New Zealand’s South Island is well known for being home to some of the best hikes in the world. The Ben Lomond Track is one of those and just happens to start from the lively adventure hub of Queenstown! Join us from start to summit as we make the steep climb up Ben Lomond. From gondola information to times, and what to expect at the saddle, this in depth Ben Lomond guide will help you conquer one of the most epic day hikes in New Zealand!
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Preparing for the Ben Lomond Track
Weather Check: Due to its high elevation, the Ben Lomond Track is best hiked in the spring and summer months. However, wild weather can occur year round such as rain, fog, ice and snow. It’s a good idea to stop in town and ask the information center for more guidance.
Warm Clothing: Even in the hot summer months the weather can change very quickly. Always pack layers and some warm clothing to be safe.
Sunblock & Hat: A cloudy sky doesn’t mean you won’t get hammered by the sun. There is limited shade on this hike so packing both sunblock and a hat is a good idea.
Lunch, Snacks, & Water: Once you leave the Skyline Gondola there won’t be anywhere to get food or fill up your water bottle. This means there isn’t even a stream if you have a filter! Come prepared with food and snacks as well as at least a 1+ liters of water per person.
Tiki Trail vs. Skyline Gondola
There is some slight confusion about how long the trail takes, but luckily we’re here to clear that up for you! The official start of the Ben Lomond Track is actually atop the massive mountain sitting above Queenstown at the Skyline Gondola Park.
By taking the gondola you will cut out a steep one hour climb up the mountain. In addition, you’ll also save yourself another hour hike on the way back down. If you are ready to commit to 8+ hours and want to skip the gondola, you’ll be hiking up the Tiki Trail which starts to the side of the Skyline entrance.
We did this trail on a different day, and while it’s short it is steep! Make sure you’re in excellent fitness if you decide to do the entire Ben Lomond Track with the Tiki Trail included.
Ben Lomond Track Start
Whether you ride the Skyline Gondola or climb up the Tiki Trail, you’ll want to follow the signs through the luge track to the official start. Entering the woods there is a small sign that displays the different distances and hiking times you’ll need to plan for the climb.
The first part of Ben Lomond New Zealand is through a thick forest. Yet, it wont be long before you emerge through the tree line to a beautiful valley. While we did this in the late spring, if at any point you hit a snow or ice line (early spring/late fall) you should immediately turn around. The route is very dangerous and can only be completed in the winter by experienced climbers, or with a guide.
Ben Lomond Saddle
Ben Lomond Saddle is one of the most stunning views in all of New Zealand. Even if you don’t plan on hiking all the way up to the Ben Lomond Summit, just completing the Ben Lomond Saddle is worth the climb! From the Skyline Gondola to the Ben Lomond Saddle and back is about 3 to 3.5 hours.
Hiking up the slow, winding incline of the Ben Lomond Saddle will provide sweeping views of the glorious South Island. Honestly, we’d be lying if we said it wasn’t a little intimidating after getting past the saddle!
Having already completed many of the best day hikes in New Zealand, we still found ourselves staring up at the summit questioning how we would make it all the way. Just keep going!
Climb From Ben Lomond Saddle to Summit
When you get to the top of the Ben Lomond Saddle you’ll have a view up and over the top of the ridge to with the Southern Alps. Here there is a small bench where you can sit down, relax, and enjoy some lunch. At this point you will have already done an amazing hike. Still, if you’re planning on making it to the summit it’s time for one last climb!
The sharp incline up to the Ben Lomond Summit is no joke. It’s not that this part of Ben Lomond New Zealand is so difficult, but the constant steps can be tiring after already hiking for several hours.
While the distance isn’t that far to the summit, the trail wraps around the backside of the mountain peak and will take about an hour from the saddle. Trust us when we say even the fittest of hikers got a little winded on this section.
We took it easy and slowly made our way up the top of the mountain. The views are so worth it! On a side note… If you can’t see the peak of Ben Lomond because the weather has changed it’s probably time to turn around!
Arriving at the Ben Lomond Summit
WHAT A VIEW FROM THE TOP! Every step will be worth it when you reach the Ben Lomond Summit and are surrounded by unbelievable nature.
From the bright blue Wakatipu Lake to the tremendous Southern Alps and Remarkables mountain range, this area is hands down one of the most gorgeous in the country. By this time you’ll know there is nowhere better to appreciate it then from the Ben Lomond Summit!
Enjoying the Hike Down The Ben Lomond Track
After you’ve climbed, sweat, and crawled your way up to the top of the Ben Lomond Summit, it’s time for a much more enjoyable part. Besides the fact that we were exhausted from the hike up, the way down is one of the highlights of the whole day.
On the climb up your back is facing the best view of the lake. So as you make your way back towards Queenstown you’ll be blessed with panoramic views.
The first half of the Ben Lomond hike was slightly more time consuming than the way downhill. The whole hike from the top of the Skyline Gondola to the Ben Lomond Summit and back should take at least 5-6 hours with stops.
Note that if you’re planning on hiking from town and not using the Skyline Gondola you’ll need 6-8 hours in total.
Cheers to an Epic Ben Lomond Hike
Arriving back at the Skyline Gondola park our feet were beat, and legs sore. The hike was so amazing and we were happy that we made the extra push to the Ben Lomond Summit. To reward ourselves we stopped into the Skyline restaurant and for an ice cold beer, and sat outside overlooking the town.
This was definitely the perfect end to the day after an incredible hike on the Ben Lomond Track. The only thing that made it better was riding the Skyline Gondola back into town, and grabbing a massive pizza for dinner. Cheers to another epic New Zealand hike!
Where To Stay In Queenstown New Zealand
Ultra Luxury – Queenstown Park Boutique Hotel – Looking for a little luxury in between all your Queenstown hikes? This beautiful boutique hotel has panoramic views of Southern Alps, a restaurant on-site, and is close to all the best ski resorts.
Fun Vacation – Kamana Lakehouse – Just 5 minutes drive from the center of Queenstown is this amazing accommodation right on Lake Wakatipu. Enjoy rooms with balconies and stunning views of the lake, and an art-deco style restaurant and bar.
Budget Travel – Mi-pad Smart Hotel – This high end, but budget friendly hotel is the perfect location near all the cities attractions. It’s just a short walk from start of the Tiki Trail, and where to eat in Queenstown.
Hostel Life – Tahuna Pod Hostel – This fun hostel is in the heart of Queenstown, and incorporates traditional Maori designs into its build. Choose from a multitude of pod rooms, or book a private room.
For more places to stay in Queenstown New Zealand you can explore the latest prices here!
Have any questions about the Ben Lomond Track,or want to share your own experience and tips? Please let us know in the comments below.
Brigitte & Jake
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