Monday, July 11, 2016

New Zealand's Best Hikes | Lake Marian, Lake Alta, Hooker Valley, Tasman Valley & Arthur's Pass

It's time for the final and fourth part of my 'New Zealand's Best Hikes' series, which you seemed to really like so far! If you're planning a trip to New Zealand, these little guides will really help you decide which tracks to do or which ones to skip, depending on your preferences. This post contains some of the easier tracks on the South Island of New Zealand, so I think anyone would enjoy these. Check out part one, two and three of this series if you want to read about more beautiful hikes in New Zealand. 



Milford Sound - Lake Marian Track

On the day of our visit to the famous Milford Sound (New Zealand's most famous tourist destination), we decided to book tickets for a boat tour of the fjord spontaneously. We chose to join the last tour of the day when most of the tour buses had left already. This left us some time to do a hike before the boat tour, so we followed a nice lady's advice and did the Lake Marian Track.

It's a 2.4 km return so not a very long track, but it's quite a challenging one since it's steep and it gets really muddy in some parts, especially considering that this area is one of the wettest parts of the world. Although the track can be a little tricky sometimes, the reward is big. Lake Marian is an impressive alpine lake located in a hanging valley surrounded by mountains. The thick and low clouds which were hanging above the lake that day, made it all the more mysterious. Such a cool and calm surrounding!


Tip from me: once you've reached the lake, you'll have to go through some bushes to get a better view of the lake. The track doesn't indicate this (it kind of just stops), so you have to do a little climbing through bushes. It's so worth it! Wear good shoes and bring a rain coat, but also wear layers because it can get very hot and humid. 



New Zealand's Best Hikes | Lake Marian

New Zealand's Best Hikes | Lake Marian


New Zealand's Best Hikes | Lake Marian


New Zealand's Best Hikes | Lake Marian


New Zealand's Best Hikes | Lake Marian


New Zealand's Best Hikes | Lake Marian


New Zealand's Best Hikes | Lake Marian


New Zealand's Best Hikes | Lake Marian


New Zealand's Best Hikes | Lake Marian


New Zealand's Best Hikes | Lake Marian


New Zealand's Best Hikes | Lake Marian


The Remarkables - Lake Alta Track
I saw a really cool photo of Lake Alta on Instagram, so I thought this would be a nice little morning hike when we were staying around Queenstown. The Remarkables is actually a ski area during winter, so in the late summer hardly anyone comes up here. They were doing a lot of construction works on both the road and the ski lift station, so we were one of the only ones up there. 

Don't be mistaken, the Remarkables is quite a drive up from Queenstown; it's 13 kilometers from the main road, which proved to be quite the challenge with an old rattling car running low on fuel. This meant that we had to leave the car at around 1 kilometer away from the start of the track. But since the track itself is quite short (one of the shortest we did), it wasn't much of a problem. 

Lake Alta is mountain lake which has this beautiful emerald colour. It's such a calm place, and on a hot day you could even swim in the lake, which I can only imagine to be incredible! Apart from one other man (who later kindly brought us back to our car) we were the only ones up there, which is quite a difference to the buzzing Queenstown below. If you're looking for a short but peaceful hike around Queenstown, check out Lake Alta, you won't be disappointed. 


New Zealand's Best Hikes | Lake Alta The Remarkables

New Zealand's Best Hikes | Lake Alta The Remarkables


New Zealand's Best Hikes | Lake Alta The Remarkables


New Zealand's Best Hikes | Lake Alta The Remarkables

New Zealand's Best Hikes | Lake Alta The Remarkables


New Zealand's Best Hikes | Lake Alta The Remarkables


New Zealand's Best Hikes | Lake Alta The Remarkables




New Zealand's Best Hikes | Lake Alta The Remarkables


New Zealand's Best Hikes | Lake Alta The Remarkables

New Zealand's Best Hikes | Lake Alta The Remarkables


New Zealand's Best Hikes | Lake Alta The Remarkables


New Zealand's Best Hikes | Lake Alta The Remarkables



Mount Cook / Aoraki - Hooker Valley Track
This is the hike I came across the most when researching beautiful hikes on Instagram. My expectations of this hike were really high, which is why I might have been a bit disappointed to find out it was only a 5 kilometer hike. Nonetheless, there are a few factors that really made up for it. 

The track leads up the Hooker Valley towards Mt Cook/Aoraki, with incredible views of several glaciers and rivers. There are not one, not two but THREE swing bridges on this track, which for me is one of the most fun elements on any track ;) The track ends at the Hooker River, where you would supposedly have amazing views of Mt Cook, but we chose a rather cloudy/rainy morning (the sunny photos were taken in the afternoon, after we did the track). The weather is not always on your side in New Zealand, which is the perfect reason to come back one day and re-do some of the tracks. 

I'd say Hooker Valley is a really good track for anyone, since it's really easy and you get some incredible views. Don't even get me started on the road towards Mount Cook, it's absolutely incredible (pictures below for proof!) I reckon that Hooker Valley can get really busy on good-weather-days; don't tell me I didn't warn you!


New Zealand's Best Hikes | Hooker Valley Track


New Zealand's Best Hikes | Hooker Valley Track

New Zealand's Best Hikes | Hooker Valley Track


New Zealand's Best Hikes | Hooker Valley Track


New Zealand's Best Hikes | Hooker Valley Track


New Zealand's Best Hikes | Hooker Valley Track


New Zealand's Best Hikes | Hooker Valley Track


New Zealand's Best Hikes | Hooker Valley Track


New Zealand's Best Hikes | Hooker Valley Track


New Zealand's Best Hikes | Hooker Valley Track

New Zealand's Best Hikes | Hooker Valley Track


New Zealand's Best Hikes | Hooker Valley Track

Tasman Valley - Blue Lakes & Tasman Glacier Lake
After Hooker Valley, we got a coffee to refuel and headed to the Tasman Valley just as the sun started to come out. We checked out the two shorts tracks there: Blue Lakes (nothing too impressive after Tongariro) and the Tasman Glacier Lake, which looked so surreal I felt like we stepped into a movie set. The photos below will hopefully show you why. It was kind of shocking to see how much the glacier has melted in the past few decades, and I really hope to one day show my children the glaciers in New Zealand before they have disappeared. This trip really made me realise how badly us humans have treated (and are treating) nature. I could write a whole post but I'll stop here! 

These two tracks take about an hour, one hour and a half max. So we wondered if we could get a better view of the glacier if we'd go closer so we started following the Ball Hut Track. Going all the way to the hut would take 2-3 hours, so we only did about an hour or so, and then climbed up the rocks to get a good view of the glacier. This was around lunch time, so I found this huge rock and decided it was the perfect picnic spot. At this point it was positively HOT out, so we stripped off our warmest layers (this is why wearing a sports bra on hikes is a good idea.) Such a nice change from the weather we had earlier that day on the Hooker Valley track! 

I'm not sure if going to Ball Hut would provide you a better view of the Tasman Glacier, but if you're looking for a less crowded hike this is a winner!

New Zealand's Best Hikes | Tasman Glacier Valley Track


New Zealand's Best Hikes | Tasman Glacier Valley Track


New Zealand's Best Hikes | Tasman Glacier Valley Track


New Zealand's Best Hikes | Tasman Glacier Valley Track


New Zealand's Best Hikes | Tasman Glacier Valley Track


New Zealand's Best Hikes | Tasman Glacier Valley Track

New Zealand's Best Hikes | Tasman Glacier Valley Track


Arthur's Pass - Otira Valley Track
On our way back to Christchurch - were our New Zealand journey would end - we stopped for one final little hike in Arthur's Pass National Park. This track was recommended to us by the man we met at Lake Alta since it's a particularly nice walk when the Alpine flowers are in full bloom. Although we were a little late in the season for this, we still headed to Otira Valley for a little taste of Arthur's Pass National Park (which is a must-do for me next time!)

The track is an easy one and only takes about an hour to complete. It kind of ends at the footbridge, but you can continue in case you're prepared (there are no more signs or indications past this point). I think this was a nice little track to do, nothing spectacular but good enough to mention in this post. On our drive back from the track we saw not only a beautiful rainbow but also the most spectacular sunset over multiple streams. Such a magical moment and the perfect way to end our hiking adventures in New Zealand!


New Zealand's Best Hikes | Otira Valley Track Arthur's Pass






New Zealand's Best Hikes | Otira Valley Track Arthur's Pass


New Zealand's Best Hikes | Otira Valley Track Arthur's Pass


New Zealand's Best Hikes | Otira Valley Track Arthur's Pass


New Zealand's Best Hikes | Otira Valley Track Arthur's Pass

New Zealand's Best Hikes | Otira Valley Track Arthur's Pass

New Zealand's Best Hikes | Otira Valley Track Arthur's Pass


I hope you enjoyed this little mini series of posts! Click here to read more New Zealand related content, there will be a couple more posts before we can finally head to my Australia stories! I'm sorry it's taking ages to get all these posts up, I know some of you have been asking for Bali posts. But I try not to rush writing these posts and making selections from the thousands of photos, so bear with me and I promise to deliver quality content ;) 


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