Hiking to Ben Lomond — Queenstown — New Zealand
Ben Lomond must be my favorite day’s hike in Queenstown, the track crosses the forest and different New Zealand alpine terrain, not to mention the location right at the heart of town.
I love a lively town, but if you ever want to get away from the hustle and bustle of Queenstown, what could be a better way than hiking to the top of the town, right?
There are a few ways you can reach Ben Lomond summit, but my favorite one is going via Tiki trail, and most people would do this one.
Tiki trail starts at the bottom of the Gondola cable car, it’s quite challenging for me with an elevation of over 400 meters. You can also take the shortcut and ride the cable car to the Bob’s peak which is the end of Tiki trail, that would save you at least one hour and a lot of effort as well, but I guess for a hiking enthusiast, you would go all the way, not take the shortcut, LOL.
Ben Lomond has distinct beauty in different seasons, I have done the Tiki trail a few times but only summited Ben Lomond once. I would love to reach the peak in the winter, however, it comes with great challenges for inexperienced hikers and could be impossible in worse weather conditions.
The track starts at the bottom of Gondola, on the right-hand side, you may see a line waiting for the cable car to get to the Skyline complex, follow the path on the left-hand side, you would see the trailhead, they even have a big board, you cannot miss it.
This trail is listed as moderate, which means it’s not difficult, however, I find it difficult as it is a constant uphill climb, most of the track is steep. In the winter, it was really cold, the track was covered with frost and very icy. In the summer, it was really cool as it is shaded by the pine forest. Even though, I always complained about how hard this part was, I actually enjoyed it a lot.
You can also see a section for ziplining, it looked really exciting “flying” in the middle of the forest.
In the last part of the trail, the track emerges with the biking track, so be careful, when you see the dirt and wide track, it is good news ‘cause it almost reaches the Skyline complex which is Bob’s peak.
I always stopped here to admire the stunning vista of Queenstown, the Remarkables and the surrounding areas, of course, don’t forget to have some snacks to reward yourself after completing the first challenge here, you deserve it, LOL.
Ben Lomond — 1,748 m.
Now, from the complex, follow the sign, you would go through the plantation forest before entering the tussock area.
This is an open ridge that offers amazing views of the native forest and pine forest on the left side. On a good day, you could see the sighting of Ben Lomond's summit.
I really enjoyed this part as it is mostly flat. During my attempt in the winter, the beginning of August, I only stopped near the saddle because the rest of the track was blanketed in snow. It is totally doable if you have proper gears such as crampon, ice axe and more importantly, alpine experience. I did see some people went back from the summit, but they warned me not to go further if I wasn’t well-prepared.
From the saddle, the hike becomes more demanding since the track is steep and some are quite rocky, better to watch your steps on a windy day. It was encouraging to take in the breathtaking view of Wakatipu lake and mountain ranges as we were climbing up.
For me, the last part was the most frustrating one, you know the feeling when you could see that you almost reach the top, but when you keep walking, it feels like you will never get there. It was like that for me, I think I would never make it if it wasn't for my friend, that was my best decision to do it with them, LOL.
When we reached the summit in the middle of summer, we still saw some melting ice and a few puddles on top.
As soon as we sighted the top, all of my frustration disappeared, I was overwhelmed by the scale of the surrounding landscape. It is magnificent.
We also encounter a couple of Kea on top, they were very bold and curious as always.
If you visit Queenstown even for a short time, add Ben Lomond to your list, it is quite challenging but so rewarding. It took me a little over 8 hours return, but if you are fit, it shouldn’t take that long.
So all in all, it is absolutely worth it!