Hiking The Fernhill Loop Track: Another short hike in Queenstown
The Fernhill Loop Track is one of the most easily accessible day-hikes in Queenstown. Less popular than some of the others, the Fernhill Loop Track offers a quiet track that climbs up over 900m and then loops back down on a different trail. We hiked the Fernhill Loop just the other day and have a lot of important information and tips to share!
The Fernhill Loop Track
This afternoon we decided to explore our own backyard and hike the Fernhill Loop Track. Just down the street from where we are currently living there is the start of the track. The Fernhill Loop Track climbs up the mountain behind the suburb of Fernhill (just five minutes outside of Queenstown) offering views of Lake Wakatipu, the Remarkables mountain range, as well as Ben Lomond mountain.
There are many great day hikes around Queenstown. We have heard amazing things about so many of them, but never anything about the Fernhill Loop. The only reason we even knew about it was because we saw signs near our house pointing to the track. So, being curious we decided to check it out for ourselves!
How long is the hike?
The Fernhill Loop Track is about 8 kilometres return. There are parts that are quite steep and therefore the amount of time it takes largely depends on your fitness level, allow 2-4 hours return.
How difficult is the Fernhill Loop Track?
It isn’t easy – like I anticipated it to be. The western part of the Fernhill Loop Track is essentially all uphill. Switchbacks for 3.5 km lead to the summit. This part was hard, in some areas very steep and the ground was soft so sometimes as you stepped rocks would slide from underneath you making it challenging to make progress.
At the summit, the lack of tree-cover makes the trail challenging in winter. Snow and ice cover the ground and we found ourselves slipping and sliding a lot.
The east portion of the loop is much easier, but it is longer. It is flat for a large portion and only slowly declines (until the very end on the One Mile Track where it becomes quite steep.)
It isn’t the longest hike, even with us taking our time it only took 2.5 hours. However, it isn’t easy either. I didn’t realize that you climb almost as high as the Ben Lomond track. From the summit, you can see the Ben Lomond summit not far away at all.
Dangers and Safety
The track is mostly maintained, but like I said, there are parts with lots of loose rock so be careful!
In the winter the ice and snow at the summit can be very slippery. It is recommended to hike with crampons.
There are various areas of the track that cross mountain bike trails. These mountain bike riders come speeding downhill and don’t have the ability to stop quickly, so be aware always, listen for anyone coming, and stay off the bike trails wherever possible!
The Fernhill Loop Track western side starts in Fernhill either at the park on Fernhill Road or on Wynyard Crescent. The east side of the loop starts from the One Mile Track which can be accessed from the Queenstown Power Station or by walking towards Queenstown from Fernhill.
The Fernhill Loop Track isn’t marked very well at the beginning or end as there are many other tracks that it crosses (including mountain bike tracks.) It is hard to know which way to go with so many different paths to choose from!
My best advice to you before tackling the Fernhill Loop Track is to ensure you have your phone with you and the app Maps.Me downloaded. This app clearly shows the Fernhill Loop Track and will help you know where you are and where you need to go. Without this app, we never would have been able to find the track or stay on it for that matter.
What was the hike like?
To be 100% honest, it wasn’t our favourite of the hikes we’ve done so far around Queenstown. Now, I’m not sure if our opinion was a little bit swayed by the fact that we were both hungry and hungover when we did it and that we didn’t expect it to be such a climb! Regardless, the summit offered awesome views, but I did not think the views compared to that of Ben Lomond or Queenstown Hill.
Fernhill Loop Track to Ben Lomond
Once we reached the Fernhill Loop summit we could easily see that we could join with the Ben Lomond Track. This is super cool as one could join the Fernhill Loop with Ben Lomond and then the Tiki Trail – three hikes in one!
We plan to give this a try next time. We will start in Fernhill, walk up the west side of the Fernhill Loop, connect with the Ben Lomond Track, summit Ben Lomond, walk back down Ben Lomond to the Tiki Trail and then end in Queenstown! Sounds like a great hike to me, we will definitely write about it once we’ve done it, so watch out for that blog!
-Wear waterproof footwear. There are lots of puddles and creek crossings along the way.
-Wear crampons in winter. The ice and snow was slippery and dangerous to walk on.
-Download the app Maps.Me prior to leaving. Finding the trail and staying on it is confusing. You even walk through the middle of a mountain bike park! This app will make sure you know where to go at all times.
-Consider walking up the east side of the track (the side closest to Queenstown.) The east side of the loop is considerably more flat with a gradual incline as opposed to the west side which is a steep climb to the top.
Overall, the Fernhill Loop Track wasn’t our favourite hike and won’t be one we do over and over again. But, it was still fun to explore a lesser known hike for ourselves and put some information about it out there!
What is your favourite hike in Queenstown? Let us know in the comments! If we haven’t done it yet – maybe we will have to plan for it!