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Lake Alta Track – A “Remarkable” Hike from Queenstown

Lake Alta Track – A “Remarkable” Hike from Queenstown

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Are you looking for a quiet trail near Queenstown that offers next-level views? Well, the Lake Alta Track might just be what you’re looking for!

Since moving to Queenstown, I’ve made it my goal to find the absolute best hikes in the country. This track was a quick favorite of mine, and after hiking it many times, I can safely say it’s a hidden gem that not many tourists (or locals even!) know about.

With that said, there are a few things I have to tell you before you go, and in this blog, you’ll find all of that out.

So if you’re ready to impress your friends and family with your newfound knowledge, let’s get started.

Lake Alta Track Overview 

Distance: 3.5 kilometers (2.2 miles) return 

Elevation gain: About 200 meters (656 feet) 

Difficulty: Moderate 

Time needed: 1.5-2.5 hours 

Type of Trail: Out and back 

The Lake Alta Track is a moderately difficult trail that leads from The Remarkables ski area up to Lake Alta – a picturesque alpine lake. The trail is steep, gaining about 200 meters (656 feet) in elevation in just under 2 kilometers (1.2 miles). Although it’ll have you out of breath, the views are totally worth it and the hike up takes most people under an hour.

Lord of the Rings fans might recognize the lake as “Dimrill Dale.” That’s right, this area was used for filming the scene where the fellowship escapes the Mines of Moria in the LOTR.

But even if you’re not a LOTR fan, you’ll still enjoy the track. The trail is never busy (unlike many other hikes in Queenstown) and offers beautiful views of both the lake and Queenstown from above.

Not to mention, the drive to the trailhead is an exciting adventure in itself!  

Lake Alta Track FAQs 

What to Pack 

Bailey at Lake Alta
It is much colder up here than in Queenstown, just remember that!

Sun protection – There are no trees or shaded areas along the trail. Even in the winter months, the sun is harsh. 

Water – Although the track is short, bring at least 1 liter of water per person. On the steep climb up you’ll be thankful that you have it! 

Decent hiking shoes – The track is fairly well maintained however sturdy hiking shoes will help you easily navigate rocks and boulders on the way. 

Snacks – Lake Alta makes for the perfect place for a picnic! Unlike summiting a mountain, this area is somewhat protected from the wind and is a nice place to sit down, have a bite to eat, and relax for a while.  

Money – You’ll need to pay the $15 NZD fee to drive up to The Remarkables ski area if you’re visiting Lake Alta in the summer months.

Note: If you’re planning on hiking to Lake Alta in the winter months, then you’re going to need a lot more gear! I’m not a winter hiking expert, so you’ll need to do a little more research in this instance.

Driving to The Remarkables 

Windy road on the Remarkables ski field access road while road tripping around New Zealand in a rental car
The Remarkables ski resort access road!

One of the things I love most about the hike to Lake Alta is the actual drive to get to the trailhead. Remarkables Ski Field Access Road is the road that climbs up over 1,500 meters (4,921 feet) in elevation to The Remarkables ski area.

You can rent a car in Queenstown, then drive along Frankton Road until you reach the roundabout (traffic circle) and turn onto New Zealand State Highway 6. Drive on here for a short while and then turn left onto Remarkables Ski Field Access Road which takes you straight up the mountain to The Remarkables Ski Field.  

The road is about 13 kilometers (8 miles) long and takes about 30 minutes to drive. It’s steep, and windy which makes it a slow drive. But along the way the views over Queenstown and the surrounding area are stunning. I recommend stopping along the way to take in the views. This drive makes for some awesome photo opportunities! 

In all honesty, I recommend driving up to The Remarkables to anybody visiting Queenstown – even if you’re not planning to hike to Lake Alta.

It is important to know that you will be charged $15 NZD to drive up to The Remarkables. This is a fairly new charge that’s been put in place to help cover the maintenance costs for this privately owned road. This charge is only during the summer months though (generally November to April). 

The drive is also daunting for some. You’ll drive right next to cliff edges along this steep windy road. Although I don’t find it to be a problem, for those who are afraid of heights, it could be. Also, in the winter months, you must carry snow chains with you. They will not let you drive up the road without having them (and during certain conditions, you will be required to put them on prior.) 

Related Read: If you’re an outdoor enthusiast like me, you’ll love exploring New Zealand. Check out my guide to the 13 National Parks in New Zealand and add them to your itinerary!

Finding the Lake Alta Track Trailhead 

Bailey walks up the start of the Lake Alta Track under th gondola
Follow the middle chairlift!
An orange marker for the Lake Alta Track
Until you see these markers!

After reaching the parking lot at The Remarkables Ski Field you’ll need to make your way up to the buildings. In the winter, this is The Remarkables ski building, but in the summer it is vacant.  

Walk up the gravel road and get yourself to the far side of the building. From here, follow the trail up the hill (pretty much right under the chairlift) until you see hiking signs. This is the start of the Lake Alta Track and with the signs, you can’t miss it.  

Climbing Up to Lake Alta 

Bailey hikes up the path to Lake Alta, Queenstown
Up I go!

The trail up to Lake Alta is well-marked with orange signs and yellow poles. The track is a Department of Conservation trail and is well maintained and marked.  

This track starts with a steady climb that continues pretty much until you reach the lake. There are some boulders on the trail that’ll you’ll have to walk over or around, but other than that it is not a technical trail by any means.  

But you’re going to get tired! Hiking to Lake Alta always gets me huffing and puffing. That 200-meter (656-foot) elevation climb over 1.75 kilometers (1 mile) is short and sweet, but it’ll still take your breath away. I often stop and enjoy the views along the way up while I catch my breath. 

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The Beautiful Lake Alta 

The beautiful Lake Alta in New Zealand
What a beautiful lake!

After a short but steep climb, you’ll reach Lake Alta (or Dimrill Dale for you LOTR fans). It’s absolutely stunning, and the views will soon make you forget the effort it took to get up there.

Once at the lake, you have a couple of options for enjoying this beautiful place. First off, head down to the lake’s edge. Here, you’ll really be able to see the blue colors of the lake and on a calm day, reflections of the surrounding mountains.  

If you’re still up for some hiking and adventure, you can continue to walk around the lake. There is also a scramble up to the saddle on the north side of the lake. The views from up at the saddle are even better than down below at the lake! The scramble takes less than 30 minutes (depending on your pace) and involves climbing over rocks the entire way up. 

Once you’re done enjoying the lake, you’ll head back down to the parking lot on the same trail you took on the way up. The way down is much quicker, although watch your footing as the rocks can create tripping hazards!  

Climbing Single Cone and Double Cone 

Climbing up above Lake Alta
Lake Alta from above!

From Lake Alta, you’ll see a couple of very prominent peaks known as Single Cone and Double Cone. These are popular spots for rock climbers or very experienced hikers. I’ve never personally climbed either of them but know that you can do so safely on a guided tour.   

Please Note: It’s not recommended to tackle either peak independently unless you’re with someone who knows the mountain and is a very experienced mountain climber. The furthest you should go as a hiker is to the saddle. 

Essential Things to Remember

Bailey poses for a photo on the shore of Lake Alta, New Zealand
I have yet to swim here!
  • The Lake Alta Track is best hiked during the summer months. Hiking in the snow poses a whole other set of challenges and the trail can be hard (or impossible) to find. 
  • You need to drive up to The Remarkables Ski Field to start the hike. I suggest getting a car through Discover Cars so you can enjoy the scenic drive at your own pace!
  • There is no shade or trees along the trail – bring sun protection! 
  • There are some guided tours to hike the trail, but for the most part, it is done independently.
  • During the summer months, you will need to pay $15 to drive up to the trailhead at The Remarkables Ski Field.  

Related Read: For more information about hiking in New Zealand, read my blog about my useful hiking tips!

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 my personal favorite wine tour in Queenstown! It is one of the best value for money, for $239 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 Fiordland National Park. Not only will your guide stop at several impressive viewpoints on the way from Queenstown but there is also a cruise in Milford Sound included. This small-group tour goes for $289 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

Hot Tub over looking the river and mountains at Kamana Soak in Queenstown, New Zealand
Photo credit: Kamana Lakehouse

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.

Honestly, during peak times, any of the best hotels in Queenstown will be fully booked several weeks in advance…you have been warned! To help you plan ahead, here are a few places I personally love and that would make an awesome place to stay in Queenstown.

Kamana Lakehouse – $$$

For a luxurious stay, I highly recommend Kamana Lakehouse. This hotel is located just on the outskirts of town. Although it’s super peaceful, it’s just a 5-minute drive into the center of town. The place overlooks both the lake and the mountains, and the onsite restaurant uses local, seasonal ingredients to create the freshest meals. To top it off, many of the rooms boast lake views, and some even have outdoor baths!

The trick will be snagging this for your dates (it’s a popular place!). Rooms start around the $400 NZD mark, and you can check availability and book online here.

La Quinta Queenstown – $$

If you’re looking for a mid-range hotel, then you should seriously consider La Quinta Queenstown. This beautiful hotel is right by the airport but still very quiet. Plus, the views are amazing (although you won’t find me recommending a place without great views!). The rooms are all studio or one-bedroom apartments, which is really handy if you want to cook or even just have breakfast in your room.

Prices start at $200 NZD and you can book online here.

Absoloot Hostel Queenstown – $

My top choice for budget travelers is the Absoloot Hostel Queenstown. This small hostel has dorm rooms and budget private rooms, 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!

Dorms are around $55 NZD, and private rooms begin around $210 NZD. The Absoloot Hostel is easily one of the top cheap hostels in Queenstown and can be booked on Hostelworld.com or Booking.com.

Renting a Car, Campervan, or Motorhome in New Zealand

Bailey stands in front of a right green JUCY campervan
JUCY is one of my favorite campervan rental companies (read below for a discount code!)
Bailey stands behind her Mad Campers campervan cooking in the kitchen at Piha Beach
I also really like Mad Campers!

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’s what most budget travelers use 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…and be prepared for an adventure of a lifetime! My favorite campervan rental company is JUCY because they have a huge selection of campervans to choose from, plus multiple pick-up/drop-off locations. You can browse JUCY’s campervan selection online here. Alternatively, you can easily compare all campervans available in NZ on Motorhome Republic here.

EXCLUSIVE DISCOUNT CODE: I’ve managed to snag a discount code for 5% off for my readers if you book your JUCY or Star RV campervan or motorhome before the end of June 2024! Simply click here to select your JUCY campervan, or click here to select your Star RV motorhome, and then use the code DTRAVEL24 at checkout to get 5% off – it’s that easy! One thing to note is that this code is only valid for travel before Dec 21, 2024.

Thanks for reading!

Bailey sits on the shore of Lake Alta, New Zealand
Thanks for reading!

Well, there you have it, all the information you need to tackle the Lake Alta Track for yourself. To me, this is one of the best things to do in Queenstown including a scenic drive and a nice short hike!  

If you found this blog helpful, be sure to check out all of our other blogs about hikes in Queenstown, or just browse this site! I’ve included a few below to get you started:

10 BEST Walks and Hikes in Mount Cook National Park 

25 Exciting Adventure Activities in Queenstown

Tiki Trail, Queenstown – A Steep Climb to Bob’s Peak

Didi

Monday 15th of January 2024

Hey there! Thank you so much for your detailed description. We visited the Lake Alta today and enjoyed it as you promised! I only wanted to let you know that the entrance fee is now 15$. Best regards, Dee & co.

Rod

Saturday 4th of March 2023

I agree really high quality free information. Pictures are awesome too!

Bernhard Steiner

Saturday 31st of December 2022

Great idea - your blog is wonderful - thanks for doing public service