The Ben Lomond Track Day Hike – Know Before You Go
The Ben Lomond hike is easily one of the best short hikes in Queenstown.
The 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 the lake 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!
*Disclosure statement: Warning, reading this post may make it impossible not to do the Ben Lomond hike!
When is the best time to hike Ben Lomond?
There really is no right or wrong answer to this question as the trail can be hiked all year round. But with that said, for those without winter alpine experience or equipment its best to not attempt to summit Ben Lomond in winter or when heavy snow is on its peaks.
Well, in winter the snow on Ben Lomond can pose an avalanche risk. In fact, when I lived in Queenstown a guy took a hard tumble in some snow some 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.
In summer, be sure to set off early in the morning as the last half of the trail is completely unshaded from New Zealand’s harsh sun.
Where does the Ben Lomond trail start?
The Ben Lomond hike 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 walk to the end of Brecon Street, you’ll see clearly marked signs that point you to the trail.
But 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.
Hiking Ben Lomond – The Two Ways to Hike the Trail
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 “proper 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 hike to the summit from Queenstown
|Hike length:||13 km|
|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 this 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. Using the gondola to shorten the hike
|Hike Length:||around 11km|
|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 here and skip the line in Queenstown which can often be verrrryyyy 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!
How hard is the Ben Lomond hike from Queenstown?
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
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
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 Hitting the Trail
- 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 alll 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. In fact, I actually enjoyed the views from here better than the saddle!
- 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!
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!
Honestly, we guarantee you’ll love it so please head over to our New Zealand landing page and let us help you plan your trip.
If you’re after something more specific, here’s a few great posts from Queenstown you also might like!
The perfect day trip from Queenstown to Milford Sound – If your planning a road trip to Milford Sound then be sure to read our guide on all the best places to stop along the way!
The secret Moke Lake viewpoint – If you love hiking then you simply must try this super off the beaten path hike! The views are breathtaking!
Best tours in Queenstown – Our guide to the 13 most exciting tours in Queenstown!
Traveling for a long amount of time? Save money on travel medical insurance with SafetyWing (who I personally use!) You can travel NZ spending as little as $37 every 4 weeks!
November 18, 2019