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The Fernhill Loop Track is one of the most easily accessible day-hikes in Queenstown. Since it is much less popular than many others, the Fernhill Loop Track offers a quiet track that climbs up over 900m to a viewpoint over Lake Wakatipu.
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. 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 and we had heard so many amazing things about the more popular Queenstown Hill or Ben Lomond Trail. However, we had never heard of anyone hiking the Fernhill Loop.
The only reason we even knew about it was that we saw signs near our house pointing to the track. So, being curious we decided to check it out for ourselves – and we are so glad we did! It was both challenging and fun and we enjoyed this very peaceful trail!
This blog includes everything you need to know about hiking the Fernhill Loop Track.
Related Read: One of the most scenic road trips you can take in New Zealand is the drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy.
How Long is the Fernhill Loop Hike?
The Fernhill Loop Track is an 8-kilometer (5 miles) return trail. The trail is a loop so you do not hike back in the direction you came which I love!
There are parts of the trail that are quite steep and therefore the amount of time it takes largely depends on your fitness level. These times can range anywhere from 2 to 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. Steep switchbacks climb the 3.5 km (2.2 mi) to the summit.
This part was hard and in some areas very steep. The ground was soft (we hiked in winter) so sometimes as you stepped rocks would slide from underneath you making it challenging to make progress.
Tip: We recommend hiking up the west side (left side facing the track from the lake) and walking down the east. This is because the steep areas on the west would be much more difficult on the way down.
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. It would be a great idea to use crampons if there is lots of snow!
The east portion of the loop is much easier, but it is longer. The trail is flat for a large portion and only slowly declines (until the very end on the One Mile Track where it becomes quite steep.)
The Fernhill Loop 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 saddle.
Dangers and Safety
The track is mostly maintained, but as 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.
For the latest in track and weather conditions, contact the DOC in Queenstown.
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 always be aware, listen for anyone coming, and stay off the bike trails wherever possible – they are signposted.
The Route to the Top of Fernhill Loop Track
The Fernhill Loop Track’s 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.
To reach it, walk down the road that runs along Lake Wakatipu towards Fernhill. As you reach the end of this road you will see a roundabout (traffic circle). If you look to your right at the roundabout you will see a track that leads uphill. from here you can find the trail.
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 We Thought of the Fernhill Loop Track
To be 100% honest, it wasn’t our favorite of the hikes we’ve done so far around Queenstown. Regardless, the summit offered awesome views, but I did not think the views compared to that of Ben Lomond or Queenstown Hill.
Related Read: After a long day hiking you may want to choose where to eat from our best restaurants in Queenstown list.
Fernhill Loop Track to Ben Lomond
Once we reached the Fernhill Loop summit we could easily see that we could join 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, and walk back down Ben Lomond to the Tiki Trail and then end in Queenstown! It sounds like a great hike to me!
Our Tips for Hiking the Fernhill Loop
- Wear waterproof footwear – There are lots of puddles and creek crossings along the way. In the middle of summer, don’t worry about this too much though.
- 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. Just be aware the steep route down can be more dangerous.
Related Read: There are so many other great free and cheap things to do in Queenstown that you can take advantage of!
Must-Do Activities While You’re in Queenstown
Other than hiking, there are lots of other amazing things to do in and around Queenstown.
Some of my favorites are:
- Full-Day Milford Sound Experience – This award-winning Queenstown cruise takes place in one of the most scenic places in New Zealand, Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park. This tour takes you along a scenic drive stopping at many of the best lakes, valleys, and tunnels before ending the experience on a 2-hour cruise through the fjords and waterfalls in Milford Sound. It will be a full day, to say the least, but it will be an unforgettable experience. Lunch is provided.
- Dinner at Walter Peak High Country Farm and Cruise – This laid-back dinner plus cruise is perfect for a day off from physical activity. You’ll ride on the 1912 vintage steamer, the TSS “Earnslaw” to Walter Peak High Country Farm where you’ll enjoy high-end barbequed meats or seafood- buffet style. Cap things off with the choice of desserts and cheeses. After, you’ll have the option to stay behind or watch a sheepdog show and sheepshearing demonstration. Truly one of the most exceptional Queenstown tours!
- Scenic Gourmet Food and Wine Tour – Sip wine from New Zealand’s largest wine cave, be served a gourmet lunch, and indulge in local cheeses. While enjoying wines from the best regions on the island you will also pass by scenic locations and learn about the Otago Gold Rush. This half-day wine tour in Queenstown has a badge of excellence for being one the best and most popular Queenstown activities.
- Shotover River Canyon Swing– Calling all thrill-seekers! You can jump solo or go tandem on this 60-meter (200-foot) freefall over the Shotover River Canyon. The heart-thumping jump transitions into a graceful swing rocking back and forth above the most epic views. You can expect to allow 2.5hrs for this activity.
- Small-Group Zipline Adventure– If you’re not into freefall activities this zipline over Lake Wakatipu and the snow-capped Southern Alps is a great meet-in-the-middle option that can still push you out of your comfort zone if you so choose. You can pick from one of three height options that you feel most comfortable with. The professional guides make sure to provide you with the safest possible experience.
Thanks for reading!
Overall, the Fernhill Loop Track wasn’t our favorite 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!
If you have any questions or comments then leave them in the comments section below and we will get back to you. If not then check out all our New Zealand blogs or some of our other posts on Queenstown here or keep reading from our popular posts below!