As the sun sets over New Zealand’s southwestern corner, the roads vanish, and you’re left with an untouched wilderness spanning 4,500 square miles of forests, fjords, and rugged mountain terrain. This remote paradise is home to three of New Zealand’s officially recognized Great Walks: the Routeburn, Milford, and Kepler tracks. But now, the coastal south is about to join this prestigious league of Kiwi hikes with the addition of the Hump Ridge Track.
Hump Ridge Track: The Newest Member of the Great Walks Family
The Hump Ridge Track, a 38-mile trail, originally opened its doors to intrepid hikers back in 2001. However, recent years have seen significant efforts to upgrade the path and facilities to meet the high standards expected of a Great Walk. These trails, managed by the Department of Conservation, offer a diverse range of New Zealand landscapes and are so popular that hikers often need to secure slots to experience them. The revamped Hump Ridge Track is set to reopen in November, just in time for New Zealand’s summer hiking season.
This intermediate-level loop walk can be comfortably completed in three days, including overnight stays at two backcountry lodges. Along the way, you might find yourself sharing your journey with a curious kea, an olive-green parrot known for its penchant for exploring hikers’ belongings.
The Scenic Tapestry of Hump Ridge Track
While the Hump Ridge Track does ascend nearly 1,000 meters into the sub-alpine realm of the eponymous Hump Ridge, what truly sets this experience apart are the breathtaking vistas of long, deserted beaches along the Tasman Sea. These views offer a refreshing departure from the vertiginous landscapes typically associated with the Fiordland region.
As you traverse this pristine terrain, you’ll encounter reminders of sporadic development attempts that predate the logging ban of the 1980s. One such marvel is the century-old wooden Percy Burn Viaduct. Although it was abandoned shortly after its inauguration due to a downturn in the timber industry, this towering bridge was revived five years ago and stands as a delightful surprise for walkers emerging from the fern-filled forests, perched on the edge of a deep valley.
More Great Walks in New Zealand
While the Hump Ridge Track promises an exciting addition to New Zealand’s hiking scene, it’s just one of many incredible trails across the country. Here are three more must-visit options for avid hikers:
Tongariro Northern Circuit: Venture into the volcanic heart of the North Island for a 28-mile loop around Mount Ngauruhoe, a famous stand-in for Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings films. You’ll also traverse the eye-popping Emerald Lakes along the way.
Abel Tasman Coast Track: Located near the northern tip of the South Island, Abel Tasman National Park boasts golden beaches, turquoise seas, and lush forested hills. The 37-mile one-way walking route takes you past waterfalls, over swing bridges, and through towering tree ferns.
Routeburn Track: For those who relish elevation, the 21-mile Routeburn Track offers a high-altitude adventure across the Humboldt Mountains, nestled in the Southern Alps between Queenstown and Milford Sound. Above the tree line, you’ll enjoy awe-inspiring views of the braided rivers in the valleys far below.
So, whether you’re a seasoned hiker or someone eager to embark on their first Great Walk adventure, New Zealand’s diverse landscapes and well-maintained trails are ready to enchant you. The Hump Ridge Track, with its coastal charm and breathtaking scenery, is set to become a cherished addition to the roster of Great Walks, offering a fresh perspective on New Zealand’s untamed beauty.
This article was originally published in the October 2023 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK). To explore more incredible journeys, consider subscribing to National Geographic Traveller (UK) magazine (available in select countries only).
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Great Walk: Hump Ridge Track
Q: How long is the Hump Ridge Track in New Zealand?
A: The Hump Ridge Track in New Zealand spans 38 miles, making it a challenging yet rewarding adventure for hikers.
Q: When does the Hump Ridge Track open for the hiking season?
A: The Hump Ridge Track typically opens in November, just in time for New Zealand’s summer hiking season, providing ideal conditions for exploration.
Q: What is the difficulty level of the Hump Ridge Track?
A: The Hump Ridge Track is considered an intermediate-level hike, making it accessible to a wide range of hikers. It can be completed comfortably in three days.
Q: Are there accommodations along the Hump Ridge Track?
A: Yes, there are two backcountry lodges along the Hump Ridge Track where hikers can stay overnight, enhancing the overall hiking experience.
Q: What sets the Hump Ridge Track apart from other Great Walks in New Zealand?
A: The Hump Ridge Track offers stunning views of long, deserted beaches along the Tasman Sea, a unique feature that distinguishes it from the more mountainous landscapes of other Great Walks in the Fiordland region.
Q: Are there other notable hiking trails in New Zealand?
A: Yes, New Zealand boasts several remarkable hiking trails, including the Tongariro Northern Circuit, Abel Tasman Coast Track, and Routeburn Track, each offering its own captivating scenery and challenges for hikers.