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Queenstown Hill Hike – Epic Views from the Basket of Dreams

Queenstown Hill Hike – Epic Views from the Basket of Dreams

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So, you’re looking for info on the most popular hike in Queenstown? I’m so glad you’re here!

Queenstown Hill is one of my top easy hikes in the area, and can easily be wrapped up within a couple of hours. That said, the views at the top are seriously killer – a little work, for a lot of reward, that’s my kind of hike! 

I’ve hiked up this trail many times now over the years (at all different times of year!), so I wanted to put together this complete guide to what to expect, no matter when you visit. By the end of this blog, you’ll be ready to conquer this trail and grab some photos you’ll treasure forever.

Well, what are we waiting for? Let’s do it!

Queenstown Hill Hike Overview 

Distance: 2.5 kilometers (1.6 m) one way, 5 kilometers (3.2 mi) return 

Elevation gain: About 600 meters (1,968 feet) from downtown Queenstown 

Difficulty: Medium 

Time needed: 2 to 3 hours 

Type of trail: Out and back

 Queenstown Hill is one of the most accessible hikes in Queenstown. Unlike trails such as Bob’s Cove Track and Mt Crichton Loop, this trail starts right from town. On top of this, it can be accomplished in under 3 hours and is also open all year round – perfect for any Queenstown itinerary!

The trail is well-maintained and isn’t a technical hike by any means. It is suitable for people who don’t consider themselves “hikers”, and even children who are up for the challenge. With that said, the hike to the summit is a steady incline without any flat or downhill sections.

There are tons of viewpoints to explore at the top, and as such, lots of amazing photo opportunities. There is even a metal sculpture called the Basket of Dreams that I’ll you more about later on in this blog.  

Related Read: Queenstown Hill is one of the best hikes in New Zealand, find out what the others are in my blog!

Queenstown Hill Hike FAQs 

view of lake wakatipu from queenstown hill
Ah, beautiful Lake Wakatipu!

What to Pack 

walking the trail on Queentown Hill
You’ll need a few things in order to safely hike Queenstown Hill.

Decent footwear – During the winter, you should wear waterproof hiking boots with good grips for ice and snow. During the rest of the year, running shoes should suffice (just watch out for mud!).

Water – There is nowhere to fill your water bottle up along the trail, so bring enough water with you. I’d recommend 1 liter per person.  

Sun protection – Although the majority of the trail is shaded by trees, at the summit it is very open, and you’ll need some protection from the harsh NZ sun.  

Windbreaker or sweater – At the Queenstown Hill summit, it’s quite exposed and can be windy. Bringing a second layer will keep you warm while enjoying those rewarding views! 

Parking and the Queenstown Hill Trailhead 

a couple of signs along Queenstown hill track
There are posted signs to keep on the right trail.

Parking can be a little tricky because the parking lot at the Queenstown Hill trailhead is tiny (and by tiny I mean it can only fit a handful of cars.) This small parking lot can be found easily marked on Google Maps. This is a residential street though, and there is never much street parking available either.  

For that reason, many people walk to the trailhead from Queenstown Center. From Queenstown Center, it’s about a 15-minute walk to the start of the trail. This walk is through residential streets and is all uphill gaining about 200 meters (656 feet) in elevation over about 800 meters (0.5 miles).

It does add a little extra work to your total hike but might be your only option if there is no parking at the start of the trailhead.

If you want to ensure a parking space, it’s best to hike for sunrise. Before the sun comes up, the trail is never busy and you should be able to snag a parking space without worry. This is what I often do! 

The Steep Hike Up 

walking along at the beginning of Queenstown Hill Track
The beginning is all through the forest is flat but that changes quickly!

Once you’ve reached the trailhead, you still have a lot of climbing to do! Luckily, it isn’t too long and the trail is well-maintained. There is a map at the beginning of the trail and signs along the way including information about the area and its flora and fauna. 

The trail is wide and starts with a steady incline through the forest. In the beginning, the trees block out any sort of view until you reach a clearing with a bench. This is a good spot to stop for a rest and catch your breath.  

Once you’ve nearly reached the top, you’ll come to a fork in the trail. If you take the trail on the left, it’s a short 5-minute hike via a steep trail.

If you take the trail to the right, you’ll end up on a more gradual, but longer, trail. I’ve personally hiked both trails and prefer the steeper option on the way up (getting the incline over and done with quicker is just my style), but I normally take the longer path on the way down. This is totally personal preference though and either trail is just fine. 

From the trailhead to the top of Queenstown Hill is 2.5 kilometers (1.6 miles) and about 400 meters (1,312 feet) in elevation gain. For most people, the hike up takes about 1-1.5 hours, but this largely depends on your pace and it can take much longer (or faster, just ask the local trail runners!)

banner asking people to click to join the Queenstown Diary Facebook Group

Reaching the Basket of Dreams 

The Basket of Dreams at the top of the Queenstown Hill Hike
The Basket of Dreams!

Once you reach the top of Queenstown Hill one of the first things you’ll notice is an unusually large metal sculpture. This is the Basket of Dreams which was created by the artist Caroline Robinson. It was created as a resting place to relax, enjoy the views, and inspire thoughts and reflection.  

For many, the Basket of Dreams marks the end of their walk. But the truth is this is just the beginning of the best views! From the Basket of Dreams, there is a short loop track that takes you around the top, offering the most stunning views! This is what you hiked all the way up for – so enjoy it!  

The Views from Queenstown Hill Summit 

View of the remarkables from Queenstown Hill
You get an awesome view of the Remarkables mountain range from Queenstown Hill!

Besides the Basket of Dreams, from the top you’ll have views of Lake Wakatipu, Cecil’s Peak, the Remarkables, Bob’s Peak and the gondola, and of course, Queenstown itself! This is the time to take pictures and relax. I often pack snacks or a picnic to enjoy at the top. If you want to be really fancy, bring a thermos of hot chocolate or coffee to enjoy on a colder day. 

Many people only hike as far as the Basket of Dreams, this isn’t the actual summit. To reach the summit, you must follow another small trail a little further up to the very top. This only adds another 5 minutes to your hike, so I’d recommend going for it!

The hike back down is on the same trail as the way up. Since it’s all downhill, it’ll be much quicker, and you’ll likely be down in about 30 minutes or so.

Related Read: This trail is quite similar to the Tiki Trail – I’ve also written about this trail in its own blog!

Hiking Queenstown Hill at Sunrise or Sunset 

sitting on a rock at the summit of Queenstown Hill
This photo was taken from the summit of Queenstown Hill at sunrise.

My personal favorite time to hike Queenstown Hill is at sunrise. At this time of day, the trail is the quietest, and the views from the summit as the sun comes up are magical! As I mentioned before, this is also the time of day when you’ll likely snag a parking spot right at the trailhead – bonus! 

If you aren’t an early riser, sunset is pretty spectacular too. Often, sunset is busier than sunrise but still quieter than midday.  

Just be sure that if you’re hiking at sunrise or sunset, that you bring a flashlight or headlamp! Along the trail, the trees provide a lot of shade and it will be dark. 

Related Read: Check out my blog for more important hiking tips so you are ready to tackle the best hikes in New Zealand!

Hiking Queenstown Hill in the Winter 

a mountain covered in snow on Queenstown hill
Be prepared for cold temperatures and snow during winter in New Zealand!

Queenstown Hill is one of the few hikes in Queenstown that can be done any time of year – even in the winter! With that said, hiking in the snow can pose a few extra challenges and it’s best to be prepared.  

First of all, in the winter, there will be snow on the ground as you get closer to the summit. This can make the trail icy and slippery. Good winter hiking boots are highly recommended with crampons being best to have on hand just in case. Hiking poles will also help you keep your balance and give you that much more stability (I never hike without my hiking poles!) 

Also, bring warmer clothes and layers to put on once you reach the summit. It’s important to keep in mind that the daylight hours are shorter in the winter and a flashlight might come in handy in case you’re taking longer than you may have anticipated.  

The truth is that the views in the winter are even more spectacular than in the summer months. It doesn’t get much better than the mountains all covered in snow – amazing! 

Related Read: Queenstown Hill is definitely one of the 40 best hikes on the South Island – find out what the rest are!

Other Ways to Experience Queenstown Hill

Best of Queenstown Sightseeing Tour

If you’re looking for a relaxing activity and still want to experience Queenstown Hill’s amazing views, we’ve got you covered! This Queenstown Sightseeing Tour not only takes you to visit this iconic viewpoint, but you’ll also get to explore Arrowtown, The Church Cellar Door for wine tasting, the Kawarau Bungy Bridge, and a 25-minute cruise on Lake Wakatipu.

This 4-hour tour combines the views of hiking this amazing trail with other activities, and is a great introduction to the best places around Queenstown! You can check out the details and book this tour in advance for $199 NZD per person.

Queenstown Hill Quad Biking Experience

This Quad Biking Tour adds a bit of thrill to your hiking experience as you can explore the expansive mountain area on a quad. These off-road trails are best explored on a 4×4 vehicle, in which you’ll be trained and given safety instructions so you remain safe the whole time.

You’ll get incredible views and an adrenaline-pumping experience all in one! This 3.5-hour tour is for those 16 years and up, it can be booked in advance for $325 NZD per person!

360-Degree UTV Tour

Similar to the quad tour above, this UTV Tour explores gorgeous wilderness, offering beautiful views of the city below and mountains all around! A UTV (Utility Task Vehicle) is great for those who have little experience with a 4×4 vehicle.

It is a type of side-by-side, so it is more like driving a car and you are more enclosed. Children who are 1.3 meters (4 feet 2 inches) tall are allowed to join this tour, so it would be a fun family activity if you have some adventurous kiddos! This 2.5-hour tour can be reserved for $190 NZD per person.

Why I Book Tours on Viator

Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! I almost always book all of my tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:

  • Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
  • Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
  • Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
  • Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.

Check out the Viator website here

Must-Do Activities While in Queenstown

A person slides down a waterfall while canyoning in Queenstown
Canyoning is scary and fun!
bailey stands at the front of the TSS Earnslaw in Queenstown
A cruise on the TSS Earnslaw is a unique way to explore!

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

  • Take a cruise – Aboard the TSS Earnslaw Steamship Cruise you’re in for a scenic and relaxing cruise in Queenstown that’s great for any afternoon. This is one of the last coal-fired steamships in the world and you get to watch the crew add coal to the flames to power the vessel as you take in mountain ranges and lush green valleys. You can also upgrade this tour here to include dinner at Walter Peak High Country Farm.
  • Watch a sunset – As the day draws to a close in Queenstown, make sure to head to the shores of Lake Wakatipu to watch a sunset. It’s one of the best viewpoints to watch the sun sink behind the Southern Alps. I like watching from Queenstown Beach or Perky’s Floating Bar where you get a view of the lake and delicious food and drinks too!
  • Go canyoning – Climb and jump off waterfalls, rappel, swim, and trek as part of this Queenstown Canyoning Adventure 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.
  • See Milford Sound – This day trip to Milford South with a picnic lunch 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.
  • Wine tasting – This Central Otago Wine Tour and Tasting is my personal favorite wine tour in Queenstown! It is one of the best values for money as 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.

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 or

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 campervan or motorhome through JUCY or Star RV! 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!

Thanks for reading! 

enjoying the view from the top of Queenstown Hill
I hope you have a great time!

I hope this blog has answered all of the questions you have about hiking Queenstown Hill, and maybe inspired you to do it! If you have any specific questions I didn’t answer, please let me know by leaving a comment below, I read and reply to every single one! 

If you’re looking for more useful guides, head over to my New Zealand or Queenstown page. I’ve also listed some guides I think you’ll love below to get you started!

10 Best Hikes in Mount Cook National Park

How to Hike Roy’s Peak – The Most Beautiful Hike in New Zealand

15 Absolute Best Hikes in Wanaka to Get the Best Views