NEW ZEALAND HIKING, with wild beaches, deep woods, and breathtaking mountains all within a few hours of one another, New Zealand has a reputation for having some of the best hiking in the world. Known as “the bush” locally, woods encompass 38% of New Zealand.


These areas of dense trees are home to thousands of hiking trails, most of which are managed by the Department of Conservation (“DOC”) – a Government agency enacted to protect New Zealand’s nature, including our native trees and birds. DOC work includes maintaining tracks, providing a network of basic (but oh-so-cozy) huts to spend the night in, pest control work, and much more.

Thanks to DOC, and some generous private landowners, too, no matter what kind of hiking you’re looking for, you’ll be able to find it in New Zealand. The North and South Islands are full of hiking trails ranging from just a few hours to a few days long. There are great trails for beginner hikers and many trails taking experienced hikers deep into the bush.

Growing up in New Zealand, I spent a lot of time out in the bush as a child. In 2021, I decided there was still so much more to see, and so I set off to hike New Zealand’s biggest trail, Te Araroa, a 3,000km (1,864mile) thru-hike from the Northern tip of the North Island, all the way down to the Southernmost point of the South Island. Te Araroa connects many different day and multi-day hikes, all coming together to form an incredible picture of New Zealand. However, if you don’t have five months off work to go hiking, I’ve put together a list of some of New Zealand’s best hikes.


There are thousands of good day hikes in New Zealand, so narrowing it down to some of my favourites was difficult. Here’s a trail selection that showcases some of New Zealand’s best natural landscapes.


Whangarei Falls, Northland On North Island Of NZ
The hike to Whangarei Falls is one of the popular hiking tours in New Zealand.

Te Whara Track is one of the best hiking trails in Northland.

It’s on the East Coast, approximately 38km (23 miles) from Whangarei.

This trail combines bushwalking with ocean views, and there are also the ruins of some World War Two structures to explore.

The trail is only 7.5km (4.6 miles) long but takes approximately six hours.

It involves a large climb towards the Bream Head summit and an undulating track along the ridgeline.

Te Whara Track starts at the Ocean Beach car park and finishes at Urquharts Bay car park, because it’s a one-way trail, you’ll need to plan your return.

If you don’t have someone to pick you up, consider booking a shuttle to collect you.

Te Whara Track trailhead is at Ocean Beach Car Park, Whangārei Heads 0174, New Zealand.


The Hakarimata Walkway is just north of Ngaruawahia, in the Waikato region of New Zealand, and this is a great walk to fill up a quiet weekend day.

It’s a one-way trail, but it can be walked in either a northbound or southbound direction.

If you’re heading south, you’ll start walking at Parker Road, wandering through a grove of native Kauri trees and climbing up onto the ridgeline.

As you walk, you’ll get views of Auckland and Hamilton and the farmland in between.

This trail is 12km (7.4 miles) long and will take approximately 7.5 hours.

If you’re short on time, there are some variations you can take, but we recommend seeing the whole trail.

Be careful, though, DOC has categorised the Hakarimata Walkway as an “advanced” trail, meaning it can be rough and steep in places, and you’ll need to wear hiking boots.

The Hakarimata Walkway’s northern entrance is at 87 Parker Road, Huntly 3771, New Zealand.


The Kauaeranga Kauri Trail is one of the most popular day hikes on the North Island, and I can see why.

Also known as “the Pinnacles Walk”, this trail is a steady climb uphill to a well-maintained hut and a 759m high summit.

Once you reach the top, you’re treated to views across the mountains and out to the Pacific Ocean.

The Kauaeranga Kauri Trail is sometimes completed as an overnight hike, but we recommend taking a packed lunch and getting up and down in one day.

This trail is 12km kilometres (7.4 miles) long, 6 km (3.7 miles) to the summit and 6 km (3.7 miles) back to the car park.

Completing the roundtrip will take approximately six hours.

There’s a lot of elevation and stairs, but it’s worth it when you get to the top.

There’s also a DOC hut at the top which sleeps 80 people, but except for the toilet and some untreated water, there are no extra facilities, so don’t expect much.

The Kaueranga Kauri Trail starts at Kauaeranga Valley Road End, Waikato, New Zealand.


Hikers on the Tongariro Crossing
Tongariro National Park is one of the best places to go hiking in New Zealand’s South Island.

If this list wasn’t in geographical order, the Tongariro Crossing hike would be at the top.

This is one trail that every New Zealander and tourist alike should hike before they die.

This mountain hike is like walking on Mars or the Moon.

It’s an ancient volcano, and you’ll see several craters, huge slopes of volcanic rock, and bright blue crater lakes.

If you’re a Lord of the Rings fan, then this hike is a must, as you’ll get great views of Ngaruahoe along the way, which is the fictional “Mount Doom”.

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a one-way trail that is 19.4km long (12 miles).

If you’ve got average fitness and hiking experience, you shouldn’t have any problems completing this trail between November and May.

In winter, however, you’ll find snow and ice on the trail, and you must have alpine skills and experience to complete this trail.

Even in Summer, check the weather forecast before you leave, as you want a clear, sunny day to hike this track.

The views are incredible, and you’ll miss out if it’s a cloudy or foggy day.

It’s also very difficult to park near the trail, and DOC recommends staying in a local town and booking a shuttle to and from the trail.

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing starts at Mangatepōpō Road end, Manawatu-Whanganui 3989, New Zealand.



Mount Taranaki In New Zealand
Mount Taranaki is one of the best hiking trails in New Zealand.

This is a big hike and one that you need good fitness and preparation to undertake.

Mt Taranaki is one of the biggest mountains in New Zealand, standing at 2,518 meters (8,261 feet) tall.

Even in summer, you’ll find snow and ice on the very peak of the mountain, and the long, arduous scree slopes aren’t something to mess with.

Despite that, the view from the top makes all your hard work worth it, as you can see out across the Tasman Sea and inland across striking Taranaki farmland.

From the Visitor’s Centre at the bottom to the top of Mount Taranaki, and then back down is a 12.6km (7.8 miles) round trip.

Because of the steep stairs, tricky scree slopes, and rocky clambering required, this is a challenging trail and can take up to 10 hours.

You must check the weather before departing, and don’t attempt this trail without appropriate hiking gear.

This trail begins at Taranaki (Egmont) National Park Visitor Centre, 2879 Egmont Road, New Plymouth 4386, New Zealand.


Wellington Skyline In New Zealand
Wellington is a city you might want to visit when going on a hiking trip in New Zealand.

Opened in 2016, the Paekākāriki Escarpment Trail is a fantastic one to walk while you’re in
the Wellington region.

This trail has been dug into the edge of a hillside, and there’s a clear view down to the railway, highway, and ocean below.

There are around 1,200 steps to climb, numerous swing bridges to cross and some sections of the trail are very narrow.

This is not a trail to attempt if you’re afraid of heights!

The Paekākāriki Escarpment Trail is best undertaken one way, in a North-to-South direction.

Starting from the Paekākāriki Train Station and finishing at Pukerua Bay, the Paekākāriki
Escarpment Trail is 9.1km (5.6 miles) long and will take approximately four hours.

It’s easy to catch the train from Wellington City to the start, and because the trail finishes at a train station, you can catch the train home again!

The Paekākāriki Escarpment Trail begins at Paekākāriki Station, Paekākāriki 5034, New Zealand.


Nelson Lakes National Park
Nelson Lakes National Park has some of the best hiking trails in New Zealand.

The Lake Rotoiti Circuit trail follows the shores of Lake Rotoiti in the Nelson Lakes region of
New Zealand.

This is a beautiful hike, with views of native bush, gushing waterfalls, and crystal-clear lake water the whole way.

Lake Rotoiti is one of New Zealand’s most picturesque lakes; hiking this trail will ensure you can experience it.

The Lake Rotoiti The circuit is either 23km (14.2 miles) or 31km (19.2 miles), depending on the variation you take.

DOC suggests it will take 7 to 10 hours to complete, so make sure you set off early in the morning for this hike.

You can take several variations, including an option to arrange a water taxi to cover some of those miles for you.

This trailhead is at the Rotoiti Visitor Centre, View Road, St Arnaud.


Summit Of Famous Hike To Roys Peak, New Zealand
The hike to Roys Peak is the best hiking in New Zealand for amazing views.

Roys Peak is one of New Zealand’s most Instagrammed spots, and it’s a must-do hike on most people’s bucket lists when they head to the South Island town of Wanaka.

This trail truly is spectacular, 6km (3.7 miles) out of Wanaka or 68 km (42 miles) out of Queenstown.

From the trail, you’ll get breathtaking views across Lake Wanaka, out to the Southern Alps.

Roys Peak stands at 1,578 meters (5,177 feet) high, and the trail is 16km (10 miles). It’s a 6-hour hike to the summit and back, and this is an easy, well-marked trail.

Beware, you can’t hike this trail between 1 October and 10 November, as it’s a
a working farm and lambs are born during this time.

The Roy’s Peak Summit hike begins at Roys Peak Track Car Park, Mount Aspiring Road, Glendhu Bay 9382, New Zealand.




This trail showcases some of the same incredible scenery as the Tongariro Alpine Crossing detailed above, plus much more!

The Tongariro Northern Circuit is a 44.9km (28-mile) loop trail taking three to four days to complete.

On this trail, you’ll experience beech forests, volcanic scree slopes, incredible crater lakes, and views across the centre of New Zealand’s North Island.

On the Tongariro Northern Circuit, there are three different huts that you can choose to stay in, depending on the distance you plan to cover each day.

Each hut has bunks, toilets, and heating, but you’ll need to hike in with your food and bedding.

You’ll also need to book your places in advance, and because this is one of New Zealand’s best hikes, these often sell out quickly.

The Tongariro Northern Circuit begins and ends at Whakapapa Village, Manawatu-Wanganui 3989, New Zealand.




The Alpine Route in Nelson’s Richmond Ranges is a long and challenging hiking route.

This hike is only if you’re experienced, well-prepared, and hiking in a group.

It can take six days to complete, and you’ll need to carry your food and supplies
for the entire trip.

There are no chances to resupply along the way.

If you’re experienced, however, this is one of the best hikes you can do in New Zealand.

This Alpine Route follows a stream to begin, then steadily climbs until you’re on the top of the Richmond Ranges.

Mount Rintoul’s summit is the trail’s highest point, at 1,713m high.

The DOC huts along the ranges are basic but comfortable and will provide an excellent place to settle in for the night.

Like the other DOC huts we’ve mentioned, they have bunk beds and a toilet, but that’s all.

This trail can be hiked in either a northbound or southbound direction, however, we recommend hiking toward the south.

If you do, the trailhead is at Hacket Picnic Area, Aniseed Valley Road, Hope 7081, New Zealand.


For a challenging multi-day hike that’s one of New Zealand’s best-kept secrets, we recommend hiking in the Te Kahui Kaupeka Conservation Park, also called the “Two Thumbs Range”.

This hike begins at Mesopotamia Station, which is 114 km kilometres (70 miles) from
the small town of Methven.

It’s part of the Te Araroa Trail and will take three to four days to cross the ranges into picturesque  Lake Tekapo.

There are multiple river crossings, mountains to summit, ridgelines to follow, and steep hills to climb, so this hike is only for the experienced.

Despite that, it is well-marked, and if you’re a confident hiker, then it’s certainly a trail to explore.

You have a choice of 4 different huts to stay in along the way, including “Royal Hut”, which is said to have hosted a young King Charles and Princess Diana.

This trail begins next to Mesopotamia Station, 4909 Rangitata Gorge Road, RD20, Peel Forest 7990, New Zealand.


Guided Kepler Track Heli Hike
A helihike is a fantastic way to hike New Zealand’s Kepler Track.

The Kepler Track is a 60km (37 miles) loop track located in the Fiordland National Park.

This hike will take three to four days to complete and takes you through native forests,
along the shores of Lake Te Anau and up onto incredible ridgelines.

There are several different campsites and huts that you can choose from on this
hike so that you can plan your days.

As well as incredible scenery, if you’re lucky, you’ll see some of New Zealand’s cheekiest native bird, the giant green parrot called the “Kea”.

The Kepler Track is New Zealand’s newest “Great Walk”.

This means that it’s a well-maintained multi-day trail showcasing some of the best scenery in New Zealand.

It also means that you must book in advance and passes to complete this trial sell out quickly each year.

This hike should only be completed between October and April each year, as it’s very snowy and icy in winter.

The Kepler Track begins at the Kepler Car Park, 1223 Manapouri-Te Anau Highway, Manapouri 9679, New Zealand.



This hike is another Great Walk, although because it’s so much further south, it doesn’t book out as quickly as the Kepler Track.

The Rakiura Track is on Stewart Island, the smallest of New Zealand’s three main islands.

On this trail, you’ll follow a gently undulating, well-maintained trail through native forests and along untouched coastlines.

It’s a 32km (20-mile) loop track, and most hikers take three days to complete this hike.

There are two DOC huts that you can stay at, as well as campsites you can book.

It’s important that you book these in advance, and you can either do that online or at the Visitors Centre near the start of the trail.

Rakiura Island can often be subject to stormy weather, so make sure that you check the forecast before you set off and take appropriate hiking equipment.

The Raikura Track starts outside Oban Township, at Rakiura National Park, Lee Bay, 9818, New Zealand.



Routeburn Track Guided Walk (Half Day)
Another place to go hiking in New Zealand is the Routeburn Track.

These are just some of the incredible hikes that you can enjoy when you’re in New Zealand.

If you plan to hike these trails or others, you must be well prepared.

A lot of the backcountry in New Zealand is rugged and remote, and tragically many hikers have died while attempting to conquer trails like these.

You must research the hike before you begin, and the DOC website is usually a great starting point.

Once you’ve checked out that site, contact the nearest DOC Visitors Centre for some up-to-date information and any helpful tips for the particular trail you’re planning to hike.

As well as that, here are a few things you should consider:

Carry A Personal Locator Beacon (“PLB”)      
  • Once you leave New Zealand’s cities and towns, it is common to find yourself
    without any cellphone coverage.
  • Some of these trails, such as the Richmond Ranges Alpine Route, could mean six
    days with no cellphone coverage at all.
  • It’s important to have a way of contacting emergency services if you need it,
    and a Personal Locator Beacon is the best way to do that.
  • If you don’t own one, most visitor centres and outdoor shops will let you hire
    them for a small fee.
Check The Weather Forecast
  • The weather in New Zealand can change quickly, and those changes can make a huge difference to the trail you’re planning to hike.
  • Whether it’s snow, sun, or rain, make sure that you know that the conditions will be good before you set off on a hike. If you’re unsure, the DOC Visitors Centre should be able to help.
  • However, don’t set off on a hiking trail if there’s any doubt in your mind.
Tell Someone Where You’re Going
  • You should always tell someone where you’re going when attempting these hiking trails.
  • Make sure that friends or family know the route you’re going to follow, and
    when to expect you back.
  • It’s also a good idea to log your intentions with the DOC office and fill out
    any log books that you encounter along the way.
Pack Appropriate Equipment
  • On New Zealand’s hiking trails, you must wear appropriate footwear and carry equipment to ensure that you stay safe and comfortable while hiking.
  • This will change depending on where you’re going, but it’s often a good idea to
    carry extra food and water, as well as a good raincoat, some warm clothes, a
    first aid kit, and a flashlight.
  • If you have any concerns about your equipment, you shouldn’t set off on a hike.
Have Fun!
  • Of course, don’t forget to have fun! Heading out into New Zealand’s mountains and
    forests is exciting and should always be fun.
  • This is a great chance to challenge yourself, see a new part of the world, and
    immerse yourself in the beauty that New Zealand has to offer.
  • Any one of these hiking trails will give you the chance to do that, so what are
    you waiting for?

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