New Zealand is famous for its stunning scenery, and immersing yourself in nature is the best way to experience its remarkable landscapes up close. "Tramping" (that's Kiwi for "hiking") is a popular activity with locals and visitors alike in New Zealand, with hundreds of exceptional trails throughout the country. From the iconic Great Walks to overnight hikes and short walks, there are options for all ages and levels of ability.

Multi-day hikes are the best way to discover remote lakes and waterfalls, or sleep in a picturesque hut on the top of a mountain peak. If you’re looking for something with less gear and effort, opt for a day hike instead – try a shorter section of one of the Great Walks, or choose from one of the many short trails with breathtaking views.

Here are some of our favorite hikes in New Zealand for exploring the country’s coast, volcanoes, mountains and national parks. Some are easy, some are spine-tingling, but all of these hikes are pure Kiwi magic. Just keep in mind that if you’re doing a Great Walk or overnight hike, you’ll need to book huts or campsites well in advance through the Department of Conservation (DOC).

1. Rangitoto Island Summit Track

Best from Auckland
7km (4.3 miles), 2 hours, easy

Auckland’s youngest but largest volcanic cone was created just 600 years ago in a series of fiery eruptions. It is an elegant island and beloved city icon, reachable via a short ferry ride from downtown Auckland. 

Hike up the modest summit (250m/820ft) for great views of the city before wandering along the coast, where hardy plants pursue their quest to populate the lava fields. Rangitoto is home to the country’s largest pōhutukawa forest – a type of crimson-flowered myrtle also known as the New Zealand Christmas tree.

2. Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Best one-day walk
20km (12.4 miles), 6-8 hours, easy/moderate/difficult

Set among volcanic scenery made famous by the Lord of the Rings trilogy, this pathway in Tongariro National Park is often lauded as New Zealand’s finest one-day walk and one of the best in the world. It’s no wonder, with its peculiar moonscape graced with steaming vents and springs, vivid lakes and vast ridges.

The highly weather-dependent 20km (12.4-mile) walk takes between six and eight hours. Parts of this trek are steep, and at altitude the weather can be very unpredictable, especially in winter. If you want to experience this hike between May and November (potentially in the snow), it's best to sign up for a guided trip. If you choose to walk this track independently, book your shuttle and walk through DOC's booking system. Finally, the summit of Mt Ngāuruhoe (aka Mt Doom) – which can be accessed via a side track – is considered sacred to the local Māori iwi (tribe), who ask that visitors don't climb it out of respect. 

Abel Tasman National Park beach tourists hikers tramping on coast track trail, famous travel destinatinon. Wilderness reserve at the north end of New Zealand's South Island
The Abel Tasman Coast Track is the best of New Zealand's great walks for beach views © Maridav / Shutterstock

3. Abel Tasman Coast Track

Best for beaches
60km (37.3 miles), 3-5 days, intermediate

One of New Zealand’s most popular Great Walks, the Abel Tasman Coast Track follows the coastline of Abel Tasman National Park. The track winds through lush forest and golden beaches. Sections of the trail are popular with day visitors. Many hikers access different sections of the trail by water taxi or kayak, as there are almost no roads in the national park.

If you only have a day to dedicate to Abel Tasman National Park, try walking the 11km (6.8-mile) section from Medlands Beach to Anchorage. Be sure to allow enough time to relax at idyllic Anchorage and make the side trip to the peaceful Cleopatra’s Pool.

4. Angelus Hut via Pinchgut Track and Robert Ridge

Best overnight hike
24.4km (15.2 miles), 2 days, advanced

This trail in Nelson Lakes National Park leads to one of the most magical overnight spots in the country. Tucked into the mountains on the edge of an alpine lake, the Angelus Hut is a fairytale setting. 

Take the route up the aptly named Pinchgut Track to Mt Robert, with the beautiful Lake Rotoiti in view for much of the way. Continue along Robert Ridge towards Lake Angelus – the trail can be steep but rewards hikers with expansive mountain vistas into the heart of the park. Spend the night soaking in your spectacular surroundings, then amble back down via the gentler Paddy’s Track the next day. 

Cattle grazing in a field, Lake Matheson Walk, West Coast, South Island, New Zealand
Discover the easiest effort-to-view ratio on the walk to Lake Matheson © Keith Levit / Shutterstock

5. Lake Matheson / Te Ara Kairaumati Walk

Best short hike with mountain views
4.4km (2.7 miles), 1.5 hours, easy

This walk to Lake Matheson proves that you don’t always need to put in a huge amount of effort to be rewarded with fantastic scenery. The easy track winds through an ancient forest and leads to astounding views of the surrounding mountains reflected in the dark waters of the lake.

The first section of the walk (2.4km/1.5 miles return) is fully accessible for wheelchairs and prams, and it passes through native bush before reaching the epic mountain view. The full loop continues around the lake with two more scenic viewpoints.

Sealy Tarns Track - beautiful lake with reflection of Mount Cook -New Zealand
The climb is well worth the views on Sealy Tarns Track © Tomas Bazant / Shutterstock

6. Sealy Tarns Track

Best one-day mountain climb
7.1km (4.4 miles) return, 3-4 hours, easy

Home to more than three-quarters of New Zealand’s highest mountains, Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park’s vertiginous terrain is generally more suited to climbers than hikers. However, several trails offer the chance to survey this majestic landscape, all starting from the excellent National Park Visitor Centre.

Our favorite pick is Sealy Tarns Track. Although it involves a two-hour climb, the ever-present views of the Hooker Valley and surrounding peaks should provide ample distractions. If you’re after a longer hike, continue to the Mueller Hut, one of the most picturesque places to spend a night in New Zealand.

7. Charming Creek North Walkway

Best for history, forests and waterfalls
5.5km (3.4 miles), 2 hours one-way, easy

One of the best day walks on the West Coast, the Charming Creek North Walkway is an all-weather trail following an old coal railway line through the Ngākawau River gorge. Along its length are rusty relics, tunnels, a suspension bridge, fascinating geological formations and the mighty Mangatini Falls. The walkway is also an excellent mountain-bike ride and is a good option for active families, as the varied scenery will keep children entertained. You’ll need to arrange transport back to avoid retracing your steps.

8. Gertrude Saddle

Best for mountain views
7km (4.3 miles), 4-6 hours, expert

About 25 minutes from Milford Sound/Piopiotahi, the hike to Gertrude Saddle is a wonderful way to experience the Fiordland National Park in a single day. A challenging day hike that's best suited for advanced climbers, this route takes you up through the mountains and to amazing views of the valley, overlooking part of Milford Sound/Piopiotahi

The trail crosses over a river and past the Black Lake – a perfect spot for lunch and a swim if you don’t mind braving the cold water. Keep in mind the route involves climbing and should be avoided if there’s rain or snow.

Hiking in South Alps on the Routeburn track, South island of New Zealand
See the best of New Zealand's Great Walks on the Routeburn Track © Evgeny Gorodetsky / Shutterstock

9. Routeburn Track

Best of the Great Walks
33km (20.5 miles), 2-4 days, intermediate

Arguably the most beautiful of all New Zealand’s Great Walks, the Routeburn Track meanders through alpine rivers and past mirror-like lakes, offering incredible views across mountain peaks and valleys. The track takes you through an alpine wonderland of tarns and sphagnum bogs and is hiked best in the warmer months – only attempt it between May and October if you have alpine, navigation and river crossing skills. 

This is one of the country's most popular walks and must be booked up to eight months in advance. If you don’t have time for the full hike, get a taste of the 3.4km (2.1-mile) Routeburn Track on a one-day hike to Key Summit. The three-hour trail affords panoramic views of Fiordland National Park's mountains, valleys and waterfalls, and it completes the picture with interpretive displays explaining how this spectacular landscape was formed. 

This article was first published Apr 23, 2015 and updated Oct 22, 2023.

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