The beauty of New Zealand is no secret! The rugged and wild landscapes make it the perfect place to get out and explore nature. Hiking is the best way to really see the country, challenge yourself and get to know the feeling of remoteness, peace and feeling small. It allows you to disconnect and marvel at the works of mother nature.
Whether you’re on a day or multi-day hike, one of the great walks or a backcountry hike, hiking in New Zealand will change you in one way or another. Before you go through, here are a few things to know before hiking in New Zealand.
1) KIWIS CALL IT TRAMPING
They also refer to hikes as walks. They, of course, know what you mean when you say hiking but like many other words of the Kiwi language, you just go with it. So when people say I’m going tramping this weekend, just know they’ll be walking up a mountain not shaking what their momma gave them. Also, don’t be fooled like I was. When they say walk, it could be 5 hours walking up a steep incline or a short slight inclined path along the coast. A walk does not mean easy and it does not mean flat!
2) IT IS STEEP!
It doesn’t help that I am a born and raised prairie girl but even being pretty fit from running half marathons the first few months of hiking was hard! Even walking up the ‘easiest’ tracks, the struggle was real. Despite the workout, the more you hike the better you get at it. Thankfully New Zealand has a lot of different types of tracks, durations and gradients so you’re certainly not stuck climbing hands and knees up going up. It’s still a challenge but you can start with shorter more gradual climbing tracks before moving on to something harder.
3) PACK FOR ALL SEASONS IN ONE DAY
This is a must. Always have warmer clothes along with you in any season of hiking. I made this mistake on Roy’s Peak. Hot and sweating like anything going up the strenuous climb but cooled right down to a chill at the top. Not fun. What started off as a bright sunny day turned into windy and cloudy. The weather can change so quickly in New Zealand and it always gets chilly at the top. Many tracks are through forests as well and although the shade is great, it cools you off quite quickly. It’s always a good idea to pack some extra gear.
4) YOU’RE THE TOP OF THE FOOD CHAIN
Unlike many places in the world, there are no lions, tigers, and bears to get you! If you’re tramping on government maintained trails it’s quite uncommon to even get a glimpse of a wild pig. They’re out there but they stay in the backcountry and run away at the first site of a human. If anything it’s a good idea to just be aware of livestock when crossing private land. Respect the animals especially if they have young, give them space and you’ll be just fine.
5) THERE ARE TRAILS EVERYWHERE YOU GO
This is no joke. No matter which direction you go for any road trip or destination there is always a track to climb close by. Google hiking near (insert town here) and you’ll find something! Many of them being day hikes that maybe take 1-4 hours. I’ve also seen signs right off the highway pointing to trail here or there even when you think you’re in the middle of nowhere. New Zealand’s Department of Conservation does an awesome job of maintaining and updating the status of each track on their website.
6) LOTS OF DIFFERENT TYPES OF TRAILS
There are also many different kinds of trails offered in New Zealand. Day hikes, multi-day hikes, and backcountry hikes are found all over the country. It’s always a good idea to research with DOC the trail you want to do before you go. If you’re new to hiking it’s a great idea to start off with day hikes and work your way up to having to carry a big pack with overnight gear. The multi-day hikes offer huts to stay in but many need to be booked in advance as they fill up quickly. You don’t want to get to a hut after a long way of hiking with no room for you to sleep.
7) YOU’LL WORK FOR THE SHOT
I guess this is more of a disclaimer but a lot of those famous shots you see from New Zealand – Roy’s Peak, Tongariro Crossing, Milford track, you really work hard for it, likely hours of steep climbing! Although those spots are almost now considered over-touristed you have to give credit to those who made their way up. It certainly wasn’t easy!
8) YOU’LL ALWAYS GET A BEAUTIFUL VIEW
Some trails lead to waterfalls or give you a view of the entire countryside. Some look out to the ocean or into the rugged mountains. The land is so diverse no matter where you climb you’ll be in awe. This is my favourite part about hiking and makes the steep inclines always worth it!
Hiking in New Zealand has quickly become my favourite past time. The challenge, the scenery, nature, just everything about it is the next level. Do your research though before you decide to tackle a track and choose one on par with your fitness level. Check the weather and if you can go with a friend or let someone know where you’re going. Reaching the top is such a rewarding feeling. Make sure your camera or phone is charged up for the stunning shots you’ll get at the top and along the way and of course, have fun!
Have you ever been to New Zealand? If you have any additional tips for our readers or questions please leave these in the comments below.
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