Queenstown Hill Walk is one of those local walks you have to do at least once while you’re here exploring Queenstown.

It’s a beautiful trail that leads you through the forest and up to an overlook of Queenstown where you’ll get the best view of Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu!

This trail is fairly short and can easily be done in 2 to 2.5 hours return. Officially it ends at the Queenstown Hill Viewpoint but you can continue up to Queenstown Hill Peak or, if you want to go further, to Sugar Loaf Peak.

In this post, we’ll share everything you need to know about hiking up to the famous Queenstown Hill Viewpoint including how to get to the trailhead, what to bring, and what to look out for.

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Everything you need to know about Queenstown Hill Walk 

This is definitely one of the more popular hiking trails in Queenstown because of how easily accessible it is. Especially if you’re in Queenstown, don’t have a car, and are looking for a nice relaxing hike, then this is the one to do!

It’s similar to the Tiki Track where you’ll get up above Queenstown and get awesome views of the town and Lake Wakatipu. The main difference here is that the top of the Queenstown Hill Walk won’t be as busy with tourists as the Tiki Track (since that one ends at the top of the gondola).

One thing we love about Queenstown Hill Walk is that there is a bit of elevation, so you can get a good workout in, but it’s not too long – and the views are amazing from the top!

Another thing that makes it great is that, if you feel like you haven’t had enough, you can continue the trail and make your way to the top of Sugar Loaf. If you do this, please note that the continued trail crosses private land, so please be extra respectful as you walk there.

Otherwise, you can do what we did and hang out by the Queenstown Hill Viewpoint, snap some pictures, maybe enjoy a snack or two, and then make your way back down to Q-town.

Practical information about Queenstown Hill Walk

Distance: 4.8 km return / 2.98 miles return
Elevation: 399 m / 1309 ft. elevation gain
Type: Out-and-back
Length: 2.0-2.5 hours return (just the hiking section takes this long) 
Difficulty: Moderate (it’s steep but not that long of a trail)
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Click here to see a trail map of the Queenstown Hill Walk

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 Queenstown Hill Walk

Starting the hike in Queenstown

You can easily walk from Queenstown but if you come by car, you can park it here

We drove into Queenstown since we were staying in Jack’s Point when we did this trail – but if you’re already in town you can simply just walk to the trailhead!

If you’re walking from downtown Queenstown it just means you’re going to burn a few extra calories because it’s basically straight uphill from downtown to the start of the Queenstown Hill Walkway (which is definitely a hike in our opinion)!

If you make your way to Belfast Terrace (the name of the street) you’ll find the trailhead to the Queenstown Hill Walk where you’ll also see an information sign with everything you need to know about the trail.

There’s a good chance quite a few people will be out and about as it’s a popular walk/hike for locals as well as tourists.

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Hiking up to the Carin Stacks

As you make your way up the mountain you’ll be hiking along the Queenstown Hill Recreation Reserve also known as Te Tapu-Nui.

The first bit of the trail is quite exposed to the sun as you don’t get into the trees right away but after a while, you will be in the shade as you walk through the trees.

As you hike up, there will be some more information plaques along the way that share a wide variety of information. On the plaques, you will learn about the flora and fauna nearby, the history and legends of the Māori people who settled here, as well as more recent history from Queenstown.

I guess you can say this is an informative hike! As you make your way up the hill and past all the plaques you’ll also come to another special spot: Cairns Corne.

If you don’t know what Cairns are you’ll soon enough find out! They are essentially just stacks of rocks usually as a marker or a burial mound.

I guess on this trail, the cairns are ok but in general, when you’re on other hikes more in the wilderness, it’s actually recommended not to make cairns as it disrupts the local environment with all the rocks getting lifted and taken to make cairns.

It’s just a recommendation and something we’ve been taught by other outdoor lovers – and we do the best we can to respect the nature we hike on!

On this hike, though, the Cairns Corner is quite cute as it has been turned into a small fairy village! There are a bunch of different art pieces and things added over time to this spot which makes it very unique!

We also did the Queenstown Hill Hike back in 2017 and we remember most of these cairns and art pieces around this corner from back then which was pretty cool. A walk to remember some would say 😉

Take a right at the T-intersection

A few minutes after Cairns Corner you’ll come up to a t-intersection and there isn’t really a wrong way to go. We just recommend taking the trail that goes right since you’ll be taking the other trail on the way back.

At least for this short section, you’ll be able to take two different trails. One on the way up and the other one on the way down.

Whatever you end up deciding will still lead you to the Queenstown Hill Viewpoint and there are also a few markings on the way up that point you in the right direction.

It’s an easy trail to follow though so there should be no getting lost. Follow the trail, and before you know it, you’ll be above the tree line and getting quite close to the viewpoint.

Right before the viewpoint, if you’re lucky, you may also run into a bunch of new friends. When we got out to the opening before the viewpoint, we stumbled upon +10 mountain goats which was so fun.

We had no idea there were going to be a bunch of goats roaming and hanging out on Queenstown Hill (also because we didn’t see them the first time we went here), but apparently, it’s quite common to see them up here!

Take in the view from Queenstown Hill Viewpoint

Keep hiking up this last stretch and, eventually, you will end up at the viewpoint!

The view is incredible and one of our favourite things about the view is looking at Lake Wakatipu in the distance and seeing how big it really is. 

We actually prefer the view from the Queenstown Hill Viewpoint over the view from the top of the Tiki Track (another local Queenstown hike).

There’s no trees or anything obstructing your view and you have an amazing panoramic almost 360-degree view overlooking the whole area. The best part is that it really doesn’t take that long to get up here to the viewpoint!

As we mentioned before, if you want to go a bit further you can always continue hiking up to Sugar Loaf (907m) summit!

Honestly, you’ll get similar views to what you’ll get here at the Queenstown Hill Viewpoint. It’s more if you just want to hike a bit further up to get some extra exercise and enjoy the view for longer.

Back down to Queenstown

Once you’ve taken it all in either from whichever viewpoint you decide to finish at, you can make your way back down the mountain! It is an out-and-back trail so you will be going back down the same way as you came up. 

There is that little stretch where the two trails connect so you can go down the other trail that you didn’t come up if you want. At the end of the day, the trails are quite similar and both connect in the forest so the views aren’t that different! 

Then you’ll be back in the forest, walk around Cairns Corner, make your way past all the plaques, and then back to the bottom of the hill where you’ll reach the trailhead.

The only thing this hike/walk is missing is a little coffee stand at the beginning of the hike. Good business idea for anybody reading! 😉

What to bring on the Queenstown Hill Walk

This is a relatively short hike and you’re never far from a toilet, food, or the town itself (although there is no shop or bathroom on the trail).

You definitely don’t need to bring as much stuff as you would on a full-day hike but it’s still good to come prepared.

Especially since there isn’t anything up on the hill and you may want to spend some time up there enjoying the breathtaking views. Below you can find our suggested packing list…

Packing list for Queenstown Hill trail:

  • Water! We always fill up our LifeStraw bottles before hikes or day trips and even during them when we can. 
  • Sunscreen!! If you spend some time at the top of the mountain it’s worth bringing some. You’ll be exposed to the sun for about half the hike.
  • We usually recommend hiking poles for the hikes we do. This isn’t a very long hike but it is steep and hiking poles were nice to have for this one!
  • A power bank is good to bring especially if you plan to take lots of pictures and videos. It’s not a full-day hike so you should be fine but it’s still good to consider. 
  • Definitely bring some snacks or a lunch to enjoy at the top viewpoint overlooking Queenstown.
  • Any extra clothes in case it gets a little chilly up at a higher elevation. 

Also read: The Ultimate New Zealand Packing List

Before you make your way up Queenstown Hill

Check the weather

The weather definitely plays a factor in this hike since the whole top section of the hike is completely exposed with almost no cover. Personally, we only think it’s worth doing the hike on a good day with good visibility.

That way you can also enjoy the awesome views at the top! I mean, the workout and everything is great but if you’re doing this hike, it’s really to be able to enjoy the views at the top!

You can see the weather for Queenstown here.

Wear hiking shoes

Jo is wearing her Columbia’s

We always recommend wearing hiking shoes or trail shoes on almost any hike in New Zealand. Sure, you would be fine with trail runners as well but that means you’d have to pack two pairs of shoes to New Zealand…

There is quite a bit of the trail that’s either on a dirt trail or in the trees where it can get muddy if it rains a lot. Wearing proper footwear will definitely come in handy on this one.

If you don’t have any hiking shoes, we highly recommend the Newton Ridge hiking shoes from Columbia. Jo bought these last year and they’ve been so good so far!

We got lucky both times we did this hike. The trail was in great condition when we went but I’m sure with a bit of rain it can get quite muddy quite quickly.

It’s just something to consider before going. So the right footwear is definitely recommended for this one!

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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 isn’t required since it’s right in Queenstown and one of the reasons we recommend hiking the Queenstown Hill Walkway.

However, since we stayed in Jack’s Point (15 kilometres outside of Queenstown), we had a car hire. We actually had it for our whole trip around the South Island and it’s been really nice and convenient!

The further in advance you book your car, the more likely you’ll be to get a good price. For reference, we paid around $50 NZD a day for our SUV in 2024 (we booked through DiscoverCars).

You can look into getting a car hire in New Zealand here.

An option is also to rent a big enough SUV that you can also sleep in some nights if you want and save on accommodation this way! 😉

Queenstown Car Rental widget.

When is the best time to hike up above Queenstown?

If the skies are clear for the day and it looks like there’s not going to be any rain in the forecast then go for it! It’s not a very long hike and the weather you get in Queenstown is going to basically be the same weather you’ll get up on the hill.

It’s a popular spot both for locals and tourists so there’s a good chance you’ll always have people around. But the nice thing is that the viewpoint area covers a big area and there are plenty of cool spots where you can take in the view.

How to get to the trailhead?

It’s a 20-minute walk from the beach, but only a 12-minute walk from Adventure Q2 Hostel

The trailhead is a short (but steep) 20-minute walk from Queenstown Bay Beach. If you’re anywhere downtown Queenstown it will be even shorter.

It’s probably best to walk there if you can as there isn’t too much parking at the trailhead. 

Worst case you can drive down one of the side roads and find parking (just make sure the parking is free as some of the areas closer to town aren’t). There is still some free parking up there above Queenstown so just look for some street parking up near the trailhead.

You can see how to get to Queenstown Hill Trailhead from Queenstown here.

Looking for a hostel in Queenstown?

Let’s be honest, Queenstown does get extremely pricey – especially during the summer months. If you’re not camping at one of the campsites or free spots then accommodation can be quite pricey.

Thankfully, Queenstown has a lot of really good hostels. The locations of the hostels are usually also really good and are primarily located downtown, close to the Queenstown Hill trailhead.

As we mentioned before, when we did this hike, we stayed in Jack’s Point. However, we’ve stayed at about 5 different hostels in Queenstown, and below we’ve listed out three of our favourites:

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 Queenstown Hill Viewpoint

We’ve done our fair share of hikes near Queenstown and this is a great option if you want to get out and about without leaving Queenstown!

With great views of Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu, you can’t go wrong with this local beauty. 

It’s not a crazy hard or beautiful hike but it does get you out of town and up into the hills overlooking the whole area. It also gets you away from the majority of the crowds of people for a while – which is nice since Queenstown does get very busy.

If you have any questions about this hike, how to get there, or what else to do in the Queenstown area, feel free to DM us on Instagram @redwhiteadventures or leave a comment below!

We hope you have an amazing time exploring Queenstown and all the fun things there are to do around here! New Zealand is one of our favourite places on earth and we love sharing everything we know about this beautiful country.

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2 Comments

  1. Lita on June 7, 2024 at 10:57 pm

    Ohh this looks like such a fabulous hike! Sad I didn’t do this one when I was in Queenstown, but I really hope to go back sometime. I would love to add Sugarloaf to it as well.

    • redwhiteadventures on June 8, 2024 at 11:19 am

      Hey Lita,

      You can easily smash out Sugarloaf when you come visit next time!

      -Jo

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