Ben Lomond: Queenstown’s best day hike
The hike up Ben Lomond mountain is one of Queenstown’s best day hikes. Super accessible from the centre of town, this challenging climb has a 1,438m elevation gain that will keep you on your toes. The stunning panoramic views along the entire length of the track delight and entertain hikers the whole way. Whether you choose to turn around at the saddle or push on for a further hour to reach the summit, the impressive views are the real appeal of this iconic track and will not disappoint. On a clear day, you’ll look out in awe over Queenstown, the azure waters of Lake Wakatipu, The Remarkables’ craggy mountainsides and Cecil and Walter Peaks.
At 13km in length, the Ben Lomond hike can take anywhere between two to seven hours depending on where you choose to start and end, and how fast you walk. So, fill your day pack, put your sunscreen on and get yourself up Ben Lomond peak. At the summit, find a free rocky outcrop to perch yourself on for a well-deserved picnic lunch, bask in nature’s serenity and soak up the world-renowned vistas. It’s the perfect respite from the hustle and bustle of Queenstown.
Fun facts about Ben Lomond
- It was named after the Scottish munro (mountain) Ben Lomond.
- The Douglas fir that you see as you hike up the Tiki Trail is a non-native species. The local council and volunteer groups work tirelessly to contain it. Douglas fir create a monocultural forest which inhibits the growth of our native vegetation. Therefore, if you see a small seedling of Douglas fir sprouting, please feel free to pull it out!
- New Zealand’s native birds like the pipit, tui and bellbird call this area home, so keep your eyes and ears attuned.
- Before you begin your ascent up to the saddle of Ben Lomond, you’ll encounter a hub of activity. On the top of Bob’s Peak (Cemetery Hill) sits the Skyline Complex. There, you’ll find a café/restaurant, luge track and a paragliding, bungy jump and ziplining base – plenty of options to entertain you after your soul-nourishing hike.
There are a few routes to choose from when tackling Ben Lomond. One starts at the One-Mile carpark and another from the access road on Lomond Crescent. The most common starting point is from Brecon Street in Queenstown. The Tiki Trail begins here. This 2km hike to the top of the gondola has a substantial elevation gain at 450m. The alternative is to take the gondola up to Bob’s Peak (Cemetery Hill), which will allow you to skip the initial climb through the Douglas fir forest.
Once you reach the top of the gondola, you’ll follow an undulating track up to the saddle (1,326m). You can turn back here, pausing to admire the rewarding outlooks, or if you’re still feeling energetic and want the bragging rights of summiting Ben Lomond, push on for a further hour up the steepest part of the track to the top. As you climb, you’ll feast your eyes on Moke Lake and the seemingly never-ending stretch of the Southern Alps. When you reach the sundial (1,748m), you can commence celebrations with a snack and a refreshing drink of water as your eyes adjust to the sweeping views and broad horizon.
For an alternative route up Ben Lomond, there is also the Moonlight Track. It’s both a longer and tougher route, starting from either Moke Lake or Arthur’s Point. If you think Ben Lomond sounds a bit too strenuous, Queenstown Hill is a delightful alternative.
Best time to hike Ben Lomond peak
Ben Lomond peak can be hiked year-round, however, the mountain will be snow-covered in winter which can pose an avalanche risk, making it only suitable for those with mountaineering skills and experience. We recommend hiking Ben Lomond any time from late spring all the way through to early autumn (November to March), as it is when Ben Lomond weather is at its most stable.
Tips for the Ben Lomond hike
- Check the weather forecast before you go. The route up to the saddle and summit are quite exposed. On days of strong wind we recommend postponing your hike. Call into the DOC (Department of Conservation) office in Queenstown if you are unsure and they will be able to help you make your decision.
- Hiking Ben Lomond will take you the majority of the day, so bring a packed lunch, lots of snacks and water.
- In your daypack you should also always carry a flashlight/headtorch, sunscreen, a hat and an extra layer or two.
- Start early! Give yourself plenty of time to complete the hike during daylight hours. In the height of summer it can get very warm so it’s best to get the climb out of the way in the coolness of the early morning rather than the baking afternoon sun.
- The marked track is relatively smooth all the way up to the saddle. However, from the saddle to the summit, there is a bit of scrambling over rocks required. Hiking poles are key here.
On the first day of our Kiwi Classic, you’ll get to hike the beautiful Ben Lomond track. After our introductions, we’ll take the gondola up to the top of Bob’s Peak (Cemetery Hill), cutting off the initial climb up the Tiki Trail, to begin our hike along one of Queenstown’s most famous tracks. Ben Lomond is an incredible introduction to hiking in New Zealand and the adventure of your lifetime!
If you want to find out more about the incredible 5-14 day hiking tours we run in New Zealand, you can request a free copy of our brochure here.