IF you’re in Queenstown and preparing for one of the more serious jaunts across Fiordland’s wonderful walking tracks, why not get your fitness up to par with some walks around town. From alpine lakes to valleys filled with flowers, the tracks around Queenstown offer views, good hill walking and plenty of chances to picnic along the way.
1. Lake Alta
This beautiful alpine lake is located above the main ski lift area in the Remarkables mountains. In summer, it’s still icy and cold up here but the walk is doable. Alpine flowers and plants grace the track and the beautiful waters of Lake Alta, which also formed the backdrop for a scene from Lord of the Rings. If you’re feeling energetic, you could scramble up to the ridge above the lake.
2. Sawpit Gully track
The Sawpit Gully loop takes two to three hours and starts in Arrowtown, about 20km from Queenstown. Taking you up through forest and shrubs dripping with flowers, it ascends with views of Lake Hayes and the Remarkables and then across open land to the remnants of buildings that were once used by miners as a resting place. The track also provides some excellent views of the Arrow River at times. It can be walked in either direction.
3. Sam Summers Hut
Located just beyond Queenstown on the road to Glenorchy, this pleasant trail through the forest should exercise your mind and your legs. It takes just three hours to complete the loop that takes you by the hut once used by a gold prospector and built in the 1930s. It also takes you past a sluiced canyon and climbs a ridge overlooking Lake Dispute.
4. Bob’s Peak
You can take the Skyline Gondola the easy way up to Bob’s Peak in the heights above Queenstown, but there’s also a fantastic trail that climbs up through the trees to the top that takes just 30 minutes or so and saves you over $20. Your efforts are rewarded with superb views once you make it up here.
5. Ben Lomond
Ben Lomond is one of the highest peaks in this area and provides some stunning views over the Lake Wakatipu basin. You do need a lot of time for this one – a good five hours – and good fitness. The track starts beyond the Skyline Gondola at the top of Bob’s Peak. The summit is 1747m.
6. Frankton Arm Walkway
The Frankton Arm Walkway runs for seven kilometres from Queenstown right around to Frankton near the airport. It’s a delightful track hugging the shores of Lake Wakatipu and you can hop on a bus either end to get back to where you started. On a fine day it’s worth taking a picnic and stopping off along the way. Look out for the T.S.S Earnslaw steamship sailing out into the lake as you go.