mt alfred, new zealand

Mt Alfred, New Zealand: A hike in paradise

Surrounded by jagged peaks and glaciers, Mt Alfred looks like a tiddler – an easy hiking option, you’d think. He’s not, exactly. He’s a bad boy of a mountain (1300m) surrounded by serious competition. This is the start of Mount Aspiring National Park, home to New Zealand’s highest mountains.

I truly realised this as I reached the last few sets of rocks before the top. It had taken me about 2 hours to get this point. I slung my camera onto some rocks above, took good hold of an edge and hauled myself up, foot to hand, wind buffeting my face.

What a view!

Mt Alfred Panorama 2 v2 LR

It’s a textbook finish – step up and be greeted by 360 degrees of amazing views. It’s so incredibly satisfying.  Then you can follow Mt Alfred’s spine in both directions to get your fill of mountains, lakes, glaciers, forests… and so on.

Mt Alfred views from top-2 LR

It’s worth walking in the direction away from the lake towards the mountains, where you’ll overlook stunning Lord of the Rings territory. Countless other films have taken advantage of this area, too. One of the roads that winds below you leads to Paradise. Yes, that’s a place in New Zealand, and you can see it all from the top of Mt Alfred.

Mt Alfred - glacier view panorama LR

Mt Alfred views from top-6 LR

Mt Alfred views from top-3 LR

The Details

The DOC say this track takes 6 – 8 hours, but I think most people take 5-6. I took 6, with 1.5 hours on top taking pics.

They say it’s an advanced hike, and I can kind of see why. It’s not as straight-forward as the great walks – some bits are steep and muddy, and after the tree line Mt Alfred gets quite scrambly. But don’t be too put off by this last 15-20 minutes or so. Looking up from the beginning of this section (or looking back down again from the top) looks pretty daunting, however it’s perfectly do-able with some time, concentration and a fairly good set of legs.

Mt Alfred is also pretty tough on the knees as the only flat bit of land is at the top. The track gets progressively steeper the closer to the top you get.

Mt Alfred views from top LR
Half way up the scramble. Don’t worry – you don’t have to climb these rocks!

There are a few parts where you have to kind of climb, especially at the very end, so make sure you can have your hands free. There is a loosely-formed track to follow up this last section, with orange markers to lead you (before this part there is a well-formed track to follow). They’re pretty easy to spot in clear weather, though I’d imagine this would be a totally different story in bad weather. You’d have to pay me good money to do it in bad weather.

Mt Alfred views from top-5 LR
The start of the journey down

How to find it

The hike’s starting point is really easy to find. Firstly you can’t really miss Mt Alfred – he’s the “little” mountain in the valley in between all the really high ones and faces the beginning of Lake Wakatipu. The track begins on the left hand side of the mountain if you’re coming from the direction of Queenstown / Glenorchy. The road hugs the edge of the mountain, and the track begins at a little carpark. It’s not signposted here but it’s the only car park beside the road. There are some steps that take you over a fence, and away you go. Enjoy this flat bit of land – it’s last you’ll be walking on until you reach the top!

There’s no public transportation that takes you directly there, but it’s such a small friendly area that you can easily hitch a ride to get there and back. I got offered a lift home without even asking :)

Mt Alfred views from top-4 LR


10 thoughts on “Mt Alfred, New Zealand: A hike in paradise

  1. I’m coming back to New Zealand in April 2017 and this is one of the hikes I was planning yo do. I’ve been researching it for a while and your blog post is among the best. I appreciate the details. It won’t help me make a better hike. Beautiful pictures! Thanks!

    1. Thank you so much! Very glad that you found it helpful :) I did it in April too and I pretty much had the whole place to myself! The views are awesome on top… hopefully there will be a bit of snow on the mountains by the time you do it too.

      1. I really respect that! I’m a firm believer that having to go ot alone shouldn’t be a deterrent. Depending on how my schedule and the weather pan out, I may do it on my own as well.

        I landed on Mt. Alfred in a helicopter in 2009 and have been dreaming about revisiting this place evwr since. When I learned earlier this year it could be hiked, I was ecstatic!

        So seeing your experience makes me stoked!

      2. Absolutely! I’m a big fan of solo travel (I spent about 3 months of my 6 months away travelling solo, including the Routeburn and Milford Track), and one of my aims for this blog is to encourage more people to go for it :)

        I could only imagine how amazing it must have been to arrive by helicopter – and to fly over those mountains… It’s on my list of things to do for next time :)

      3. That’s fantastic! If my travel buddy couldn’t accompany I was prepared to do this and the Routeburn Track alone as well. Life is too short to have to depend upon other people.

        Regarding the hike up Mt. Alfred, you mentioned that:

        “There’s no public transportation that takes you directly there, but it’s such a small friendly area that you can easily hitch a ride to get there and back.”

        I’m not totally sure what you mean by that… do you mean if you don’t have your own car to park in the carpark at the trailhead? Or do you have to catch a ride from where you leave your car and start on up the trail? I’ve not heard anyone mention this before but I may be misunderstanding.

        I also read that once you’re out of the busy you can veer either right or left to ascend Mt. Alfred. Is that how you remember it?

      4. Go for it!! Sorry, I didn’t write that paragraph about transport very clearly… what I meant is that there’s no public transport between the hike’s starting point (which is the at the car park) and Glenorchy, the closest town.

        In regards to your other question, do you mean when you leave the tree line? If so, I just followed the orange markers which are ever so slightly to the left hand side :)

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