Heather Jock Hut

Queenstown Day Walks: The Six Best Wilderness Huts in Queenstown

There’s nothing quite like exploring the back country of Queenstown—many of our quirky mountain huts are easily accessible on a day walk near Queenstown. Whether you’ve got a couple of hours or a whole day, take the time to transport yourself back in time to Queenstown's pioneering start.

Sam Summers Hut

Routeburn Flats Hut

Routeburn Falls Hut

Earnslaw Hut

Bonnie Jean Hut

Heather Jock Hut

Before you head out, make sure you are aware of the weather forecast, have the appropriate gear for your trip and have told someone your plans. Read more about safely hiking here

Sam Summers Hut via the Mt Crichton Loop Track

  • Duration: 2-4 hours return
  • Best time to go: in the warmer months November-March, or with the appropriate outdoors gear in winter
  • Location: Queenstown
  • Starting/Finish Point: Car park 12km from Queenstown on the Queenstown Glenorchy Road
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • No biking is permitted

There’s a little bit of everything on this compact hike to Sam Summers Hut, rivers, a waterfall, native bush and incredible views, and of course a hut!

The Sam Summers Hut was built in the 30s as a base for prospecting father and son, Bill and Sam Summers. The pair lived in the hut for 10 years (with their families!), and you too can spend the night in the basic hut if you dare. Otherwise you can visit the hut in a morning or afternoon with the rest of the day to play elsewhere.

Know before you go

Fires are not permitted at any time.

Routeburn Flats Hut

  • Duration: 3-4 hours return
  • Best time to go: warmer months October-March
  • Location: Mt Aspiring National Park, via Glenorchy
  • Starting/Finish Point: Routeburn Shelter at the Queenstown end
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Bike: No

The Routeburn Track, one of New Zealand’s Great Walks is described as the ultimate alpine adventure. This trail weaves through alpine forest, broad glacial flats and takes in the grandeur of Mt Aspiring National Park. If you’re not able to do the whole trail, a couple of its huts can be visited on day walks from the Queenstown side, the Routeburn Flats and Routeburn Falls Hut.

The Flats Hut overlooks the Route Burn valley floor and its surrounding mountains. You’ll come across school groups, trail runners or Great Walkers on this great day walk from Queenstown.

Know before you go

During the Great Walk season (24 Oct-30 Apr) bookings are required to stay at the hut. There are charges throughout the year. Find our more here.

Routeburn Falls Hut

  • Duration: 2.5-4 hours one way
  • Best time to go: November-March
  • Location: Mt Aspiring National Park
  • Starting/Finish Point: Routeburn Shelter
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Bike too? No.

Turn your Routeburn Track day trip into a solid all-day affair with the hike to Routeburn Falls Hut, depending on your level of fitness and how often you stop for photos! This section of the track is a steady climb and you’ll be rewarded with fabulous views over the Route Burn valley and Humboldt Mountains once at the hut, before returning the way you came to the Routeburn Shelter.

Consider stopping in Glenorchy on the way back to Queenstown for a rest and a refreshing drink.

Again if you want to stay at the hut you must book during the busy summer Great Walk season and there are charges year-round.

Earnslaw Hut

  • Duration: 8-10 hours return
  • Best time to go: In the summer months
  • Location: Glenorchy
  • Starting/Finish Point: Muddy Creek, the start of the Rees Track, 30 minutes past Glenorchy on a gravel road with fords (4WD vehicle advised)
  • Difficulty: Advanced
  • Bike too: No.

This is a challenging advanced hike not for the faint of heart or ability. Starting on the Rees Track, turn onto the Kea Basin Track and climb to the stunning tussocky basin beneath the imposing Mt Earnslaw/Pikirakatahi. The track zigs and zags  from the low terrace north of Lennox Falls, where the bush edge lies.

Earnslaw Hut is around halfway up. It’s a basic affair set amidst the beech forest with four bunks that are occupied on a first-come first-served basis if you want to spend the night. Head a little further along the track for stunning views up the Rees Valley towards the Rees Saddle.

Know before you go

Be careful crossing the Rees River and its tributaries as they become dangerously swift when high. River crossing experience is essential.

The area has terrain that can produce avalanches that cross the track, usually from May-November. More information can be found here.

Bonnie Jean Day Hut with Heather Jock Hut

  • Duration: 4-6hr return, plus up to 3 hours to Heather Jock Hut
  • Best time to go: summer months
  • Location: Glenorchy
  • Starting/Finish Point: Whakaari Conservation Area carpark, 2km south of Glenorchy on the Glenorchy-Queenstown Rd.
  • Difficulty: Intermediate to Bonnie Jean and advanced to Heather Jock
  • Bike: Yes, intermediate grade 3
  • Horse riding is also possible on this track

For a half-day hut fix (backcountry huts are pretty photogenic after all) put the Bonnie Jean day hut on your hit-list. The trail starts off gently up Mt Judah Road, ambling up the northern side of Mt Judah. After passing some relics of Queenstown’s gold mining past, you’ll come to a junction around 1.5 hours from the start of the track. Continue along to the end of Judah Road, and follow the marked track up to the Bonnie Jean Hut.

With more time up your sleeve and camera battery left, tack on another couple of hours and head further up to the Heather Jock Hut. This trail is steep and this hut sleeps up to six in bunks on a first come, first served basis.

Know before you go

The Whakaari tracks are alpine and exposed: changeable weather, extreme temperatures, strong winds, snow and ice are possible at any time of year. Not recommended during winter months or unfavourable conditions.

Streams may flood at any time of year due to rain or snow melt and should not be crossed in flood.

Dangerous mine tunnels are present and may be hidden by vegetation. Do not enter tunnels.

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