Great Walks with Outstanding Summits - Top 5 guide
13 July 2022
Love scaling to the heavens to catch the greatest views? Then consider trekking to the tops of these walking summits!
Tongariro Northern Circuit – Red Crater Summit
(43.1km, 3–4 Days, Seasonal Booking)
The Red Crater summit has the highest point of any NZ Great Walk and on a clear day is the most incredible of viewpoints. It’s a tough climb to reach the 1868m summit and right beside it is a huge vertical shaft descending into the red crater with steaming explosion pits of emerald lakes just beyond. Just when you thought the view can’t get any better you turn around and see the giant symmetrical cone Mt Ngauruhoe
(2287m) standing beside you and if in luck, scan across the lowlands to see the distant shape of Mt Taranaki (2518m) out west. In our opinion, far as NZ Great Walk summits go this one’s the TOPS!
Routeburn Track – Conical Hill
(33.1km, 2–4 Days, Seasonal Booking)
The forest walk up the Routeburn Valley past the 176 metre Routeburn Falls is a great entrée. Second course is consumed when one passes through the sub-alpine meadows with flowering herb fields, ice cold tarns and the squeeze between giant towering rock monoliths. However the third course is delish! Reaching Harris Saddle (1255m) the hillside drops away. It makes you feel that you are about to glide out like a kārearea falcon from this tight glacier carved valley take flight into wide trough of the Hollyford Valley. For the best vantage point clamber up a side route to Conical Hill. The 360 degree view from the hill (who names a 1515m mountain peak a hill?) on a clear day takes in hundreds of the rippling ridges of the Fiordland National Park. Before descending cast your eye to follow the meanders of the Hollyford River to its outlet into the glistening waters of the Tasman Sea.
Milford Track – Mackinnon Pass
(53.5km, 4 Days, Seasonal Booking) Milford Track’s Mackinnon Pass just had to be included in this top list as it certainly makes the grade. Yet it’s a steep grade to climb up to the 1069 metre high pass to reach the summit’s stone memorial to its first European explorer. The final few metres of the tussock path leaves the Clinton River catchment behind and marks the headwaters of the Arthur River; a tributary that feeds Milford Sound. From this point the glacier carved mountains are on a truly massive on a scale unlike any other NZ Great Walk. From here you can see the two days of walking of where you have come and the next two days of track ahead. This is truly a remarkable summit for sheer mass of mountains irrespective of whether you arrive in hail, rain or sunshine.
Lake Waikaremoana – Bald Knob
(46km, 3–4 days, All Year Booking)
One of the least accessible Great Walks offers one of the most satisfying viewpoints. Climbing up Panekire Bluff on Day 1 on a hot summer’s day with a full pack could make you feel cliffside should be called ‘Panekire Puff’. Yet reaching the vertical cliff at the Bald Knob (1161m) viewpoint is well worth the effort. From this point the tentacled arms of Lake Waikaremoana extend 500 metres below you. It’s the North Island’s deepest lake surrounded by virgin forest and is one of the least known Great Walks. Before leaving don’t forget to look out east into the distance to spy the Mahia Peninsula, a thin strip of land terminated by the Rocket Lab's launch pad on the edge of the Pacific Ocean.
Kepler Track – Mt Luxmore
(60km, 3–4 days, Seasonal Booking)
The sub-alpine tops of the Kepler Track offer one of the best NZ Great Walk ridgeline walks. The high point is actually on a short side track over a boulder field that leads to the summit of Mt Luxmore (1472m). Here you are greeted by curious keas and an incredible view east towards the rural flats of civilisation and Te Anau, while the flip side out west is of forested wilderness of the Fiordland National Park. It’s a crazy juxtaposition. It’s easy to linger here to watch clouds, walkers and time passing by if you can handle the elements on this harsh, windy and cold peak of the deep south.
Story and images supplied by NZToday-RVLifestyle magazine.
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