In the rugged wilderness outside of the towns of Wanaka, Glenorchy, Makarora, and Haast, Mt. Aspiring National Park is New Zealand’s third largest park. You’ll see glaciers hanging suspended on mountainsides that are crossed by backcountry trails. Part of a UNESCO World Heritage area, this South Island landscape is truly magnificent.
The hiking trails in Mt. Aspiring National Park are some of New Zealand’s best, with the Routeburn Track being the most famous for multi-day treks. Experienced hikers seek solace on the winding Reed-Dart and Caples Tracks, and a large network of shorter day hikes create a playground of outdoor adventure. Prime views are reserved for the hardiest of trekkers—whether on an independent or guided wilderness walk—or for helicopter passengers, who share the skies with kea (alpine parrots).
Outside of Wanaka, the Rob Roy Track is a classic day hike with panoramic views of the lake, whereas Matukituki is laden with trails that explore the isolated valley. Wherever you hike, scan the skies for some of the 59 bird species found here, and take time to enjoy the stunning South Island scenery, including towering Mt. Aspiring, whose summit reaches nearly 10,000 feet (3,034 meters).
Things to Know Before You Go
- Multi-day treks are best suited for hearty, fit travelers, but guided day trips make wilderness access easier.
- River adventures by inflatable canoe or jet boat are also popular options to explore this area.
- Choose comfortable hiking shoes that are suitable for walking on uneven surfaces.
- Wear all-weather layers that wick away moisture, and bring rain-resistant outerwear for changeable conditions.
- If you’re planning to camp overnight, come prepared with plenty of food, water, cooking gear, and a sleeping bag.
How to Get There
The park can be reached from Wanaka, Queenstown/Glenorchy, or Te Anau. Frequent buses run from these towns to several park access points, and there is boat service between Glenorchy and the Greenstone Valley. Round-trip transport by bus, shuttle, or private vehicle is available on most tour itineraries.
When to Get There
The best dates to hike in Mt. Aspiring National Park are late November through March or April. Weather can change quickly in the mountains, and snow and ice are possibilities during any month of the year. Before venturing into the backcountry, be sure to check in with the local Department of Conservation (DOC) office for any alerts or closures.
Mt. Aspiring is New Zealand’s tallest peak outside of Aoraki/Mt. Cook National Park, but it’s not the only high point of this Southern Alps wilderness. The entire region, including Westland and Fiordland national parks, boasts UNESCO status, and has been named a Southwest New Zealand World Heritage Area, also known as Te Wahipounamu.