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Ben Lomond Track, Queenstown – A Grueling Hike With Epic Views

Ben Lomond Track, Queenstown – A Grueling Hike With Epic Views

If you’re looking for a challenging hike with breathtaking views in Queenstown, then Ben Lomond Track is my top choice. Starting from right in town, the trailhead is accessible from Queenstown so it’s both convenient and completely free to do.

To some, the trail will be a breeze, but for the average hiker like myself, the trail is actually quite a challenge! With that said, I always manage to crawl over the finish line (just!)

Despite this, there was a lot I wish I knew before hiking Ben Lomond Track for the first time. Things like how to shorten the trail depending on your fitness level (a lifesaver for inexperienced hikers) and what to expect in the colder months.

So in this blog, I’ll share my local expertise about hiking Ben Lomond as well as much-needed hiking tips and info to help you plan your Queenstown hiking adventure.

Ben Lomond Track Overview

Distance: 14 kilometers (8.7 miles) from Queenstown / 11 kilometers (6.8 miles) from top of gondola return

Ben Lomond Elevation gain: 1,483 meters (4,865 feet) / 1,033 meters (3,389 feet)

Difficulty: Difficult / Moderate

Time Needed: 8 hours / 6 hours (total)

Type of trail: Out and back

Ben Lomond Track is my favorite day hike in Queenstown (although Queenstown Hill is a close second.) The out and back trail climbs 1,483 meters (4,865 feet) and crosses stunning New Zealand alpine terrain. Officially the trail starts from the top of Bob’s Peak (top of the gondola), however, part of the adventure to Ben Lomond summit involves hiking from Queenstown via one of the trails mentioned below.

Unlike shorter trails such as Mt Crichton Loop Track and Bob’s Cove Track, Ben Lomond actually requires some planning to hike the trail safely. In the winter months, avalanches are a risk and in the summer, the hike’s difficulty and exposure to the elements require the right gear.

For most people, hiking from Queenstown to Ben Lomond Summit will be a tiring day of around 8 hours of hiking (possibly more.)

For some, that might prove to be too much. Luckily though, Ben Lomond Track is actually quite flexible when it comes to choosing how much of the trail you hike. In fact, with a quick shortcut, you can wipe 3 kilometers off the trail distance and almost 450 meters (1,476 feet) off of the elevation. But how?

It’s simple, Ben Lomond Track actually starts from the top of the gondola (Bob’s Peak.) This means there are several connecting hiking trails that start from different locations around Queenstown.

The 4 different hiking routes are:

1. One Mile Creek: The first way to hike Ben Lomond Track is from the One Mile Creek Trail. This starts from the One Mile Creek parking lot in Queenstown. This route to Ben Lomond summit is not the most popular because it can be confusing. This is because the trail passes lots of other hiking trails and downhill biking tracks that aren’t signposted well. I’ve hiked this trail before and I don’t recommend it.

2. Skyline Access Road: The second way is via the Skyline Access Road. This is the road used by Skyline to transport supplies to the restaurant and services at Bob’s Peak. I personally think that this is the worst way to go. It’s not only longer, but walking along a dusty gravel road isn’t my idea of an adventure! So scrap this route!

3. Tiki Trail: The third way is via the Tiki Trail which starts from below the gondola right in Queenstown. This is considered the official way to hike Ben Lomond Track and the route 99% of people go. In total, hiking the Tiki Trail and Ben Lomond Track to Ben Lomond Summit and back down is 14 kilometers (8.7 miles). This is also the way (along with the option below) I suggest going.

4. Top of Gondola: The last option is the shortest way to hike to Ben Lomond Summit and a great option for beginner hikers. This route starts from the Tiki Trail but instead of hiking, you use the gondola to get to Ben Lomond Track trailhead at the top of Bob’s Peak. From here, the official trail length is only 11 kilometers (6.8 miles) return with an elevation gain of just over 1,000 meters (3,281 feet). That’s right, use the gondola as a shortcut!

Picking which way you want to hike is the first thing you need to decide before setting off. With that said, I personally recommend using the Tiki Trail or gondola.

Related Read: If you’re visiting Queenstown, then let me help you plan your time with my detailed Queenstown one-week itinerary!

Ben Lomond FAQs

Bailey stands in the snow on the Ben Lomond Track just before the saddle
Still, a long way to go!

What to Pack

Bailey standing on a viewpoint on the warmer Tiki Trail on her way to the Ben Lomond Track.
It may be warm on the Tiki Trail but once you get past the tree line it’s much colder! On a hot day, it can have the opposite effect!

Water, and lots of it – If you plan on hiking to the summit all the way from Queenstown you’re going to need at least 3 liters (1 gallon) of water! Even if you hike the shorter version, 2 liters ( is necessary!

Hiking boots – Hiking boots are the recommended footwear for the Ben Lomond hike. You can get away with runners in summer, but at any other time of year, you can encounter snow and ice on the trail.

Sun protection – The New Zealand sun is so harsh. Sunscreen and a hat are a must but a long sleeve shirt is also wise.

Hiking poles – Sore knees are a real problem for me. If that sounds like you too then hiking poles are a great idea – especially on the steep climb to and from the summit!

Snacks – You can’t buy food on the trail except at the start and end so bringing food is a great idea. I always pack a big lunch and snacks.

Related Read: Ben Lomond Track is one of the best hikes in all of New Zealand – find out what the others are in my blog!

Parking and the Ben Lomond Trailhead

Bailey walks along the Ben Lomond Trail just past the Skyline Building on Bob's Peak
Before it got really cold and icy!

The Ben Lomond trailhead via the Tiki Trail starts at the end Brecon Street in Queenstown. From most hotels in central Queenstown, it’s within walking distance. From my house in Queenstown, I simply get the bus to the center of town and walk from there.

If you decide to drive there is some parking at the end of the cul-de-sac where the gondola leaves from. However, this parking is only for 4 hours maximum. If you plan on hiking all the way to the summit and back without using the gondola, then you’ll need much more time.

Instead, park on Man Street. This street along with many others in Queenstown is residential so you can park there all day. Another great street close by is Robins Road or on the far end Brecon Street (on the end located on the steep hill closest to the lake.)

Once parked simply walk to the end of Brecon Street where you’ll see the gondola. This is the start of the Ben Lomond hike regardless of whether you are taking the gondola or the Tiki Trail.

The Tiki Trail and Gondola

Before leaving your accommodation, you’ll want to have decided whether you’ll be taking the gondola to the top of Bob’s Peak (where the Ben Lomond trailhead is located) or you’ll be hiking to the top via the Tiki Trail. Depending on what you decide, there are some things to know before you go…

The Tiki Trail

The stairs on the Tiki Trail, Queenstown
Up, up we go!

The Tiki Trail is not a long hike, however, over the 1.5-kilometer (1 mile) trail, you will have to hike up 450 meters (1,476 feet) in elevation. It’s a hard steep climb that takes around 1.5 hours to finish.

Once you reach the top, you can pretty much transfer straight onto Ben Lomond Track by simply walking up the hill for around 50 meters (146 feet) before you see the sign (don’t walk towards the restaurant or gondola to your right.)

I personally love to hike the Tiki Trail when I take friends and family up Ben Lomond even though I have a yearly gondola pass (yep, I can take the gondola as much as I want all year!) The reason? Well, it’s actually a really beautiful hike through the forest!

For more info on hiking the Tiki Trail, read my complete guide!

The Gondola to Bob’s Peak

Bailey riding the gondola up to Skyline in Queenstown, New Zealand
I don’t always want to hike up!

Taking the gondola to the top of Bob’s Peak is a great way to save your legs for the hard climb to Ben Lomond Summit – trust me! With that said, it will cost more and you do need to plan for it.

The first thing to know about taking the gondola to the top of Bob’s Peak is that it doesn’t open until 9:30 am daily. This means you can’t start the trail until a little later in the day.

The gondola costs $46 NZD for adults and $32 for children. If you want to get on one of the first gondolas leaving in the morning, be sure to book your ticket in advance to secure your spot. It costs no extra and will save you time! And if you’re interested in having lunch or dinner at the top there’s also a combo ticket that includes the gondola and your meal!

Once you arrive at the top of the gondola, Ben Lomond Track is to your left (facing away from the lake.) Simply walk to your left and up the hill a little bit until you see a sign for the trailhead. If you hit the ziplining platform you’re really close and just need to walk up the hill away from the lake. If you have trouble finding it, just ask the staff, they all know where it is!

Related Read: One of the best things to do at the top of the gondola is to ride the Queenstown Luge! This is a super fun activity that you can do before or after hiking Ben Lomond Track!

Hiking to Ben Lomond Saddle

Standing on the Ben Lomond saddle , Queenstown
Standing high above Queenstown!

This is where the fun really starts! Once you’ve found the official Ben Lomond trailhead it’s time to finally start your journey to Ben Lomond Saddle. After hiking through more forest at the start of Ben Lomond Trail you’ll finally get the beautiful views you’ve been waiting for as you breach the trees and enter the sub-alpine area.

Quick Fact: The saddle is simply the name for the lower part of two mountains. Picture a horse’s saddle where it peaks at either end and is lower in the middle. On Ben Lomond, the saddle is exactly that and the starting place of the steep climb to the summit.

Once you breach the tree line there is no more shade or protection from the wind so you will be exposed to the elements. With that said, with good weather this part is a breeze. The trail gradually climbs up the side of the mountain heading towards the saddle.

As you get close to the saddle there are some other trails you can explore if you choose to. These head off to the right. My recommendation after hiking the trail many times is to save these for last. Although worth doing, the views from the saddle and summit are much better and you’ll want to save your energy for the last summit climb.

From the top of Bob’s Peak to the saddle it only takes around 90 minutes at a steady pace. You’ll know you’ve reached the saddle when you see the much-needed park bench to rest on and enjoy the view.

Depending on the time of year, there could be snow and ice on this section of the trail. Anywhere from May to late November, you can see snow in this area. I once hiked the trail at the start of May and with the cold temperatures and recent snowfall the trail was extremely icy and slippery. If you plan on hiking Ben Lomond Track in winter be sure to come prepared with crampons.

Hot Tip: If you want to hike Ben Lomond, the best time to visit Queenstown would be in the summer, late spring, or early fall. Winter definitely makes the hike more challenging and in some cases, impossible.

Related Read: Visiting Queenstown in winter? Learn about all of the best things to do in Queenstown in the winter months!

Saddle to Ben Lomond Summit

Views of the mountains from the Ben Lomond Summit
The Ben Lomond Summit!

From the saddle, the views of the Southern Alps and Lake Wakatipu are out of this world! For some, the saddle will be the end of their journey, and if you’re worried about the conditions at the summit or your ability to hike back down then there’s nothing wrong with turning back here.

However, if you’re planning on summiting Ben Lomond then lace up your boots, this next part involves a steep grueling climb! The last climb from the saddle to the summit only takes around an hour but is straight up the entire way. If it’s icy, this part is extremely difficult and dangerous without crampons, so please be safe.

Once you reach the top though, the views are absolutely mind-blowing! Looking around you can enjoy 360-degree views of the Southern Alps. Honestly, you feel the full magnitude of your accomplishment and the views are worth the challenge. I love it!

At the summit, you can do some more exploring, but it’s best to stick to the trail as it is dangerous up here! In winter or when snow is present be very careful, people have been caught in avalanches on the summit.

After you’ve enjoyed the views (this can take a while) remember you have around a 3-hour walk back down to Queenstown.

Essential Info to Remember

Bailey looking up at the saddle on the Ben Lomond Hike, Queenstown
Expect snow any time of the year!

Hiking in winter is dangerous – Ben Lomond Track in winter is an alpine hike that without the proper experience and gear is dangerous. Always be prepared and turn around if you don’t feel safe. Ben Lomond Track can also be slippery when it’s wet and is probably not one of the best things to do in Queenstown when it’s raining.

Check with the DOC before – If you’re worried about the trail conditions on Ben Lomond Track you can visit the DOC office in Queenstown and ask them for more info. They’ll have a detailed weather forecast and know what conditions are like at the summit.

Gondola to Saddle is a really short hike – If you’re not fit and don’t consider yourself a hiker then I have a great option for you. Hike from the top of the gondola to the saddle and back. This option only takes 3 to 4 hours and is short and easy. The best part is you still get breathtaking views!

Hit the toilets before you leave – There are no toilets once you pass the Skyline building at the top of the gondola. So go before you go!

Must-Do Activities While in Queenstown

Canyoning in Mt Aspiring National Park
Canyoning is one of the most underrated activities you can do in Queenstown!

While in Queenstown there are plenty of other activities that will keep you busy… Honestly, there are so many it’ll be hard to choose which ones to do! Below are some of my favorites.

  • Central Otago Wine Tour and Tasting – This is our personal favorite wine tour in Queenstown! It is one of the best values for money, for $204 NZD your tour bus will stop at 4 different boutique wineries in the Otago region that include a wide range of wine samples and a provided gourmet lunch platter. As you hop between wineries you’ll gaze out the window at spectacular views.
  • TSS Earnslaw Steamship Cruise – This scenic and relaxing cruise in Queenstown is an activity great for any afternoon. The ship you will be cruising on is the Historic TSS Earnslaw and you will get to watch crew members add coal to the flames that power the vessel. Take in the mountain ranges and lush green valleys of Otago. You can also upgrade this tour here to include dinner at Walter Peak High Country Farm.
  • Queenstown Canyoning Adventure – Climb and jump off waterfalls, rappel, swim, and trek your way down a part of a Queenstown canyon with a qualified guide. This thrilling full-day activity is perfect for those who love adventure and exploration! As long as you aren’t afraid of heights and have a basic swimming ability you won’t need any other skills.
  • Day Trip to Milford Sound With Picnic Lunch – This tour will give you the ultimate ability to explore the beauty of Milford Sound in Fjordland National Park. Not only will your guide stop at several impressive viewpoints on the way from Queenstown but there is also a Milford Sound cruise included. This small-group tour goes for $249 NZD a person and I think it’s a really great value for a more personalized experience.
  • Extreme Jet Boating – Looking for a thrill? Jet Boating is one of New Zealand’s most unique activities. On the tour out of Queenstown, you’ll be able to zoom up the Shotover River through narrow canyons at high speeds and make 360-degree spins. Trust, me it’s epic!

Where to Stay in Queenstown

The Hilton Resort and Spa Queenstown
The stunning Hilton Hotel!

Finding the right place to stay in Queenstown can be hard. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of awesome choices but things book up fast! For that reason, I highly suggest booking your accommodation well in advance. It’s not that you won’t find something later on, but that all the really good places go first!

To get you started, here are a few places I personally love and that would make an awesome place to stay in Queenstown.

The first is for budget travelers and that’s Absoloot Hostel Queenstown. This small hostel has dorm rooms and budget privates and it’s really clean and comfortable. The location is in the heart of Queenstown – the window from the kitchen looks out over Lake Wakatipu! It is easily one of the top cheap hostels in Queenstown.

If you have a little more money to spend then you should seriously consider Chalet Queenstown. I’m a supporter of smaller hotels because I feel you get better service. Based on recommendations, I stayed at Chalet Queenstown when I first arrived. It’s a beautiful hotel in a quiet but close location and the views are amazing (although you won’t find me recommending a place without great views!)

If you’re one of the lucky ones, you know the luxury travelers, then you’re going to be spoiled for choice in Queenstown. I’ve personally stayed at the Hilton Resort and Spa on my anniversary and loved it. If you want an even more luxurious stay, look at Kamana Lakehouse. This hotel has the most beautiful spa overlooking the lake and is definitely one of the best hotels in Queenstown.

There are also lots of amazing Airbnbs in Queenstown as well as bach/holiday homes to rent! You can choose between modern homes, central apartments, cozy cabins, and so much more when staying in an Airbnb.

Renting a Car, Campervan, or Motorhome in New Zealand

A motorhome by the beach
Me and my trusty campervan!

Let’s face it, you’re going to need wheels to get around New Zealand. Although a small country, buses between destinations are infrequent and expensive. Plus, some of the best experiences you can have in NZ are on road trips!

You have three options when it comes to getting wheels in New Zealand; a car, a campervan, or a motorhome. Here’s what you need to know about each and where to get them:

  • Car – A normal car is the cheapest rental vehicle you can get in New Zealand. It’ll get you around to all of the best destinations with ease. The only downside to a car is that you will need to stay in hotels or Airbnbs during your travels (no camping.) The easiest place to book a car in New Zealand is on Discover Cars where you can compare cars, companies, prices, features, and more very easily.
  • Campervan – A Campervan is a large van that has a bed and a small kitchen in the back. It is what most budget backpackers get for traveling around New Zealand since it allows you to camp comfortably and for free (most) nights. Campervans are best for couples or solo travelers who are happy to live in a small space. You should also love the outdoors and camping! You can easily compare campervans, prices, and book on the website Motorhome Republic. We also have a 5% discount code (DTRAVEL5) with Mad Campers, which you can use at checkout.
  • Motorhome – A motorhome is larger and more comfortable than a campervan. Many motorhomes will comfortably sleep 6 or more people – perfect for a family visiting New Zealand. Motorhomes are the most expensive option, but with one, you won’t ever need to stay in a hotel and you’ll save money that way. Motorhome Republic is my suggested website for booking a motorhome in New Zealand simply because they are a reliable company and the website is super easy to use! We are also partnered with Kiwi Motorhomes, which is well known as the top motorhome rental company in New Zealand. You can get 5% off using the code Queen5. For more detailed info, read my complete guide to renting a motorhome in New Zealand!

Thanks for reading!

Views of the Remarkables and Lake Wakatipu from the Ben lomond Track
What a view!

Ben Lomond Track is truly one of the best things to do in Queenstown. As a local, it’s the best place to get away from the hustle and bustle of Queenstown and enjoy that fresh New Zealand air. Of course, I always have sore legs the next day!

Thanks so much for checking out my guide to Ben Lomond Track. If you have any questions at all be sure to leave them below. Of course, if you found this blog helpful then browse the rest of my blog for a huge range of guides and tips on visiting Queenstown. Check out all of the different hikes in Queenstown, or amazing hikes on the South Island! I’ve also included some of my most popular posts below for your convenience.

Queenstown to Wanaka road trip

Milford Sound tours and cruises

Things to do in Dunedin

Kayla

Tuesday 4th of October 2022

Love this hike! Started from the Tiki Trail and my legs were shaking by the time we were coming back down. So tempting to take the gondola but wanted to save money. Very accurate post!

Bailey

Wednesday 5th of October 2022

Hey Kayla,

So glad to hear that! I hope you had a fantastic time!

Thanks Bailey