New Zealand Hiking – Southern Alps

Trip Length 10 Days
Group Size 4–12
Activity level
Starting from
$5,499 for REI Members
$6,049 for non-members
Departures Jan 2021-Apr 2021

Snow-capped peaks, tumbling glaciers, turquoise lakes and golden hills form the backdrop to a 10-day hiking adventure in New Zealand.

An enticing blend of adventure and culture, this challenging hiking exploration is an ideal way to experience New Zealand’s rugged Southern Alps. Our itinerary takes a page out of Sir Edmund Hillary’s book—these were the native Kiwi’s tramping grounds. We enjoy an especially superb panoramic viewpoint of Aoraki/Mount Cook and the valleys below on our hike to Sealy Tarns. Take an optional hike along a rocky ridge to Mount Ollivier, the first mountain Sir Edmund Hillary climbed.

Our evenings are spent in quintessential Kiwi backcountry huts and small-town lodging. Rex Simpson Hut is our home for two nights. It’s perched on an old glacial bench in the Two Thumbs Range with views over the turquoise glacier-fed lake. From here, we hike to New Zealand’s adventure capital, Queenstown. Trek along historic gold mining water races to the unique Ben Lomond Lodge. We depart with a better sense of the rugged wilderness of the Southern Alps and an enduring desire to return.

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Trip Highlights

  • Experience some of New Zealand’s finest “tramping”
  • Summit up to five peaks for 360-degree views in New Zealand's Southern Alps
  • Hike to Mueller Hut in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park
  • Stargaze in the world’s largest Dark Sky Reserve
  • Trek through a historic high country station to Queenstown


This trip is rated Vigorous [4]. Trip members should be strong, experienced hikers capable of hiking 3–8 hours a day (6-10 miles) with steep ascents and descents. Trail elevation gains/losses of 1,000'–4,100' daily are common. We hike as high as almost 7,000' in altitude.

Many of the trails are demanding with sections that are unmaintained, uneven, steep, rough, and may be rocky and/or muddy. We strongly recommend an exercise regimen beginning at least 4–6 months prior to departure consisting of hiking (with as much elevation gain/loss as possible), walking/running, cycling and/or swimming.

  • Hiking

What's Included

Double occupancy accommodations; sleeping bag with liner and pillow at mountain huts; meals as noted in the daily itinerary; ground transportation; entrance fees and permits; local guides.


Small inns/hotels, 5 nights, backcountry huts & lodges, 4 nights

Your Adventure Itinerary

Day 1

Hike to the top of Peak Hill for our first views of the Southern Alps.

Our trip begins in Christchurch, New Zealand. Dressed in our hiking clothes and ready for adventure, we will meet our guides and fellow travelers at a Christchurch hotel at 8:30am. We drive to Lake Coleridge and begin hiking up Peak Hill (4,081'). From the summit we see Lake Coleridge, Canterbury's deepest lake, the Rakaia River and Mount Hutt Range. Our warm up hike provides a wonderful introduction to New Zealand’s high country landscapes. Following our hike we drive to nearby Geraldine and check into our hotel. Lunch and dinner included.

Hiking: 4 miles, 3.5 hours, Elevation gain/loss: 2,100′; Driving: 3 hours

Day 2

Trek from Lake Tekapo to a remote backcountry hut and spend the night.

Leaving Geraldine, we drive to incredibly picturesque Lake Tekapo. We take some time to enjoy the view from the Good Shepherd Church, have lunch in town and pack for our hike to Rex Simpson Hut (4,200′). The rustic, co-ed, dormitory-style hut is perched at the top edge of a terrace above Lake Tekapo, providing panoramic views of the Alpine Range, Godley River Valley and Macaulay River Valley. Reaching the hut, we settle in for a dinner prepared by the trip guides. All meals included.

Hiking: 4.5 miles, 3 hours, Elevation gain: 2,000′; Driving: 2 hours

Day 3

Trek to the summit of Beuzenberg Peak, then overnight in a rustic hut.

Our hike is a ridge walk that provides views of the Southern Alps, including Mount Tasman and the east face of Aoraki/Mount Cook, New Zealand’s highest peak. The tussock-clad ridge leads us all the way to the summit of Beuzenberg Peak (6,800′) with 360-degree views. Descending the ridge, we return to the hut with free time to relax or explore before dinner. Evening entertainment comes in the form of a sunset behind the mountains and gazing at the star-filled southern sky. This area is part of the world’s largest International Dark Sky Reserve due to the fact that the skies are virtually free from any light pollution, making it one of the best places on earth for stargazing. All meals included.

Hiking: up to 9 miles, 7.5 hours, Elevation gain/loss: 2,600′

Day 4

Hike to Tasman Glacier Lake. Stand in awe of New Zealand's peaks.

Packing up, we hike from the hut to our starting point and then transfer to a favorite café in the town of Twizel for lunch. Our drive continues to Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, which boasts the highest mountains and the largest glaciers in the country. There are 19 peaks that are more than 3,000 meters (9,850′) high and glaciers cover 40 percent of the park. This afternoon we hike to Tasman Glacier Lake, a proglacial lake that was formed by the retreating Tasman Glacier. Icebergs can usually be seen floating in the lake and the lookout provides panoramic views of the Tasman valley. Following our hike we drive to Mount Cook Village and check-in to our accommodations. Time permitting, the guides may offer an optional hike from the village on one of the nearby trails. All meals included.

Hiking from hut: 4.5 miles, 3 hours, Elevation loss: 2,000'; hike to Tasman Glacier Lake: 1.25 miles, 1 hour; Driving: 2 hours

Day 5

Witness the icy splendor of Aoraki/Mount Cook from Mueller Hut.

Mueller Hut (5,921') is today’s destination. Located in the Sealy Range, the hut offers panoramic views of glaciers, ice cliffs and the vertical rock faces of New Zealand’s highest peaks. The trail begins at the foot of the Mueller Ridge and climbs steeply up to Sealy Tarns. From the tarns, the trail becomes an alpine route, parts of which are quite rocky, as it wanders through alpine scrub and tussocks and up a scree slope to the top of the ridge. Reaching Mueller Hut, we eat a picnic lunch and take in the views of Mueller Glacier and the dramatic ice shelf on Mount Sefton. For those experiencing summit fever, an optional hike along a rocky ridge to Mount Ollivier (6,342′) may be possible. This is the first mountain Sir Edmund Hillary climbed. We return to our lodgings in Mount Cook Village for dinner and overnight. All meals included.

Hiking 5–6 miles, 6–8 hours, Elevation gain/loss: 3,400′–3,800′ and 1,800 stairs each way

Day 6

Enjoy the beauty of Lake Wanaka on the Glendhu Bay Track.

From Mount Cook we head south over Lindis Pass and descend into the Otago region. Our destination is Wanaka, in the heart of the Southern Lakes district, where we begin our hike. Following the shoreline of Lake Wanaka on the Glendhu Bay Track, we take in spectacular mountain and lake views. When the trail drops down to Damper Bay, if the weather permits we can indulge in a quick swim. Our route then hugs the lakeshore, weaving in and out of small bays all the while surrounded by jaw-dropping scenery. Finishing at Glendhu Bay we are rewarded with impressive views of Mount Aspiring, sometimes referred to as the "Matterhorn of the South". Following our hike we transfer over the Crown Range to Queenstown to overnight. All meals included.

Hiking: 7.5 miles, 3–4 hours, Elevation gain/loss 1,030'; Driving 3.5 hours

Day 7

Jet boat on Shotover River and hike to a backcountry lodge.

Skippers Canyon Road is a narrow and winding gravel road, hand carved out of a sheer cliff face by miners during the gold rush over 140 years ago. We drive this road for about one hour, deep into a canyon for a thrilling jet boat ride on the Shotover River. At the conclusion of the ride, we begin hiking through the Ben Lomond High Country Station, following trails that were once 1860s gold mining water races. Mountain peaks, beech forests and vast tussock lands will call to your camera lens. Reaching the backcountry lodge, our hosts share the history of the station and merino wool sheep farming practices. All meals included.

Jet boat: 20 minutes; hiking: 10 miles, 6–7 hours, Elevation gain/loss: +1,400'/-1,000'

Day 8

Hike and explore the views at Ben Lomond or enjoy a rest day.

Today we have options to enjoy the stunning beauty of the surrounding countryside. Choose a high country hike with our guides and explore more of this vast landscape or relax in the big backyard of our comfortable lodge. Our hike will be nearby on gently graded tracks through beech forest or along treeless ridgelines with unobstructed views of the surrounding valleys. Whether hiking or relaxing, the solitude and beauty of this mountainous slice of New Zealand will not disappoint. Hiking options will depend on the group, weather and trail conditions. All meals included.

​Hiking: 4–8 miles, 3–6 hours, Elevation gain/loss: +500'–1500'

Day 9

Hike over Ben Lomond Saddle and take a gondola into Queenstown.

After a hearty breakfast, we pack up and hike to the Ben Lomond saddle (4,265′). From here we can see our earlier route from Skippers and Shotover Canyons, the expanse of the Southern Alps and Lake Wakatipu. The Remarkables Mountain Range rises up to the south above Lake Wakatipu and Queenstown below. We descend until we reach a gondola, which provides a quick ride into town. This evening we dine together and celebrate our summit successes! All meals included.

Hiking: 10 miles, 6.5 hours, Elevation gain/loss: +3,000'/1,600'.

Day 10

Depart from Queenstown, or continue to visit and explore on your own.

The trip concludes with a group transfer at 8:30am to the Queenstown Airport. Or extend your stay to explore Milford Sound, take in the views during a thrilling zip-line adventure, or even experience bungee jumping. Breakfast included.

Gear List

The key to staying comfortable while on an active trip is layering. To get maximum comfort with minimum weight, you need versatile layers that mix and match to create the right amount of insulation, ventilation and weather protection. This gear list has been created to help you in choosing your equipment for the trip. Try to bring only what is necessary, as this will help you and the field staff.

What to pack

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Travel documents

  • Airline Tickets (Confirmation and Itinerary)
  • Electronic Travel Authority (ETA)
  • Final Bulletin (Emailed Prior to Departure Date)
  • Passport

Contact Us

Feel free to give us a call at 800-622-2236 should you have any questions regarding the gear list. The staff at our stores and Direct Sales (800-426-4840) will also be happy to help you with gear questions. Or check out REI Expert Advice , which has great information to help you prepare for your trip.