Go mountain climbing! Explore every New Zealand summit

When it comes to lofty goals, it doesn’t come much loftier than a desire to explore every New Zealand mountain summit!  And whether you’re an experienced mountain climber, tramper, trail runner or a day ambler, getting around all of them in a summer would be a tall order indeed.

So we’ve prepared a brief guide to just a few of New Zealand’s best mountain summits for you to add to your travel wishlist and inspire your wanderlust:

Mount Aspring, Lake Wanaka (Tititea)

Elevation: 3,033M / 9,951FT

Often referred to as the ‘Matterhorn of the South’ for its pyramidal peak when seen from the Matukituki River, Mt Aspiring was named Tititea (‘Glittering Peak’) by New Zealand Maori.

Scaling this mounting will require a good level of fitness and basic rock climbing experience including the use of an axe ice/crampons (but on guided walks this can often be taught by the very experienced instructors).

There are 3 main routes to the top of this spectacular mountain – The Ramp and North West Ridge routes are of similar technical grade and conditions, whereas The South West Ridge is a more difficult climb.  If you intend to tackle the South West Ridge you will definitely need prior ice climbing and technical mountaineering experience.  While all three climbing routes take on average around 14–16 hours return, you need to add on the time taken to walk in to the region – approx 12 to 16 hours (or select the helicopter option).

A 5 day guided walk is available from November to April with Aspiring Guides, starting from Wanaka and including a helicopter trip in to Mount Aspiring National Park.

Pick up your Queenstown Rental Car from our Pegasus Queenstown Airport, to head out to Wanaka to join your group.

Hiker at Mount Aspiring in Lake Wanaka

Mount Aspiring, Lake Wanaka – Image Credit: Tourism New Zealand – Small World Productions

Mount Taranaki (Mt Egmont)

Elevation:  2,518 m

Offering spectacular scenery in the centre of Egmont National Park, this hike includes a fairly challenging 1.6m vertical climb to reach the peak.

Between the months of May to November, mountaineering experience and equipment is required to tackle this snow covered peak, however from December to April, it becomes a lot more accommodating to regular trampers – although you’ll still need to be fit and ensure you are well prepared for the environment.  It is often referred to as New Zealand’s most climbed mountain because it is achievable during the summer months by non-mountaineers.

Climbing up is likely to take 5-6 hours and the return trip down the mountain approximately 3-4 hours, and dogs are not permitted.  The views from the top are stunning and will definitely make the effort worthwhile, but as with all mountain hikes be sure to check the weather conditions in advance and undertake this hike when there is a favourable forecast.

Fly in and pick up your New Plymouth Airport hire car to start this journey with an approx 1 hr drive to the Mount Egmont National Park.

A hiker surveys the scenery looking towards Mt Taranaki

Hiking in Egmont National Park: Photo Credit: Department of Conservation on Flickr

Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Elevation:  Starts at 1120 m, highest point is 1886 m.

Lava flows, an active crater, steam vents, emerald-coloured lakes and magnificent views combine to make this an unforgettable walking journey.

This has become such a popular walk, you’ll be feeling a bit left out if you haven’t tackled it yet!  It’s a challenging but very achievable day walk that is being described as New Zealand’s greatest day hike.  With panoramic views, lava rock and volcanic terrain along with the iconic Emerald Lake this is a remarkable landscape.

A good level of fitness is required for this 19.4km walk which starts with a staged climb to Red Crater.  Total walking time is likely to be around 6-8 hrs and due to the altitude, you may start to feel the effects of oxygen deficiency, ie. finding it a little hard to breathe and feeling a bit dizzy.

The track is a one way hike and the best way to get to the start of the track is by shuttle. You can arrange transport through the Taupō i-SITE or Turangi i-SITE and the system is generally extremely well organised.  It’s still very advantageous to have a rental car for exploring the region and getting to and from your Taupo or Turangi accommodation, and Pegasus in Taupo have a great range of vehicles to get you on the road in no time, whether you wish to pick up the car in town or from Taupo airport.

Hikers traversing the Tongariro Alpine Crossing In Ruapehu.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing: Photo Credit – Tourism New Zealand – Paul Abbitt

Aoraki, Mount Cook

Elevation: 3,724 meters

New Zealand’s highest mountain!  Who wouldn’t want to say they’ve scaled that?  Set amongst surrounding mountains, Mt Cook provides incredible viewpoints from many world-famous hikes.  The Hooker Valley Track is one of the most popular and is a 10km round trip trail through the stunning Hooker Valley.

Aoraki Mount Cook is a serious mountain and not to be undertaken lightly.  It is available as a 5 day guided hike with Aspiring Guides when conditions are optimal.  Summit day involves a 14-18hr endurance stint, so you need to have an excellent level of fitness and prior experience on hikes of this type and intensity.

It’s worth building up to, and for some people it is a life changing experience.  Not quite up for the full epic mountain climb?  There are a wealth of hikes available in this spectacular national park that actually comprises 19 mountain peaks.  With day walks  from 1 hr to 8 hrs, overnights using DoC huts, cycle trails – you name it.

Pick up a Christchurch rental car when you fly into Christchurch Airport and it is about a 3-4 hr drive via Geraldine, Tekapo and Twizel.

Crossing a bridge in stunning sunshine in Aoraki Mt Cook National Park

Hooker Valley Track, Aoraki Mount Cook National Park:  Photo Credit – Tourism New Zealand – Miles Holden


Te Mata Peak, Hawkes Bay

Elevation: 399 metres

Climbing to the top of Te Mata Peak in the Hawkes Bay is a must-do when you visit the Hawke’s Bay.  Yes, you could drive to the top for the 360° views – but that’s not nearly as satisfying!  Te Mata Peak Park has an extensive network of walking trails, so there are a variety of options depending on your level of fitness and how much time you have available.  Each track is a loop incorporating points of interest such as the Big Redwoods – a grove of 223 stunning California redwoods planted in 1927, many of which are now over 40 metres tall.

The longest trail that incorporates the Summit – is the Giant (Red) Track and is an estimated 2 hrs 15 min loop from the Main Gates Carpark.  This track is steep in places and calls for an advanced level of fitness with care required on the slippery sections.

One part of the track known as the Snakes and Ladders is a one kilometre trail formed entirely by hand with just the help of a pick and shovel, in 2013 by the Park’s caretaker Shaun Gilbert.

Regardless of which trail you choose, the views are stunning and allow you to soak up the history and come to understand the cultural relevance of this special part of New Zealand.

The Main Gates Carpark at Te Mata Peak is approximately a 30 min drive from Pegasus Rental Cars Napier, so pick up your car, lace up your boots and enjoy!

A climb to the top of Te Mata Peak in the Hawkes Bay yields staggering views

Climbing to the summit of Te Mata Peak in the Hawke’s Bay yields staggering views.  Photo credit: Te Mata Peak Park

Adventure Smart: Outdoor Safety Code

Be smart when you venture outdoors, here’s a quick one page guide on some things to think about before you head off on your epic hike!  View The Outdoor Safety Code