Ben Lomond Track – Hiking Above Queenstown
When I think of hiking in New Zealand, one of the first ones to come to mind will always be the Ben Lomond Track in Queenstown. Sure there are countless others around the country – everything from Roys Peak in Wanaka to the Tongariro Alpine Crossing on the North Island. But when I think of a quintessential New Zealand hike it is Ben Lomond for me. It has the views, it has the incline, and it has the peak. Now do not get me wrong – the Ben Lomond hike is NO JOKE, but believe me, the climb is WELL WORTH the effort. This guide will go into detail regarding what to expect on the track and how to better prepare yourself to conquer the peak.
1. Ben Lomond Track Facts
I wanted to highlight some important facts to know before heading off for this hike. It is NOT for everyone and you need to be in good physical condition to complete the track.
Starting & Ending Point: EITHER 1) From Queenstown OR 2) Top of Queenstown Gondola (more on those options soon)
Type: There and back (same path)
Length: 11 KM / 6.8 Miles from Top of Gondola • 14 KM / 8.7 Miles from Queenstown
Elevation Gain: 1,000 Meters / 3,280 Feet from Top of Gondola • 1,438 Meters / 4,718 Feet from Queenstown
Summit Elevation: 1,748 Meters / 5,735 Feet (Saddle Elevation: 1,326 Meters / 4,350 Feet)
Time: 4-6 Hours from Top of Gondola / 6-8 Hours from Queenstown (round trip)
Track: Dirt / Technical Rock for final summit push
Difficulty: Hard (the official NZ DOC website lists it as easy – not sure how they came up with that one!!)
2. When to Take Part
While it is an accomplishment within itself to complete the trek to the top of Ben Lomond Peak, it will not be the same experience if the views are not out there to see. As you decide when to head out on the trail I highly recommend doing so on the clearest day possible. If there is low cloud coverage, that can get in the way of the views both during the hike and on top of the mountain. What made Ben Lomond so special for me was the constant views of Lake Wakatipu down below during the first part of the hike, followed by the never ending views of the mountain ranges as I made my way to the summit. If there are many clouds on the day you are hiking, these views may be obstructed and could have a negative impact on the trail.
Depending on daylight hours, time of year, and hiking level, you may want to start the hike earlier on in the day. This way you can avoid hiking up during the hottest point of the day, and you can get back down in Queenstown before the sun starts going down.
TIP: I usually use Meteoblue for my mountain weather and you are able to see cloud coverage / number of hours of sun on a day by day basis. You can head over the Ben Lomond weather page for the latest – there are many Ben Lomond’s on the website so follow the link for the correct one
3. What to Bring on the Trail
This section has become pretty standard throughout my hiking articles in New Zealand. You will want to bring along the following items when hitting the trail.
» Water Bottle x 2
» Energy Bars / Snacks
» Hiking Shoes
» Layers – Shirt / Shorts / Light Sweater / Pants
This was one hike I particularly remember sweating and be very hot on the way up and then when I reached the top it was frigid as the wind picked up and I felt that drop in temperature. Bringing those can work wonders on top of Ben Lomond!
4. The Starting Point
Mentioned earlier you can either start the trail in Queenstown (either the base of the Queenstown Gondola or on Lomond Crescent road), or you can make your way to the top of the Queenstown Gondola and begin the trail up Ben Lomond from there. Below is a map that shows the three starting points followed by a quick description of them.
1. Tiki Trail or Lomond Crescent
At the bottom of the Skyline Queenstown Gondola, you will see signs pointing to the Tiki Trail. The Tiki Trail is a 45-minute uphill zig zagging path that takes you up the mountain and meets up with the Ben Lomond track – basically an alternate to taking the gondola up. While it does not have the “views” per se, it is a nice trail that takes you through the forest greenery of Queenstown. It is a great way to have a very diverse type of hike as this part of the trail will be in the forest and the actual Ben Lomond track will be above the tree line with vast views.
Alternatively to starting at the base of the Queenstown Gondola, you can also start at Lomond Crescent road. The trail from there eventually meets up with the Ben Lomond track as you get a bit higher up the mountain. It should also take about 45 minutes to get to the meet up with the Ben Lomond track so if you are trying to start your hike from Queenstown, either one of these options should work well for you.
2. The Skyline Queenstown Gondola
Your other option here is just to simply take the Queenstown Gondola up to the starting point of the trail. This 10 minute journey will take you above the forest, as you enjoy some views of Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu down below. Once off the gondola you will just begin to follow the path pointing you to Ben Lomond.
So, you do actually have a few options here:
1) Tiki Trail / Lomond Crescent Up • Tiki Trail / Lomond Crescent Down ($0 NZD)
2) Tiki Trail / Lomond Crescent Up • Gondola Down ($29 NZD)
3) Gondola Up • Tiki Trail / Lomond Crescent Down ( $44 NZD – they do not sell one way up gondola tickets – only one way down. If you decide for this option you will essentially be overpaying for a one way gondola ride as you would need to buy a round trip)
4) Gondola Up • Gondola Down ($44 NZD)
• If you decide to take the Tiki Trail or trail from Lomond Crescent up and down, you will not need to pay anything to take part of Ben Lomond. On the other hand, if you take the round trip gondola it will cost you $44 NZD and a one way gondola down will cost $29 NZD (one way gondolas are only sold as a one way down option).
• Another thing to point out here is that on top of the gondola you will find a restaurant/café if you need to take a break and there is also the famous Queenstown luge – a fun option to maybe add to the end of your day.
• The Skyline Queenstown Gondola opens at 9AM. If you want to decide before this then you would need to opt for the hike up from Queenstown
Take a Look at Some New Zealand Guide Books For Your Trip
The Ben Lomond track can be broken down into two distinct parts – the trail to the saddle followed by the ascent to the summit. The path from the top of the gondola to the saddle is longer but less steep while the path from the saddle to summit in shorter but much steeper and technical.
5. Ben Lomond Track – Gondola to Saddle
The path from the top of the gondola to saddle is one of my favorites in all of New Zealand. Shortly after you begin the Ben Lomond track, you will exit the forest and be welcomed to vast views of Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu down below. As you continue the climb, the views will just continue to get better as you get a wider perspective of the lake and the surrounding mountains. The path is on a constant incline for the most part and will be made up of a dirt track with some steps sprinkled in throughout.
As you are making the climb you will consistently see the top of Ben Lomond the entire time. This can be great as you know how close you are getting, or it can be very frustrating as you know how far away you are from the top. As you make your way up be sure to turn around a few times to take in those lake views too!
Once you get through 2-3 hours of climbing, you should reach the Ben Lomond Saddle. At the saddle you will then be pointed left up towards the final summit push.
6. Ben Lomond Track – Saddle to Summit
Get ready for what I think is one of the toughest parts of any New Zealand hike – the summit push from the Saddle to the Peak. While it looks like the peak is just right in front of you, it is actually another hour to get up there. And soon enough the nice dirt path will end and you will start climbing your way up the technical rocks. This part of the trail is seriously no joke – the incline is as tough and technical as it gets and you will be using each and every muscle that you have.
It should take just about an hour to get to the top as you pick and choose your next step up the mountain. To your left will be those Lake Wakatipu views and to your right will be these incredible ever expanding mountain views (hopefully they can distract you a bit from what you are putting your body through). Soon enough though you will begin to reach the top of the Ben Lomond Track at 1,748 meters.
Take some time to take it all in because it is one special feeling to be on top of Queenstown and see these views for yourself. Like mentioned earlier, it can get very chilly and windy on top now that you have stopped moving and are just standing on the peak.
Take a Look at Some New Zealand Guide Books For Your Trip
7. Back Down to Queenstown
Everything you just hiked up – well you will need to hike it back down. The Summit to Saddle downhill will be the toughest part of the descent. You will need to watch your step and take it slow. It may take just about the same time on the way down that it did on the way up just because of how technical it is. One misstep and you could seriously hurt yourself. However, once you are back on the saddle, it should get much easier from there. Just head down the track, take in the views and enjoy the last of what the Ben Lomond track has to offer.
Once at the top of the gondola, you can make the decision how you would like to get back into Queenstown (Gondola or Tiki Trail / Lomond Crescent). Once back in town, it is time to relax those legs and start the rest and recovery process.
8. Where to Stay in Queenstown
If taking part of the trail you are most likely doing so from Queenstown. It is a great lakeside town with plenty of accommodation options to choose from. Since it is not that big, location wont be too big of a deal (however you can find some places a bit further out of the way). Below are some options at different price points to take a look at that are mostly within walking distance of town center:
3. Oaks Shores (a bit further out of town)
2. Hilton Queenstown Resort (a bit further out of town)
Well, by now you should be all good to go to conquer the Ben Lomond track on your own. I hope this guide can get you going in the right direction and on top of that peak in no time. Feel free to write in below with any questions or comments and check out some other New Zealand itineraries and guides up on the site. Have fun out there and safe travels!
Some of the guides currently up on the site include:
And Dont Forget to Check Out the 10 Day New Zealand North Island Itinerary