Located at 1,748m over Queenstown and the Lake Wakatipu, the Ben Lomond summit is a bucket-list day hike for both hikers and adventure-seekers alike. But despite its easy access and location to central Queenstown, the climb up has many challenges.
If you begin your hike in the Queenstown CBD, you’ll gain a total of 1,438-metres of elevation in just 5.5-kilometres (11-kilometres return). So be prepared for a big day out, and if you have any doubts about your ability to complete the hike it could be worth taking the Skyline Gondola to cut a significant portion of climbing (and descending) out of your journey.
So read on to discover 3 options for starting points on the hike, a map, what to pack and how to prepare.
From the bottom terminal of Skyline Queenstown, taking a scenic Gondola ride to the top of Bob’s Peak will save you (and your knees) up to one hour of hiking. From the Skyline complex, follow a well-signalled track through the woods until it emerges into an opening that will give you the first views of Ben Lomond towering above.
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2. Tiki Trail
The most popular start to the Ben Lomond Hike is to hike the Tiki Trail to Bob’s Peak. This route will lead you through old Douglas Fir’s and into some of Queenstown’s most beautiful native Beech forest. Make sure you aren’t put off by the steep start to the hike, hang in there, it gets easier.
Keep an eye out along the way – the hidden artefacts in the forest will leave you feeling like you were in the company of giants.
3. Skyline Access Road
On Lomond Crescent you’ll find the start of the Skyline Access Road. There is some free parking available at the start of the Access Road, but if you can’t find a spot there, you can park at one of the many all-day parks available in town and take the short walk to the access road via Thompson Street and Glasgow Street.
The Skyline Access Road will lead you halfway up Bob’s Peak, where you’ll find the signposted start to the single track at a large open area knows as the ‘Midway Clearing’. Follow the signs to the Ben Lomond Saddle, and eventually you’ll meet another trail which comes from the Skyline Gondola.
However you get to this point, you’re above Bob’s Peak and you’re a third of the way there.
Hike to the Ben Lomond Saddle
When you break out of the trees on Bob’s Peak, you’ll see the clearly marked trail contouring alongside a ridgeline and despite the long and steady work to hike uphill, the views of the Remarkables and Lake Wakatipu will give you the joy and inspiration you need to keep climbing.
Be careful not to venture onto the mountain bike trail which runs alongside this section of track – it’s signposted and the trail name is ‘Beached As’. Beached As is narrow and flows well for the adrenaline seeking mountain biker but sticking to the Ben Lomond walking track is a much nicer experience for hikers.
After approximately 1-hour of hiking above Bob’s Peak you’ll reach the Ben Lomond saddle, where you’ll find a bench seat at an intersection with the Moonlight Track. Take the opportunity here to use the bench seat as a resting point and give yourself time to fuel up with snacks.
Take note of the time here and set yourself a goal to keep moving toward the summit. The time will fly by while you’re resting, the Ben Lomond Saddle is the first time on the hike you’ll get to see the awe-inspiring peaks of Mt Aspiring National Park.
The Ben Lomond Saddle is also a critical point on the hike to reassess the weather conditions, which could have easily changed in the time its taken to journey here. Even in the height of summer the elevation and exposure to cold winds can lower the temperature drastically, so be prepared to throw on a warm layer and a windproof jacket.
Hike to the Ben Lomond Summit
Beyond the saddle, the track steepens and becomes very challenging. The summit appears to be only a few minutes away from the saddle, but the hike from the saddle to the summit will take approximately 1-hour.
So once again, while you’re at the saddle you should assess your energy levels. If you feel like the hike to the saddle had taken the most energy from you, maybe it’s better to head back from there (a lot of people do it, so don’t get disappointed).
There’s only one way up to the summit from the Saddle, you’ll follow a narrow and exposed trail that will probably require some help from your hands for balance. The hike to the summit does not require any specialised mountaineering equipment or experience, but it’s recommended to keep your focus and body weight pointing toward the uphill side of the trail to avoid an uncomfortable fall.
When you reach the summit of Ben Lomond, you’ll be rewarded with majestic 360-degree views of Queenstown, the Remarkables, Mt Aspiring National Park. You may also find a Kea or two - a native New Zealand alpine parrot that really enjoys greeting the hikers, sometimes by stealing their food, so keep an eye on your belongings.
Once you have soaked in the views, retrace your steps on the way back.
Things to know before you depart
Things to know about the track
During the hike you will cross private lands, so be mindful to leave no rubbish behind and stick to the formed track to avoid stock disturbance and farm hazards.
Gear to carry with you
Also note that this is a full day’s hike and the weather conditions can change rapidly, so be prepared with:
Plenty of water
Extra warm layers
Sturdy footwear (high top is advised)
A communication device in case you need assistance.
The best time to of the year to hike to the summit of Ben Lomond
The Ben Lomond Track is recommended to be completed during the summer season.
In winter you are required to carry and be able to use alpine equipment such as ice axe and crampons, as the track may change between snow and ice to very slippery and muddy.
For more information and up-to-date alerts about the Ben Lomond Track, access the official Department of Conservation website.
Zoom in to see the various hiking options for the Ben Lomond Day Hike. The map includes the 3 different start locations, and we've separated the Ben Lomond Saddle from the Summit section.
Now that you're ready to complete the Ben Lomond Day Hike...
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