The Lake Alta Track is located up in the Remarkables near Queenstown and it’s one of the more well-known tracks close to the town – and for good reason! It’s a short and sweet (yet challenging) hike that takes you to the most beautiful glacier lake below some stunning peaks and a small waterfall.

This moderate trail is located up on the ski field in the Remarkables mountain range just 35 minutes from Queenstown and it’s quite popular because of the beautiful Lake Alta (and because of how easily accessible it is).

If you’re brave enough, you can even go for a dip in this picturesque alpine lake – but it will be a bit of a cold plunge since it is a glacial lake.

It’s a great, moderately difficult hike where you’ll get a taste of what the Remarkables are about. Actually, the drive up to the Lake Alta trailhead is almost as beautiful as the hike itself. In this post, we’ve covered everything you need to know about this trail including how to get there and what to bring!

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Everything you need to know about Lake Alta track

Hiking Lake Alta is a short and sweet hike that should take you around 1 to 1.5 hours return. It’s absolutely beautiful – and actually, the drive up to the trailhead is stunning as well!

You’ll leave Queenstown and head in the direction of Milford Sound before you turn off to head up the Remarkables. Once you’ve turned off Highway 6, the road costs $15 to enter (you can find the details later in this post).

The journey up the mountain starts on a paved road and will zig-zag you up above Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu as you gain elevation. Make sure you stop at some of the viewpoints either going up or on the way down as it’s absolutely stunning!

Eventually, the road will turn into gravel for the last little section and before you know it, you’ll be at the trailhead which is by the ski lift. Once you’re up there, just park your car in the parking lot and you’re ready to go.

There is also a bathroom facility you can use there. Make sure to leave the water running on the tab in the bathroom (as counterintuitive as that may seem) so that the water doesn’t freeze in the pipes.

This hike isn’t as easy to get to as the Tiki Track in Queenstown on the Queenstown Hill Walk but it really only is a short drive to the Remarkables from Queenstown. 

Below, you will find practical information about the track as well as trail directions.

Practical information about the Lake Alta track

Distance: 3.4 km return / 2.11 miles return
Elevation: 207 m / 679 ft. elevation gain
Type: In-and-out
Length: 1-1.5 hours return (time to enjoy Lake Alta included) 
Difficulty: Moderate
Entry fee: $15 to enter the Remarkables 
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Click here to see a trail map of the Lake Alta Track

Hiking Tip: Look up the trail on AllTrails before starting your hike 🗺️. You can find important trail information such as recent wildlife sights and trail closures. Check out the free version here or get a 7-day free trial of AllTrails+ here.

Here’s a picture of the beginning of the Lake Alta Track

Starting at the Remarkables parking lot

The trailhead is pretty easy to find because you’ll drive up the Remarkables Ski-field road to the very end where you’ll see the huge building and parking lot. The Lake Alta Track conveniently starts right from the parking lot (on the right-hand side behind the building) and it’s easy to find.

We’ll be honest and say that the beginning of the hike isn’t anything to rave about as you just hike up some gravel. But it’s short-lived, and soon enough you’ll get to the more beautiful part of the hike!

This first bit is really just walking on what is a ski run during the winter months so during the summer it doesn’t really look like anything special. Thankfully you have this beautiful mountain landscape all around you so you have something nice to look at while making your way further into the mountains. 

Continue along the trail to Lake Alta

The trail is quite short so once you’re off the ski-slope section you’ll steer onto a nicer mountain trail. You’ll be walking on this path for a while in between grass, over some rocks, across a little creek, and up a small hill before finally seeing Lake Alta. 

There is a bit of elevation but soon enough you’ll be above the lake. About 100 meters before reaching the lake, you’ll get to one of our favourite viewpoints of Lake Alta because you’ll get to see it from above which makes it look extra special (and it’s great for photos).

Enjoy the views at Lake Alta

Once you’ve taken in the view you can continue down to Late Alta and enjoy this glacier lake up close. We didn’t swim in it but we saw some other people enjoying the cool water. It was pretty windy and cool the day we hiked it so it didn’t feel that appealing to jump in but on a hotter day, we definitely would’ve!

Regardless of whether you go in or not, you’ll be able to get some awesome views (and photos) of the lake. It’s a great, relaxing spot. This was one of our first times up in the Remarkables and we loved it!

We stayed in Jack’s Point for a while so hiking around here and Wye Creek has been really fun. It’s definitely worth hiking up to Lake Alta if you have the time!

Optional: Continue up to Single Cone Peak

If you’re up for it – and if you’re an experienced tramper or climber (!) – you can add an additional stretch to your hike! We actually didn’t do this section because we didn’t know that it was there until after we completed the hike, but if we’d known about it, we would’ve checked it out.

So from Lake Alta, you can hike to a summit above the lake called Single Cone (2319m). If you want to continue up to Single Cone, this will add a few kilometres and some serious incline to your hike.

If you attempt to do this, make sure you come prepared for that with enough water & snacks, sunscreen, and proper gear. From the peak, you’ll get another epic view overlooking the lake and you’ll also get an amazing view of the whole mountain range! You can see the trail direction here.

If you have the time and the experience that is required, you can make your way up to the summit of Single Cone and enjoy the view from the top. If not, then you can chill out and just hang around Lake Alta like we did!

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Make your way back to the beginning of the hike

Once you’ve taken in the view and maybe gone for a swim in the lake, you can make the journey back to the trailhead. It should be quite quick going back since it’s all downhill to get back to the trailhead.

There aren’t many viewpoints on the way back, so it’s pretty much just straightforward back down to the car park from where you’ll have a nice zig-zaggy drive back down to Queenstown.

We would recommend stopping on the drive down though because there are a few amazing viewpoints overlooking Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu as you probably noticed on the way up!

What to bring on the Lake Alta Track

This isn’t a crazy long hike and you’re never far from anything as Lake Alta is less than 2 kilometres from the parking lot, so you don’t have to bring a ton of gear. Some water & snacks, sunscreen, and your swimsuit will do.

It’s also a good idea to pack some extra clothes because even during the summer months it can get quite cold and windy up in the mountains. (But if you’re planning on going up to Single Cone, you’ll need to come extra prepared for the strenuous hike to the peak.)

As we mentioned, there is a toilet facility at the trailhead so you have access to that before and after the hike.

Packing list for Lake Alta Track:

  • Water! We always fill up our LifeStraw bottles before we go on hikes.
  • Sunscreen!! You’ll be exposed to the sun for the whole hike even though it’s short. If you want to swim in the lake, please double-check that you’re using eco-friendly sunscreen so as to not pollute the lake!
  • This isn’t a very long hike but it is a bit steep and hiking poles were nice to have for this one!
  • A power bank is nice to good to bring as well – especially if you plan to take lots of pictures and videos. 
  • Definitely bring some snacks or a lunch to enjoy at Lake Alta!
  • If you’re thinking of swimming in the lake, make sure you bring your swimsuit and a towel.
  • Extra layers in case it gets a little chilly up at the higher elevation (which it often does).

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Before you make your way up to Lake Alta

Check the weather

The weather definitely plays an important factor when doing this hike since you’ll be at quite a high elevation – and it can also get quite windy in the Remarkables. You can see the weather for the Remarkables here.

We suggest going on a nice, sunny day with little wind as it makes it more enjoyable to hang out by the lake (and even go for a dip if you’re feeling it!). Also, you’ll get a lot better views of the peaks and the surrounding mountains on a nice, clear day.

Wear hiking shoes

We always recommend wearing hiking shoes or trail shoes when hiking in the mountains. The majority of this trail is gravel and dirt and there are even a few sections that can get a little muddy – so wearing proper footwear will definitely come in handy when hiking to Lake Alta.

During the summer though, if the conditions are good, you can probably get by with some running or trail shoes especially since it is a relatively short hike compared to lots of the other hikes around the country.

If you don’t have any hiking shoes, we highly recommend the Newton Ridge hiking shoes from Columbia. Jo got these recently and she loves them! Just something to consider before going.

Leave no trace

When you go hiking (and do other outdoor adventure activities), always remember to follow the 7 principles of leaving no trace.

This means:

  1. Plan ahead and prepare.
  2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces.
  3. Dispose of waste properly.
  4. Leave what you find.
  5. Minimize campfire impacts.
  6. Respect wildlife.
  7. Be considerate of others.

Rent a car in New Zealand

For this specific hike, a car is required since you’ll need to get up the Remarkables Ski-field road and to the beginning of the trailhead.

We’ve had a car hire here in New Zealand for our whole trip and it’s been really nice and convenient – especially when getting to some of these hikes that are hard to access without.

A little tip if you’re looking to rent a car in New Zealand: The earlier you book, the more likely you are to get a good price! We always use DiscoverCars (we’ve used them many times) and we managed to find a rental for $50 NZD a day during peak season in NZ.

Queenstown Car Rental widget.

When is the best time to hike up to Lake Alta?

The summer months are the best time to come and explore the Remarkables and hike up to Lake Alta. Since the lake is already at a pretty high altitude, it will likely be covered in snow from late fall/early winter to early spring – you can also expect some less good conditions outside of summertime.

Even during the summer, we had a ton of wind and the conditions weren’t perfect but they were good enough for us to enjoy the view.

There are so many other hikes (at lower altitudes) that are better to do if the weather isn’t great up at Lake Alta – so make sure to check the weather before you go. You can see the weather forecast for the Remarkables here.

How to get to the Lake Alta trailhead

Directions from Queenstown to Lake Alta trailhead

To get to Lake Alta, you will need a car as the trailhead is a 35-40 minute drive from downtown Queenstown (slightly shorter if you’re staying in Jacks Point like we did).

The drive is pretty straightforward as you just head out of Queenstown towards Frankton along 6A before turning right at the roundabout in Frankton onto Highway 6.

Once you’ve crossed the Kawarau River there will be a left bend followed by a right bend, and shortly after that, you take a left up towards the Remarkables Skifield. It costs $15 NZD to enter this road.

After you’ve paid, all you have to do is follow the road all the way to the car park! You can see how to get to Lake Alta Trailhead from Queenstown here.

One of the viewpoints along the drive up to Lake Alta

Hostels in Queenstown

As you may know, Queenstown can get really pricey – especially during the peak season! Thankfully, though, Queenstown has a lot of good hostels that are all located very centrally right downtown.

When we did this hike, we stayed in Jack’s Point but because we used to live in Milford Sound, we’ve stayed in a lot of different hostels in Queenstown! Below we’ve listed out three of our favourite hostels in Queenstown:

Hostels are great to stay at if you’re looking to meet other travellers as there are always daily events going on, and there are always people who want to go out and do fun things with you!

If you’re more of a hotel person, you can also browse other places of accommodation on this map:

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Recap of hiking Lake Alta Track

We’ve done our fair share of hikes near Queenstown and this one just outside Q-town in the Remarkables is a great option if you’re looking for something shorter with a beautiful view at the end. Especially if you have a car and want to explore some of the hikes outside of Queenstown!

The Remarkables is such a unique mountain range and completely different from some of the other nearby mountain ranges like Mount Aspiring in Wānaka or the Hunter Mountain Range in Fiordland.

This is one of many hikes you can do up in the Remarkables during the summer months and it’s also one of the shorter ones – so it’s perfect if you’re just looking for a morning or afternoon hike.

If you have any questions about this hike, what to do in the Queenstown area, or anything else, feel free to DM us on Instagram or leave a comment below.

We hope you have an amazing time exploring the Remarkables and all the fun things there are to do in and near Queenstown. This part of New Zealand is one of our favourite places on earth and we love sharing all these amazing hikes we’ve done with you!

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