Best Day Hikes in New Zealand

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As a small island nation, New Zealand is an absolute haven for one day hikes! Dramatic changes in scenery are not a rarity down under, so a typical one day hike can take you from lush sub-tropical rainforest to alpine tussock and tarns. Whether you’re an expert or a beginner, Active Adventures can cater to your one day hiking aspirations. We know at Active HQ that it’s those small intricate details - from the initial phone call, through to touching down in New Zealand, then to be guided by some of the most capable and experienced guides on the planet; our magic Active formula will truly make your one day hike all the more worthwhile. We’ve tussled and debated to come up with our Top 4 one day hikes in New Zealand; Mueller Ridge, Tongariro Alpine Crossing, Key Summit and the Pororari River Trail.

Mueller Ridge Hike

When describing the Mueller Ridge hike in the South Island, two words spring to mind; rewarding and unforgettable. It would be remiss of us to say that it isn’t hard work at times, but hey you definitely won’t be disappointed once you have accomplished this milestone. Firstly, the incessant view over the Hooker Valley and the Mount Cook Range is the initial teaser then once you reach the top, trust us when we say you’ll have one of those ‘pinch yourself moments’ with the amazing views of Mt Sefton, the Mueller Glacier and the ridge itself. The Mueller Ridge, a training location for Sir Edmund Hillary and friends, is New Zealand’s most classic alpine day hike.

Mueller Ridge



Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Let’s head up to the North Island, now imagine yourself wandering through to another dimension, where the volcanic landscape gives you the illusion that you’re actually on a lunar tour! This is the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, heralded among the top 10 one day hikes in the world. The crossing is located in New Zealand’s oldest national park and is a dual World Heritage Site, famous for its unique landforms, breath-taking scenery, and dramatic and striking volcanic peaks of Ngauruhoe, Tongariro and Ruapehu. One of the many highlights of this one-day hike, is the captivating coloured Blue and Emerald Lakes, rich with minerals that have leached from the nearby thermal areas. You’ll come across active steam vents called fumaroles on some sections of the walk, discharging steam and sulphur dioxide into the air with spouts of yellow sulphur specks sporadically scattered across the edges of the lakes.

These lakes hold so much beauty to the naked eye, a colouration like no other, set against the starkly contrasting volcanic surrounds. From the summit you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views towards both the East and West coasts of the North Island, across forest and farm land. It’s incredible that you can see all of this in one day! This full-day hike is challenging but truly unforgettable, at the end of your one day hiking adventure on the ‘Kauri’ trip you'll be able to soak your muscles in some natural thermal springs along with a celebratory dinner in tow.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing


Key Summit

Back to the South Island, to another World Heritage area, Te Waipounamu, encompassing four national parks, including Fiordland and the world famous multi-day Routeburn Track. From the western side of the Routeburn Track, there’s a superb day walk to an alpine knoll called Key Summit. This is possibly one of the best day walks in the Fiordland National Park area. So how do we describe Key Summit? Again, it’s all about the panoramic views, down to the lush Hollyford Valley and across at jagged snow-capped peaks. In every direction dense virgin forest rolls up from the valley, until it’s too steep, where granite cliffs appear and ice clings on until the gradient mellows to snow. Closer at hand the loquacious Kaka and Kea can be spotted or heard, with their echoing calls. From here a lot of the hard work is done, so you may want to complete the full track, if you've carried enough for a few days. The best way to truly see this national gem would be on the ‘Rimu’, our signature adventure and a great outdoorsy way to see New Zealand.

Key Summit Hiking


Pororari River Trail

The West Coast of the South Island is an enchanting place where only the hardy and rugged live year-round. The high rainfall and mild temperatures help the rainforest to thrive, to the point where wilderness is the norm and human settlements are rare. The Pororari River Trail offers hikers a glimpse into a Jurassic world filled with tree ferns, nikau palms and the gigantic towering rata (which along with the pohutukawa is one of the best known native trees in New Zealand). This relatively easy track follows the Pororari River upstream into the Paparoa National Park. You'll pass through the Pororari River Gorge, a valley lined with beautiful limestone cliffs and bluffs and eventually onto the open river flats. As you could image, there’s plenty of native birdsong in the area, adding to the enchanting atmosphere.

Pororari River Trail


From the unique wilderness, glacier-carved valleys, dense sub-tropical rainforests, limestone cliffs, right through to the indigenous fauna, New Zealand will provide you with a variety of experiences on your one day hiking adventures. These 4 hikes have been handpicked by us so that you are rewarded with that once in a lifetime experience… and to top it off, we’ll throw in legendary Kiwi hospitality, unique local lodgings and home cooked meals.

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Written by Active Adventures

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