The Remarkables Mountain Range is best known for its amazing ski area. However, we visited in April, while the ski season only starts in June. So no snow yet! That didn’t stop us from exploring The Remarkables though, the views are still amazing up there.
Here’s how you can explore The Remarkables in Queenstown outside of the ski season.
Lake Alta Track in short
- Duration? 1 hour and 30 minutes
- Difficulty? couple of steep climbs
- Decor? mountain views, turquoise Lake Alta
- When? outside of ski season
- How much? free
- Bring? weatherproof jacket, camera
- More information? NZ Frenzy Guidebook or DoC website
- Where to stay? Queenstown Holiday Park Creeksyde
Hiking The Remarkables in Queenstown – Practical
We planned on hiking the Lake Alta Track, the most popular of 6 hikes situated in The Remarkables Conservation Area. The starting point is at The Remarkables Ski Area Lodge, where you can leave your car. It’s about a 35 minute drive from Queenstown, where we stayed at Queenstown Holiday Park Creeksyde.
We read about the Lake Alta Track in the NZ Frenzy Guidebook, a great guide to visiting New Zealand, but you can find some information on the Department of Conservation website as well. It’s a return track, not a loop, and it took us about 1 hour and 30 minutes to complete.
Hiking The Remarkables in Queenstown – Our Experience
We started hiking the Lake Alta Track in the early afternoon. There was no snow, so the ski lifts weren’t working. No going around it, we would have to hike the steep ski slopes. To get to Lake Alta, we walked along the right side of the chair lift and took the second wide path on our right. This part, along the Alta Chair Lift, is horribly steep. I even walked backwards for a while, to relieve the pain in my calves.
When you get to the top (you can do it!), take the small path right in front of you, next to a boggy area. From there the path is pretty nice and marked by yellow posts. It takes you up to the rocky slope you see in front of you. When you’ve conquered this slope, you’ve reached Lake Alta. You made it!
Unfortunately Lake Alta wasn’t beautifully blue like we were promised, but rather grey. It’s an alpine cirque lake, formed by glacial erosion. The new glacial meltwater probably didn’t have time to settle and get its stunning turquoise colour yet. It was a bit of a disappointment for us, but we hope you’ll have more luck!
The view from The Remarkables Road in Queenstown
If you’re not into hiking (but don’t be put off by me calling it horribly steep), you can just enjoy the jaw-dropping views on the drive up to The Remarkables Ski Area Lodge. This 13 km gravel road is called The Remarkables Road, and is the highest public-access road you can drive in New Zealand.
It was a beautiful sunny day and the views during the drive were amazing. It does get very windy up there, so we had our lunch break in the car instead of next to it, nevertheless with a great view.
About 6 km into the drive, in a sharp turn, you’ll see a trig on your right, marking the lookout spot. You can park on your left, cross the road and follow the small path that leads to the top of a small hill where the trig stands. The view is breathtaking! It doesn’t get much better going higher, so if you don’t plan on hiking, you can turn back here.
When searching for things to do in or near Queenstown, you often can’t see past the wide range of extreme sports and adventure activities on offer. The drive up The Remarkables Road and the hiking tracks you’ll find at the top are well worth it though. They’re free and not that crowded with tourists, but you’ll need your own transportation. Don’t miss out!
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