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Queenstown locals love the Lake Alta Track. Trust me, as a Queenstown local myself I know all the best spots and Lake Alta is one of them. Not only is the track rarely busy, but it’s a short trail that ends at a stunning alpine lake (which also happens to be a Lord of the Rings film location.)
So, whether you’re into hiking, LOTR, or just after some nice photos, Lake Alta Track is the perfect hike to check out near Queenstown.
With that said, there are a few things I have to tell you about the Lake Alta Track before you go, and in this blog, you’ll find all of that out!
Lake Alta Track Overview
Distance: 3.5 kilometers (2.2 miles) return
Elevation gain: About 200 meters (656 feet)
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. It’s a quick hike easy to add to any Queenstown itinerary.
Lord of the Rings fans might recognize Lake Alta as “Dimrill Dale.” That’s right, Lake Alta 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 Lake Alta Track. The trail is never busy (unlike many other hikes in Queenstown such as Queenstown Hill or Ben Lomond) and offers beautiful views of both the lake and Queenstown from above. It’s one of Queenstown’s hidden gems that is most frequented by locals.
Not to mention, the drive to the trailhead is an exciting adventure in itself!
Lake Alta Track FAQs
What to Pack
Sun protection – There are no trees or shaded areas along the Lake Alta trail. Even in the winter months in New Zealand, the sun is harsh.
Water – Although the Lake Alta 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 Lake Alta 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, Lake Alta 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 $10 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 more research in this instance. You’ll also have to dodge people skiing as The Remarkables is one of the best places to go skiing in Queenstown.
Driving to The Remarkables
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. This drive is easily one of the most scenic stretches of road in New Zealand.
From Queenstown, 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 (or go skiing in the winter.)
It is important to know that you will be charged $10 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.)
Finding the Lake Alta Track Trailhead
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.
If you’re not a confident hiker or you just prefer guided experiences, you can book this Lake Alta hiking tour from Queenstown. It includes transport up to the trailhead as well as a gourmet lunch at the lake!
Climbing Up to Lake Alta
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.
Lake Alta 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 feet) 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.
The Beautiful Lake Alta
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 Lake Alta, you have a couple of different options for how to enjoy 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 Lake Alta, 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
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. Want to climb Single or Double Cone? Check out this guided rock climbing and traversing tour from Queenstown!
Essential Things to Remember
- 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.
- There is no shade or trees along the Lake Alta Track – bring sun protection!
- It is possible to hike to Lake Atla on a guided tour. Rock climbing and traversing tours are also available for those who want an added level of excitement
- During the summer months, you will need to pay $10 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
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 values for money, for $215 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 $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
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 and can be booked on Hostelworld.com or Booking.com.
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
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 (QUEEN5) 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!
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, the best hikes around the South Island, or just browse this site! I’ve included a few below to get you started: