or just a simple way to stretch your legs and get a great view point. I didn’t really have plans to do it, just wanted to see Mt. Cook in the morning light and started off in my flip flops and next thing you know I was at there. I think this place could be an amazing place to get some good views at sunset as well as the light on Mt. Cook could be awesome. But don’t take my word for it as I didn’t actually make it here for sunset.
Simply head out the same way you would to Seally Tarns/Mueller Hut hike from the Whitehorse Hill campground and you’ll see the turn off for it.
This is a not to be missed walk in the Mt. Cook area. It’s about 3-4 hours round trip, relatively flat and easy to follow. I recommend hiking/sturdy shoes and bring a layer. We always start from the Whitehorse Hill campground -but you can start from the village, just add about 45 minutes to your total walk. Most skill levels can do this hike.
If Mueller Hut hike is a bit too intense for you don’t miss out on this one!
You get amazing views along the way, cross over two swinging bridges and on a clear day awesome views of Mt. Cook.
Talk about bang for you buck!
This is an amazing day hike up and back, or can be done as an overnight in Mueller Hut. We had been waiting for a good weather window before heading up there from Queenstown, which is about a 3 1/2 hour drive. Definitely check your weather before heading up as you wouldn’t want to be at the top to be inside a cloud.
What is it with New Zealand not giving distances but only time it takes to hike? Ugg. From what I gather it is about 5 miles round trip but with over 1000m/3400ft elevation gain.
We tend to car camp when we head to Mt. Cook ($6 per person, flush toilets, boiling water in the kitchen but no gas, running water, there is one public shower that we found – ($2 for five minutes – hot!) near the gas station. You can start the hike right from the camping area and it starts off very easy, wide, flat gravel path but about 15 minutes into the hike you start going up, up, up and don’t stop for about 3-3 1/2 hours. The path is well marked, and varies between walking up wooden stairs, rock stairs and steep rocky trails.
About an half way up you’ll get to Sealy Tarns (Tarns are small alpine lakes). This alone makes a nice hike and gets some awesome views of Mt. Cook and the valley below. Continue on for another 1 1/2- 2 hours to get to the saddle and get even better views. Because of our drive we started this hike at noon – so the bright sun was on us the way up. Hiking a bit earlier would have been more ideal.
Once you reach the saddle you’ll be looking across at some amazing hanging glaciers, waterfalls and avalanches. We chose to stop and enjoy our lunch at the saddle and then carried on to the hut. The views at the saddle trump the views at the hut in my opinion. With our short stop at the tarns and a longer lunch stop we still arrived at Mueller Hut in about 3 1/2 hours. There are pit toilets and water at the hut (bring your own tp). If I were doing this again I would definitely want to stay at the top – there are about 20 mats for $35 each. It would be amazing to have watched the sun go down and see the amazing colors and the night sky and then of course the new days light would be impressive to wake up to. Listening to avalanche after avalanche crash down the other side of the mountain.
The avalanches are amazing but you don’t always see them – it’s like looking for the lightening strike as you hear the thunder – it’s not going to happen. It’s so loud throughout the valley and you expect to see a HUGE snow and ice fall and you look up and you see some snow tumbling down but it all looks so small compared to the giant rock face. Then you remember how far away from the actual fall you are and that even though it looks small it is all relative, and there is no way I’d want to be anywhere near that coming down. It’s an amazing place.
Oh – on this hike, definitely a hiking boot/shoe hike. If your knees are particularly bad this might be too hard on them. We chose to hike with poles and saw many people doing the same. Makes a difference for me for sure. I don’t care for steep downhill but this didn’t freak me out, there wasn’t anything so exposed that I got nervous.
Kids – this is going to be a tough one for most kids. That being said I know it is possible as we met a family of 5, dad was carrying the baby on his back (about 1 1/2) and the girls age 6 and 10 were hiking on their own. Chris and I know we aren’t going to be parents but if we were that would be the kind of parent I would want to be.
Bring a lunch/snacks, enough water, and a layer. We carried rain gear and warm layers and used all but the rain coat. This hike was done on December 21st – longest day of the year. Happy summer!
Below are some of our favorite pictures.
This isn’t one of my favorite hikes to do but worth it for the drive up the Remarkables! If you have a CLEAR day and want to go for a drive and short walk this could be the one for you. Or if you are heading to/from Te Anau it could be a good detour if time is flexible. You might also check out Wye Creek which is in the area.
Head out of Queenstown towards Remarkables Ski Park (there’ll be a sign saying it’s closed if it is the summer but there wont be gates keeping you out). You’ll get about 1/2 way up and see a small hill with short path, definitely take the opportunity to enjoy the view from up here.
Park at the parking lot at the top and begin by following the road up the hill to the right of the shop. About 5-10 minutes up the hill you’ll veer off to the left and be on the trail instead of the road. Look out for the yellow stakes. Other landmarks is the giant snowmaker/blower and the proximity of the stream to the road – that stream comes from Lake Alta so you’ll want to head where it came from. Follow the trail but if you aren’t sure where to go look for the yellow posts.
We made it to the lake in about 25-30 and a fairly decent pace. You can venture up the scree slope on the left to Wye saddle but don’t find the views amazing for the work you put in for it. This is also the same way hikers/climbers doing double or single cone will begin.
Once you have enjoyed the view and bite to eat head back down the way you came.
We definitely wear hiking shoes for this one. When you are done head down to Lake Hayes for a swim and a sunbathe or Amisfield for a glass of wine and fancy cheese. Here are some more facts on the Lake Alta hike. Enjoy!
For us this is a fitness hike. The sign says it takes 2-4 hours for the loop that starts at the 12 Mile parking lot. With limited stops I normally finish in about 90 minutes or so. If I have guests and we take lots of pictures or breaks then we look at about 2 1/2 hours.
You can hike this loop either direction, but I think I prefer heading off to the left/straight instead of crossing the bridge first. The difference is minor, you’ll feel like you are going uphill longer staying to the left, the right is steeper uphill.
The first part of the trail (when staying to the left) will follow along the river, look down and you may see some guys panning for gold. You’ll have the option to turn off to see the man made tunnel – 2 minute diversion. Definitely check it out if only to say you did. It does pretty much dead end but if you are adventurous you can follow the small trail down the river, cross it and work your way up to the waterfall and if you are brave and like cold water go for a dip. When done with your diversion head back to the main trail and continue on your way.
Next you’ll get to Sam Summer’s hut and a nice waterfall view. Enjoy the history there and then you’ll continue to work your way up through the forest.
There is a turn off for Lake Dispute walkway but I haven’t done that part yet. Soon you’ll get to an overlook with a small bench- it’s a nice place to take a rest before you head downhill with views of Lake Dispute and Lake Wakatipu.
The rest is all down hill, can be kind of steep but the trail is well maintained and no major hurdles. You’ll get another nice view of the lake and mountains as you head back down.
I’d say this is fine for most skill levels. We always wear hiking boots/shoes, but tennis shoes would be fine, I’m sure you could do it in Teva’s/sandals, just not my preference. Kids should be fine, there are some steep drop offs to be aware of.
To get there simply head out of Queenstown towards Glenorchy. You’ll pass 7 mile and Wilson’s Bay and it’ll be not much further on your right. Look for signs for 12 mile.
This is a fabulous day hike outside of Wanaka but Chris and I like to do it as a long day trip from Queenstown. It is a lot of drive-time to get there and back but it is great views along the way so that doesn’t bother us too much. In our opinion it is one of the best bang for your buck hikes in our area. The drive from Queenstown to Wanaka is about an hour when you take the Crown Range route and then another hour or so to get to the trail head outside of Wanaka, just head towards Rippon and keep following the road until it ends at Raspberry Creek parking area.
The road is a dirt/gravel road and crosses a couple of shallow stream crossings. Four wheel drive is not needed, just use caution when crossing the streams. Make sure to lock your car, as breakins are common at the trail head. There are toilets and a tap at the car park.
The trail starts off gently, through farm pasture, along the Matukituki River and soon crosses over the river on a swing bridge then works its way up, up, up along a well maintained trail. There are some steep drop offs but it isn’t a “scary” trail. You’ll be in the trees/shade but you will get some nice views of the valley and the river. It is steep in some areas. I’ve seen some tough kiddos on the trail as well. We tend to always wear our hiking boots but have seen people in “Teva” type shoes and one hard core guy even barefoot. Best done on a clear day for the best views.
You’ll come to a viewpoint of the 800 foot waterfall and the glacier but the real treat is still about 30 minutes hiking so don’t turn around yet! It takes us about 90 minutes to get to the end where we like to have a snack, watch the Kea’s if they are around and maybe even catch an avalanche or two. The hike back takes us 60-80 minutes depending on stops.
There is a pit toilet towards the end of the trail as well.
Once you are done admiring mother nature’s work head on back the way you came. Oh – the picture really doesn’t do it justice – does it ever? We were at the end of the hike around 2pm and the sun isn’t in the best place in the sky