The Ben Lomond Track Day Hike – Know Before You Go
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The Ben Lomond Track, New Zealand is easily one of the best short hikes in Queenstown.
The Ben Lomond hike takes you to all levels of Queenstown’s landscape diversity, from the thick pine forests to the exposed shrub ground, and finally to the magnificent mountain peaks of the alpine region on Ben Lomond summit!
Taking in the views of the surrounding area and alpine peaks that tower over Lake Wakatipu below is breathtaking. Once up there, it becomes all too clear how small we really are and just how stunning this part of the world is.
In my opinion, no trip to Queenstown would be complete without a walk along the Ben Lomond hiking trail. For that reason, I have written this post to help those planning the trip and maybe inspire a few others who weren’t already sold!
This blog includes all the info you need to have the best day and make some amazing memories up on Ben Lomond, New Zealand.
Overview of the Ben Lomond Track
The top of the Gondola in Queenstown OR at the Tiki Trail at the bottom of the gondola on Brecon Street.
From the top of the gondola, the trail is 11km or 6.8 miles and from Queenstown, the trail is 14 km or 8.6 miles.
From the top of the gondola, it takes 4 to 5 hours and from Queenstown, it takes 6 to 7 hours to complete the trail.
The trail is medium to difficult and requires a reasonable amount of fitness.
Yes, there is free parking at the bottom of the Ben Lomond Trail, however, it is 4-hours maximum.
If you want to beat the crowds set off before 8 am.
Best Time to Hike the Ben Lomond Track
The Ben Lomond Track is best hiked on a clear day by setting off early in the morning. This way you’ll not only beat the heat (in summer) but also avoid the large crowds.
When it comes to the time of year, well, that totally depends on your experience. The reason? The Ben Lomond Trail receives a lot of snow in winter especially in the alpine sections near the summit.
This can pose an avalanche risk. In fact, when I lived in Queenstown a guy took a hard tumble in some snow and slid over 100 meters. Luckily he was okay, but it could’ve been much worse.
For those of you reading this with little alpine experience, I only recommend hiking to the saddle in the winter (you still may need crampons) and to the summit in the summer.
Ben Lomond Trailhead Location (Starting Points)
The Ben Lomond track starts right in Queenstown town center at the end of Brecon Street. This is also the place where you catch the gondola to the Skyline complex above Queenstown up at Bob’s Peak (where the Luge is!)
If you walk to the end of Brecon Street, you’ll see clearly marked signs that point you to the trail.
However, you’re not looking for signs to the “Ben Lomond Trail” and instead, you’re looking for signs to the “Tiki Trail.” This is because the first part of the Ben Lomond track is actually the Tiki Trail (also known as the Queenstown gondola walk.) The Ben Lomond trail officially starts at the end of this trail.
A few blogs online talk about starting from towards Fernhill. Don’t take this route, there are so many trails in this area its very easy to get lost! Start on Brecon Street at the bottom of the gondola.
Two Different Ways to Hike the Ben Lomond Track
The great thing about the Ben Lomond Trail is that there are actually two different ways to hike to the saddle or summit.
The first is what some would call the “long way”, and the other is a little easier (but in my opinion great for those not keen to hike for 7 hours to the summit and back!)
Both ways involve returning down the same trail you hiked up on.
1. Full Ben Lomond hike to the summit from Queenstown
|Hike length:||14 km (8.7 Miles)|
|Elevation Gain:||1438 meters|
|Time to saddle/summit:||3-4 hours / 6-7 hours|
The first option to reaching the summit or saddle begins from Brecon Street in Queenstown. From the bottom of the gondola look for the signs to the Tiki Trail. This is the first part of the trail and the Tiki trail actually ends where the Ben Lomond Trail starts.
From here, it’s a 6 to 8-hour hike to the summit and back with a huge elevation gain of over 1400m. This is not an easy hike so if you choose this option, be prepared for a hard day (or only hike to the saddle.)
For those who don’t know, “the saddle” is the low point or ridge between two peaks.
2. Use the gondola to shorten the hike
|Hike Length:||11km (6.8 miles)|
|Elevation gain:||Around 1000 meters|
|Time to saddle/summit:||2-3 hours/ 4-5 hours|
The next option is a slightly shorter option and involves taking the gondola up to Bob’ Peaks and starting the Ben Lomond Trail from there! This way shaves a 450-meter elevation gain off the start of the trail and the walk down at the end.
This is a really great option for those not wanting to tackle the longer much harder version. In fact, taking the gondola up to Bob’s peak is one of the best things to do in Queenstown. So, you’d be hitting two birds with one stone (we do not condone hitting birds with stones).
*Hot tip: You can book your gondola tickets in advance and skip the line in Queenstown which can often be very long!
If the Ben Lomond hike is a bit too long or difficult for you, consider hiking Queenstown Hill instead! Check out our blog all about the Queenstown Hill Walk!
Transferring to the Ben Lomond Trail from the Tiki Trail
If you choose option one above, then you’re going to need to transfer from the Tiki Trail to the Ben Lomond Trail. This is pretty easy however, it’s poorly signed so this might help save some confusion.
As you hike up the Tiki Trail you will eventually come to a clearing where the Skyline restaurant and Luge track is located. To continue on to the Ben Lomond trail, make a slight left and keep walking up the hill. The start of the trail is only 50 meters from the clearing and heads into the thick forest.
It is pretty easy to find and there are plenty of staff around you can ask if you do get a little lost!
Ben Lomond Hike Difficulty
The entire hike is straight up and does become a lot steeper once you reach the saddle and begin your summit. For these reasons, in good weather, the hike is of medium difficulty.
During icy conditions, as we had on our hike, I would say the trail becomes a lot more difficult. Even with good quality hiking boots, the trail was extremely slippery.
The section of the trail from the saddle to the summit is not recommended for children under the age of 10. This section is also hard to complete in icy conditions without the right equipment.
What I loved most about the Ben Lomond Hike, New Zealand
The Breathtaking Views
They are simply amazing, and I am still in shock at how beautiful Queenstown really is. If you want to get the best views of Queenstown then the Ben Lomond Trail is your best option!
My favorite part was before the saddle on a peak offering views similar to the famous Roy’s Peak!
It’s only a Day Hike
Don’t get me wrong, I love multi-day hikes and camping under the stars, however, it was really nice to be able to walk out my front door with little to no preparation and within 5 minutes be on a world-class hike.
The very few other Hikers
Yes, it’s true, I hiked during the shoulder season just before winter but I still expected a few hundred hikers – I mean it’s Queenstown! But, what I was met with was open views without a person in sight for most of my journey.
What to Bring on the Trail
Food and water – If you plan on heading up to the summit then you will need to prepare for a full day of hiking. Bringing a packed lunch, snacks and plenty of water is a must. To the saddle, snacks and a small water bottle are enough. There is nowhere to fill your bottle on the trail.
Flashlight – Bringing a flashlight is handy in case you begin to lose light behind the mountains. A head torch is the best kind of flashlight because it is hands-free!
Good footwear – Good footwear in winter is necessary and good quality, waterproof hiking boots are a good choice. In summer, sneakers will suffice.
Camera – This goes without saying but the views are so amazing you’re going to want to take a few photos to show your friends! If you want some extra advice on what camera to buy, check out our blog about buying the best camera for travel!
Sunscreen – Even in the winter, the sun in New Zealand is harsh! A hat is also a good idea!
Other Important Tips Before Hiking Ben Lomond
- For those with no hiking experience, you can take the gondola up to the start of the hike. This will shave almost 2 hours off your hike!
- You don’t have to hike all the way to the saddle or summit to get amazing views! Only a 30-minute walk from the top of the gondola you can have beautiful views of the area without hiking the entire trail.
- If you’re short on time then riding the gondola up, hiking to the saddle and then taking a ziplining tour down is a great way to tick off a few things in only one day!
Before you go…
The Ben Lomond hike ticks all the boxes when it comes to great hikes and the best thing is it can be done in only a day. You can head out straight from your hotel without the hassle of organizing transport or paying for a guide.
The views on offer at the top are stunningly breathtaking and are certainly not to be missed on your trip to Queenstown!
If you have any further questions about the Ben Lomond Track or New Zealand in general, please leave them in the comments sections below.
January 19, 2020