The Ben Lomond Track is a popular full-day track located in Queenstown. My journey up Ben Lomond in Queenstown was very memorable and one I did with no regrets despite it being one of the tougher hikes I’ve experienced! I dedicated one day for this track when I was in the South Island because I really wanted to see that view from the summit after hearing about it from everyone else! Read on to know more about how I conquered the journey up to the Ben Lomond Summit. Hopefully it’ll help you know what to expect during this track and help you to prepare sufficiently for this.
My Journey up the Ben Lomond Summit
0. Getting to the entry point
There are two main entry points to the Ben Lomond track, namely:
- the Tiki Trail starting next to the Skyline Gondola base station at the top of Brecon Street
- from One Mile Creek Track which starts at the Fern Hill roundabout
I started from the Tiki Trail at 10am after having breakfast at the city centre. If you’re not sure how to get there, just note that it is walkable from the City Centre! That should do the trick and help you find your way around better. Also, as I was there during near-winter at mid-April, the days were still considered long and I could afford to start the hike at a comfortable time of 10am. Take note that days are shorter in full winter and the sun could set by 5pm. Hence, take note to count backwards and start your hike early to avoid having to hike in the dark!
1. The Relaxed Ascend through Tiki Trail
Starting at the bottom of the Gondola, the Tiki Trail is a winding track upwards through tall trees forming a thick tree cover. It is a relatively comfortable and easy track here! I still remember just swinging my arms leisurely and taking in large breaths of the morning cool air, while enjoying the serenity of the surroundings. You would even see cute characters carved out from wood along the way and that’s where I saw the little mushrooms too in the picture above! The wooden characters in this environment reminded me of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, if you know of this childhood fairytale from Disney.
You also don’t actually see much of the sky here until you are at certain corners of the track. This part is about 2.1km long and takes about an hour to complete before you arrive at the top of the Skyline Gondola. Here you’ll already be rewarded with a beautiful lookout point at the top of Bob’s Peak!
2. Arriving at Bob’s Peak
Once you emerge out from the forested part of the Tiki Trail, you’ll be welcomed with a beautiful view of Bob’s Peak. We were fortunate to be there on a clear day and the view was just amazing!! The track that you see is part of the Skyline Queenstown Luge that goes through 1.6km of banked corners, tunnels and dippers. Something anybody would enjoy doing if you’ve had enough of the hike already. HAHA!
Let’e keep on track though! Let’s continue on towards our ultimate goal, the summit of Ben Lomond. Before you leave the Skyline Gondola, take note to use the toilet if you need as there are no toilet facilities beyond this point till you return five hours later.
2. Getting to the Midpoint – Saddle Point Lookout
Track on for another 1.5 hours until you get to the Ben Lomond Saddle 1,326 m above sea level. Just look at that view above!!! You can even experience the magnificent lake and mountain views as you climb up the saddle. I spent a good amount of time just taking photos and capturing a piece of this beautiful scenery on my camera. Though unfortunately, none of my pictures could actually compare to what I saw in real life with my naked eyes! So, you must must must visit this place when you’re there in Queenstown.
Also, it wasn’t snowing when we were travelling, but I think it did overnight because of how cold it was higher up in the mountains. Hence, that should explain the entire blanket of snow we see on the alpines here. I was also not prepared to hike in snow or on ice at all, so this view literally caught me off my feet. I was getting slightly worried at this point because my hiking shoes were not made for trackng on ice. However, I still pushed on, though taking every step with extra caution now.
3. Upwards to the Peak
From here, the terrain would change drastically. It gradually became steeper and more challenging as it approaches the 1,748m summit of Ben Lomond. This final push to the top is one of the steepest I’ve ever hiked in New Zealand and would require a good level of fitness in order to complete it. Having the track covered with thick snow and even icy tracks did not make this any easier for me. The amount of snow right before the peak actually went up to my knees. I’m not very tall but that was easily 50cm deep!! I was really envious of the tall people then.
At one point, I was on the verge of giving up because it felt too dangerous hiking on icy snowy tracks without proper gear. I just kept repeating in my mind to be extra careful and just go slow. It became more of a test of my mental strength rather than my physical strength.
4. Finally the Reward – Ben Lomond Summit
Finally!!!!! I was up on the summit of Ben Lomond. You can see that I’ve put on my winter jacket because it was freezing cold then even at 2pm during late autumn. My face and fingers were also swollen from the cold and worsened with the change in altitude.
However, that view was just so worth it. I even took the time here to munch on some food to gain the energy to get back down. If I thought going up was tough, I was proven so wrong with the descend. I can’t emphasise this enough but please please please take care going down. Do not be pressured by other hikers if they go faster than you. Just step aside and let them pass by as you continue at your comfortable pace. You’ll reach the base of the hike in no time if you continue on steadily!
Am I fit enough to complete the Ben Lomond Track?
The Ben Lomond track is an advanced tramping track. It takes 6 to 8 hours all the way to the Summit, or otherwise a 3 to 4 hour hike if you decide to end at the Saddle. You might be thinking if you’re fit enough for this track at all! However, I would say the amount of fitness required actually depends on how far you want to go.
If you plan to hike to the saddle, I would say that anyone with an average level of fitness can complete it too. You would not need to worry much about rough terrains or as most of the track from the start to this point is quite smooth! Elevation is also gradual and comfortable.
However, if you plan to conquer the Ben Lomond Summit, then that’s when you would need to have an above average level of fitness. The part of the track beyond the Sadde to the Summit is very steep and dangerous in my opinion. You have to be confident enough to conquer it, both mentally and physically.
My ultimate advice would still be that you know yourself the best. So, know when to stop if you do feel any discomfort at any point in time. At the same time, never limit yourself but know when to give yourself that last push to conquer and stretch yourself to unleash that potential you have! You never know how far you can go until you try 🙂
Is Ben Lomond worth it?
A 101% YES!!! From Bob’s peak to the Saddle and eventually the Summit, the Ben Lomond Track covers such beautiful highlights of Queenstown. I have no doubts that if you conquer your fear like me and get to the summit, you would agree that it is entirely worth it too! I was so relieved when I overcame my fear and saw that view at the summit thereafter. That spectacular 360 degree views over Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding mountain ranges including The Remarkables were indescribably pretty.
Even if you decide to stop at the saddle, the view there is equally amazing too. I’m not sure if it was because of the snow then that multiplied the beauty of the saddle. However, the time spent there just taking in the beautiful natural views of Queenstown is just astounding.
Plan when to hike the Ben Lomond Track
A return track takes about 7 hours so do start early and prepare sufficient food and water for the day! My journey up to the Ben Lomond Summit took me just below 7 hours to complete. However, we were somewhat rushing the last part of the descend because the sun was setting. Note to plan for enough daylight hours, especially if you’re doing this during winter when days are much shorter.
If you’re doing this during autumn or winter, be prepared to also experience a range of temperatures in a day as you hike the Ben Lomond Track. The temperature ranged from 14 degrees at the base to as low as 3 degrees at the summit. Hence, take note to layer your clothes really well. I reckon it would not be that bad for summer since all you would need is probably a thin windproof jacket to keep you warm at the summit.
Things to bring for the Ben Lomond Track
As this is a full-day hike, make sure that you pack the necessary things you need for the rest of the day. Prepare enough clothes to be sufficiently warm and have enough food to fuel you through the day hike. At the same time, note not to pack too much such that it weighs you down. With that, here’s my list of recommended items to bring up your full day hike at Ben Lomond:
- High-energy food such as snack bars, bread, chocolate, nuts etc.
- Plenty of drinking water (at least 1 litre worth)
- Warm, layered clothing
- A windproof jacket (during summer/ spring), a thicker warmer jacket (during autumn/ winter)
- Hat and gloves (gloves are very useful during autumn/winter as it is so cold at the summit I remember my fingers freezing so badly)
- Sturdy footgear that are suitable for slippery and muddy terrains, as well as ice and snow. All the trampers I met probably did not expect the ice too since there were a bunch of us slipping our way through. Just imagine the scene, as you hear people going “Woah!” and “Ah!” as they ascend.
- Headlight or LED Torch – Just in case if you are not out of the track when the sun goes down. Start early and ensure you leave enough daylight hours for your hike back down.
- Apline equipment (ice axe or crampons) if you’re tracking in winter
That’s all I have for you on my journey up the Ben Lomond Track in Queenstown. Hope you’ve enjoyed reading about it! Let me know how your experience was in the comments and also have a read on my other recommendations of hiking tracks in New Zealand.