Ultimate Hiking Adventures in New Zealand's Great Walks

By Ivan PetrenkoJan 22, 2024 13:49 PMNews
Taranaki mount reflecting on the lake
Taranaki mount reflecting on the lake. Source: unsplash

New Zealand's ethereal landscapes have long captivated hikers worldwide, with the country's Great Walks standing as pinnacle achievements for outdoor enthusiasts. These walks, traversing through an array of stunning terrains - from lush forests to sunlit mountaintops, are etched in the natural splendor shaped by millennia of geological activity.

Discover New Zealand's Hiking Trails

A network of trails, dating back to the first Māori settlers around 1250, spans the length of New Zealand, offering a diverse range of hiking experiences. Among these, 11 have been designated as Great Walks, each presenting a unique journey through the country's varied landscapes. These trails, known for their accessibility and superb maintenance, are dotted with huts and campsites, providing a communal and immersive hiking experience.

The New Zealanders' fervor for hiking, or 'tramping' as locally known, is evident in the competitive rush to secure cabin beds, reminiscent of ticket sales for major events. This enthusiasm, however, translates into a warm camaraderie on the trails, with hikers exchanging greetings and stories.

Hiking in a Post-Pandemic World

Post-pandemic, hiking and camping in New Zealand have seen a resurgence, with travelers rediscovering the joy of being outdoors. The trails offer a sensory feast - from the calls of native birds to the aroma of the earth after rain. The breathtaking landscapes, from snow-capped peaks to lush valleys, are a testament to New Zealand's natural beauty.

Itinerary 1: Milford Track, South Island

  • Start/Finish: Glade Wharf to Sandfly Point
  • Length: Four days/33.5 miles

This trail, a journey through Fiordland National Park, offers an awe-inspiring experience with its glaciers, rainforests, and endemic wildlife. The Milford Track, historically used by Māori hunters, now stands as a premier hiking route, marked by its picturesque fjords and diverse terrain.

Milford Track sightseeing
Milford Track sightseeing. Source: unsplash

Highlights of Milford Track

  1. Clinton Valley: Begin amidst beech forests, encountering unique wildlife, and enjoy the serene swimming spots.
  2. Mackinnon Pass: Ascend to this panoramic viewpoint, offering majestic views of the surrounding glaciers and peaks.
  3. Sutherland Falls: Witness the grandeur of New Zealand's highest waterfall, with an optional hike to its base.
  4. Giant Gate Falls: Marvel at this spectacular waterfall, marking the trail's conclusion.

Itinerary 2: Tongariro Northern Circuit, North Island

  • Start/Finish: Whakapapa Village
  • Length: Four days/28 miles

Set in New Zealand's oldest national park, this trail showcases volcanic landscapes and rich Māori heritage. The Tongariro Northern Circuit, flexible in its itinerary, takes hikers through a dramatic terrain of active volcanoes and striking lakes.

Tongariro Northern Circuit sightseeing
Tongariro Northern Circuit sightseeing. Source: unsplash

Highlights of Tongariro Northern Circuit

  1. Mount Ngauruhoe: A dormant yet active volcano, famous as Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings films.
  2. Emerald & Blue Lakes: Stunning volcanic lakes, sacred to the local Māori.
  3. Oturere Hut: Overnight near Mount Ngauruhoe, with access to a nearby waterfall.
  4. Ohinepango Springs: A refreshing stop at a clear, non-thermal spring.
  5. Rangipo Desert: An intriguing 'wet desert' formed by volcanic activity.
  6. Taranaki Falls: A detour to this impressive waterfall, rounding off the hike.

Embrace the Great Walks

New Zealand's Great Walks are more than just trails; they're immersive journeys through some of the world's most breathtaking landscapes. Whether seeking solitude or communal hiking experiences, these trails offer something for every adventurer.

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