Introduction to Ben Lomond
Ben Lomond is located in one of the most visited towns in New Zealand’s South Island, Queenstown. At a full 1,748m and standing taller than its namesake in the Scottish Highlands, this mountain offers hikers a full unobstructed view of the town and the surrounding lakes and mountain ranges. Being located right at the heart of a busy resort town, it is one of the more popular walking tracks in the country. But it is not without its challenges, which is why we’ve compiled a few essential pieces of information that you’ll need to tackle this 5-6 hour hike.
Ben Lomond Track: Planning Your Hike
Before beginning your journey towards Ben Lomond, make sure that you:
- Check the Department of Conservation website for updates regarding any pertinent information like slips (landslides), fallen trees, heavy snow, or track closures.
- Check the weather forecast and pack your gear accordingly.
- Plan your entire day and start early, particularly during winter as you will have limited hours of daylight.
- Inform people of your plans, where you’re going, and tell them what time you expect to return. This gives you an extra layer of security in cases of emergency.
How To Get to Ben Lomond
There are three access points that will lead you to Ben Lomond Track namely the Skyline Access Road, Tiki Trail, and One Mile Creek Track.
Skyline Access Road
The Skyline Access Road has two starting points. Starting right at the base at Lomond Crescent is a good option for those who are up for a bit of a challenge and don’t mind the extra hiking time. Alternatively, riding the Skyline Gondola takes you directly to the Skyline access road and shaves off about 45min-1hr from your hiking time. The gondola will cost you $39 for a return ticket (current price as of January 4, 2019).
The Tiki Trail starts from the base of the Skyline Gondola at the top of Brecon Street. This is an option for those who want to check out the activities offered at Skyline Queenstown, but aren’t too keen on paying for a gondola ticket. The top of the Tiki Trail branches off into the Ben Lomond Track on the left and the Skyline Access Road on the right.
One Mile Creek Track
The One Mile Creek Track starts from the One Mile Powerhouse close to Lake Esplanade. This track, from our experience, is quite tricky especially during winter. Snow and vegetation makes the area’s terrain a bit unpredictable at times, you’ll need a good sense of direction to keep to the trail as fallen trees and boulders may block and obscure the track.
What To Pack for Your Hike
Just like with any other hiking trip, you have to pack all your essentials as well as the extra gear that you may need when your plans change due to unforeseen circumstances. Here is a simplified list of things to take with you:
- A sturdy backpack with excellent back and shoulder support.
- Water, we usually pack at least Two (2) liters of water each. And this amount may be increased depending on the weather and the duration of the hike. On a hot and humid day, pre-hydrating prior to the hike is a good idea as well. It essentially means slowly sipping about a liter of water an hour or so before heading off, this increases your body’s fluid reserves and decreases the amount of extra water that you’ll have to carry.
- Pack nutrient dense food that is easy to eat, stick with finger foods and avoid heavy meals. The aim is to keep your body energized while being on the move.
- Sun protection (sunscreen, wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses).
- Insect Repellant.
- Spare clothing and a light towel.
- Good-fitting hiking shoes. Having comfortable feet makes all the difference during prolonged periods of walking and negotiating varying terrain.
- Flashlight or head torch.
- Hiking Pole. For extra support and to test for deep snow or loose gravel.
- Cellphone with spare batteries or a power bank.
- Camera (if you love taking photos).
- Thermal clothing and additional accessories, especially during winter.
Ben Lomond Track: What To Expect
Although easily accessible, the Ben Lomond Track can be physically demanding, there are no paved parts and weather changes can significantly alter the trails, so it pays to be prepared before attempting this walk. On a clear day, you will be greeted by a 360 view of the breathtaking mountain ranges including Mt. Aspiring and Mt. Earnslaw. During the colder seasons, particularly during the months of April to November, there is a chance that the track will be covered with heavy snow, remember to keep to the track and test your footing to avoid any accidents.
Overall, this is a fairly challenging walk and your experience will largely be dictated by variables like the weather and your level of fitness, having said that, the epic views are definitely worth it.