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Glenorchy is one of the most remote towns in New Zealand. Although located only 45 minutes from Queenstown, with only one road in and out, anyone who wants to venture further must lace up their boots and walk.
As you can imagine, a place so remote and surrounded by mountain peaks, rivers, and lakes is filled with hiking tracks. On every mountainside and valley, there are official and unofficial trails that lead to breathtaking viewpoints and unique attractions. Hiking these trails are some of the best things to do in Glenorchy and that should be no surprise!
However, for first-time visitors, Glenorchy’s rather off-the-beaten-path feel can make knowing what trails to hike difficult. I myself live in Queenstown, but before that, I was an excited traveler who unfortunately missed out on many of the best hikes in Glenorchy simply because I didn’t know they existed.
So in this blog, I’ll share the 9 best hikes in Glenorchy that every visitor should consider doing. From multi-day treks to short walks, this list has got it all!
1. Glenorchy Walkway
The Glenorchy Walkway is my favorite short walk in Glenorchy. The 5-kilometer (3.1 miles) loop track starts from the Glenorchy Jetty and travels through the Glenorchy Lagoon. There, you’ll walk along a boardwalk through the swamp-like lagoon. As you do, be sure to look down, you’re actually walking through the Dead Marshes in the Lord of the Rings!
On a calm day, the lagoon reflects the Humboldt Mountains almost perfectly and that view is one you definitely won’t want to miss. It’s also a great place to spot birds so take your time and keep your eyes peeled!
The Glenorchy Walkway is completely flat and isn’t really a hike, instead, it’s more of a nature walk. At a steady pace, allow just over an hour to walk the entire loop. The Glenorchy Walkway is one of the most popular free things to do in Glenorchy and should be on every visitor’s bucket list!
Related Read: One of the most popular ways to visit Glenorchy is on a guidee Lord of the Rings tour from Queenstown. Read my blog for all the details about these tours!
2. Routeburn Track
For those looking for more of a challenging hike in Glenorchy, the Routeburn Track is the most famous option. This 32-kilometer (20 miles) point-to-point track is one of New Zealand’s 10 Great Walks and one of the best trails on the South Island. The trail starts in Mount Aspiring National Park at Routeburn Shelter and finishes in Fiordland National Park at The Divide. Highlights along the way include Routeburn Falls, Lake Mackenzie, Lake Harris, The Key Summit, and Bridal Veil Falls.
The Routeburn Track is typically hiked over 1 to 3 days depending on how crazy you are (doing 32 kilometers in one day is pretty crazy, but people do it!) Along the way, you can choose to camp or stay in New Zealand mountain huts run by the DOC. Bookings are essential and they must be made well in advance to avoid missing out.
I’ve done the full Routeburn Track and loved it! The views, wildlife, and friends I made along the way made for one hell of an adventure! If you ask me, it is definitely one of the best things to do in New Zealand.
3. Routeburn Nature Walk (day hike)
Not everyone has the time or experience to hike the full Routeburn Track. Luckily, the Routeburn Track is the easiest Great Walk to hike for just the day!
From Routeburn Shelter just outside of Glenorchy, you can choose between a few different day hiking routes. These lead to magnificent viewpoints high above the valley at Routeburn Falls Hut, but also to beautiful rivers and valleys that only take a few hours to reach.
There are a lot of different itineraries and I actually have a blog on the best day hikes on the Routeburn Track to help visitors pick the best one for them. If you want to hike parts of the Routeburn Track then you need to read it before you go!
4. Greenstone Track
The Greenstone Track is another multi-day hike in Glenorchy. The point-to-point trail is 40 kilometers (25 miles) long and starts from the Greenstone parking lot near Kinloch, and finishes at The Divide on the road between Te Anau and Milford Sound (same as Routeburn Track.) Although not a Great Walk, the trail is still stunningly beautiful.
The hike one way takes around 2 to 3 days, and along the way you can stay at DOC serviced huts for $15 NZD per person per night. A popular option is to link the Greenstone with the Caples Track to complete a 60-kilometer (37.2 miles) loop back to the trailhead. You can even join the Greenstone Track with the Routeburn Track for an even longer hike!
The Greenstone Track is a good option for those who wanted to hike the Routeburn Track but couldn’t get bookings. All huts on the track are first come first serve so no bookings are required, not to mention they’re much cheaper than the Routeburn!
5. Earnslaw Burn Track
Earnslaw Burn Track is a rather off-the-beaten-path trail in Glenorchy, that if hiked in a day, isn’t for the faint-hearted. The trail starts on Lovers Leap Road just off Glenorchy-Paradise Road and takes hikers along Earnslaw Burn and through beech forest before reaching Mt Earnslaw and the Earnslaw Glacier.
The trail is brutally hard to complete in a day and involves hiking for around 10 hours in total. To make the trail easier some people opt to spend a night camping in New Zealand’s backcountry near the glacier. If you plan on carrying your gear for the night, allow at least 6 hours each way, and be prepared for a remote night under the stars carrying everything you need!
This is definitely only a hike for the experienced who know how to stay safe in the remote mountain areas of New Zealand. Nonetheless, it’s still one of the best hikes in Glenorchy!
6. Lake Sylvan Track
Lake Sylvan Track is one of the most peaceful hikes in Glenorchy. This small lake is located near Routeburn Shelter just off Routeburn Road at the Sylvan Campsite. The Sylvan Campsite is a great place to stay for those in campervans and it’s cheap! Just past the campsite, the trail to the lake begins.
You start by crossing the suspension bridge over the Dart River and continue on until you reach the lake. From here, the track makes a short loop before heading back to the campground. The trail is almost completely flat and usually uncrowded.
All up, you only need around 2 hours to hike to the lake and back. It’s a well worthwhile adventure for those who like to get off the beaten path!
7. Invincible Gold Mine Track
Gold mining used to be a huge industry in the Otago region (where Glenorchy is.) Queenstown was actually once called “The Camp” because it was a mining camp. Miners searched far and wide for gold in the area, and in a small mine near Glenorchy, a group of miners struck gold!
That mine is now accessible via Invincible Gold Mine Track. The trail starts 30 minutes outside Glenorchy on Rees Valley Road. Along the way, you can see lots of machinery from the gold mining days that now sit rusting away leaving only small traces of New Zealand’s largest gold rush behind. On the trail, be sure to keep an eye on the ground, you never know what you may find!
Invincible Gold Mine Track also offers stunning views of the Rees Valley so it’s both a historical walk and viewpoint trail. In fact, I’d say I like the views more! In total it takes around 2 to 3 hours to complete the trail at a steady pace. Although not flat, it’s rated as an easy to moderate hiking trail in Glenorchy.
8. Bob’s Cove
The next two trails on this list are actually closer to Queenstown, however, they’re conveniently located on Glenorchy-Queenstown Road. So, they’re hikes you should consider doing on your way to Glenorchy!
Bob’s Cove Track is a super short hike that’s actually one of the best easy hikes in Queenstown. It starts at the beautiful Bob’s Cove, a common place many of the cruises in Queenstown also visit. From the beach area, the trail leads up to a stunning viewpoint over Lake Wakatipu and Bob’s Cove.
The trail only takes around 30 minutes to hike so it’s really short and a great trail to warm your legs up before you get to Glenorchy!
9. Mount Crichton Loop
Mt Crichton Loop Track is actually located just a short drive from Bob’s Cove. However, this trail is much longer at 8 kilometers (5 miles). The loop track is another gold mining trail and along the way, you’ll visit an old gold mining tunnel, the Sam Summers Hut, and even a stunning waterfall. Part of the trail also has epic views of Lake Dispute and Lake Wakatipu.
All up, it takes around 2 hours to hike the full 8 kilometers (5 miles), but be sure to go clockwise – it’s much easier as it’s a gradual climb. Going the other way means doing the hardest part hiking up instead of down!
Mt Crichton Loop is one of the best hiking trails in Queenstown for its historic attractions but it’s not the most beautiful. With that said, it’s dog friendly and perfect for the entire family!
Related Read: Be sure to check out my blog about important hiking tips for beginners before you hit any trail!
Other Things to do in Glenorchy
Besides hiking, Glenorchy is quite limited on things to do so below we’ve highlighted the other main attractions in the area. Many of these are included on a tour of Glenorchy from Queenstown which is handy if you don’t have a car!
- Glenorchy Animal Experience – Visit this small little petting zoo surrounded by mountains and feed all the different animals on the property! Great for kids and adults alike, plus, admission is cheap.
- Lord of the Rings Tour of Queenstown and Glenorchy – If you haven’t been to Hobbiton yet or want to see more LOTR-related sights then taking this 4-hour tour is excellent. You’ll see and learn about several filming locations around the Southern Alps and Mt Aspiring National Park with a break for a picnic lunch.
- Photography Tour of Glenorchy – If you love shooting on your DSLR you can take this photography tour which will be the most convenient way to hop around to all of the best scenic spots as you are driven around by a local photographer. They’ll also share their tips and trips for higher-quality images. Great for beginners and experts.
Where to Stay in Glenorchy
Not everyone comes to Glenorchy to stay the night. However, if you want to spend a night in a remote mountain town without the crowds, then spending at least one night in Glenorchy is a great idea.
If you’re the type of person that needs power and maybe a shower, then you’d best take your campervan rental and head to one of the two holiday parks in town. Camp Glenorchy Eco retreat and Mrs Woolly’s Camground are your options and Headwaters Eco Lodge also has luxury rooms and dorm beds too.
There are also some cute cottages and holiday homes available in Glenorchy – perfect for anybody looking for a quiet and comfortable escape!
Renting a Car, Campervan, or Motorhome in New Zealand
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 rent 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!
Travel Insurance Has Your Back!
Life can be unpredictable and when you’re traveling abroad the last thing you want to worry about is getting sick or injured and having to pay out of pocket for treatment.
If this concerns you, SafetyWing can help! SafetyWing specializes in very affordable and comprehensive medical and travel insurance that is aimed at digital nomads, remote workers, and long-term travelers. It costs just $45 USD per 4 weeks!
To start coverage you must purchase it after leaving your home country, so we usually purchase it as soon as we land in the airport.
Since using SafetyWing we’ve been reimbursed thousands of dollars when we’ve gotten sick. During the pandemic, they’ve even gone as far as to pay for our last-minute flights back to Canada before the border closed!
Thanks for reading!
For any outdoor lover, Glenorchy is the ultimate playground. I make regular trips to Glenorchy to escape the hustle and bustle of Queenstown, and each time I get to experience more of this magical place where only those willing to explore by foot can go.
Thanks for reading my guide to the best hikes in Glenorchy. This is only one of many travel guides on My Queenstown Diary, so stay a while and browse around, everything you need is right here!
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