Off the Beaten Track to... Earnslaw Burn
Glenorchy (40 kilometres from Queenstown) is one of the most alluring destinations in New Zealand – famous for its stunning alpine scenery and its spirit of adventure. It is also one of the most popular visitor destinations in the country, but up in the valleys and mountains there is space and solitude for every traveller.
Making Hobbit Tracks
One of the best way to explore the Glenorchy region is by foot, although you are strongly advised to adhere to the Outdoor Safety Code (see below). We suggest heading to Earnslaw Burn, one of the most magical locations in the Peter Jackson movie, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (a challenging and rewarding four to six hour hike). Earnslaw Burn is a glacier that has created a number of waterfalls that tumble down huge rock faces and the hike offers spectacular views at the head of the valley over the glacier and beyond. You can follow Bilbo's tracks when he and his company of dwarves continue their quest after leaving Rivendell.
Overview of the Earnslaw Burn Track
The track starts on the true left bank of the Earnslaw Burn on the Glenorchy - Paradise Road, 20 minutes from Glenorchy (40 kilometres from Queenstown). Transport is available - check with local operators.
Following the Earnslaw Burn through bush to the tussock basin at the head of this valley, will bring you to a viewpoint with impressive views of an icefall on Mt Earnslaw/Pikirakatahi. An overhanging rock just within the forest on the true right (looking downstream) of Earnslaw Burn can be used for shelter. River crossing and route finding experience is essential.
The track can be tricky to find in places and the river crossing to get to the bivvy is dangerous in heavy rain. This track is not recommended for young children.
Other Things to Do
This is a host of activities for visitors to enjoy alone and with guides or groups. Any one of these will take you into amazing countryside that feels quite, remote and utterly spectacular:
- Horseriding – Two hour, all day or multi day treks will take you riding through open flat land, river crossings and untouched beech forests, while taking in the mountain vista. There is even a Lord of the Rings themed trek.
- Climbing – Plenty of climbing options in the Richardson Mountain Range to east of the Rees and in the Forbes Mountain Range to the west. There is also rock climbing at Chinaman's Bluff in the Dart River Valley.
- Fishing - For anglers and fly fisherman Lake Wakatipu has an abundance of land locked salmon, rainbow and brown trout. The clear waters flowing in the surrounding rivers and tributes, including the Routeburn, Rees, Dart, Greenstone and Caples offer some of the best high country fishing.
- Routeburn Canyoning - Travel to the Routeburn Valley and try abseiling, sliding and leaping through hidden mountain canyons.
- Scenic flights - View Glenorchy's fabulous alpine high country from the sky with either a helicopter or fixed wing tour from Glenorchy.
- Mountain biking - There are a number of trails in Glenorchy, ranging from easy beginner to advanced/expert trails.
- Skiing and snowboarding - Designed for small groups of adventurous snow seekers, a privately owned mountain recreation area field is accessible only by helicopter. Used as a base for ice-climbing trips in early winter and winter survival skills or avalanche courses.
- Paragliding - There are many opportunities for freedom paragliding in the Glenorchy area. It is important that you receive permission to do so from the land owner or station managers prior to departing.
- Boating & Jet boating - Lake Wakatipu is New Zealand 's third largest lake, being 80 kilometres long and covering 293 kilometres squared, and on average 300 metres deep for over half its length. Lake temperature ranges from 8 to 11 degrees centigrade winter to summer.
- Kayaking - Paddle some of the most scenic waters in New Zealand while finding out about the area's important ecological history. Guided tours available.
More Walks from Glenorchy
Information about all of the walks and tracks below, can be found on the Department of Conservation website:
- Glenorchy Walkway - Glenorchy Walkway offers excellent opportunities to view bird life as its boardwalk traverses wetlands. A great family walk ideal for picnics with views of Mt Earnslaw/Pikirakatahi.
- Routeburn Nature Walk - An easy going, well interpreted loop track ideal for a family walk. It passes through beech/tawhai forest and other vegetation, similar to what the famed Routeburn Track passes through.
- Diamond Creek Track - The track at Diamond Creek follows the true left bank of the creek to Lake Reid.
- Glacier Burn Track - At Glacier Burn you'll climb through beech forest to Glacier Basin. Follow the creek beyond to view the Humboldt Mountains.
- Invincible Gold Mine - Built by miners in the 1880s, the Invincible Gold Mine Track is an uphill walk that offers wonderful views of the Rees Valley and Mt Earnslaw/Pikirakatahi.
- Kea Basin Track - It takes half a day to climb to this beautiful sub-alpine tussock basin beneath Mt Earnslaw/Pikirakatahi.
- Lake Rere - A steep climb through red beech eases before reaching picturesque Lake Rere, a popular tourist destination in the late 19th century.
- Lake Sylvan Track - This well-defined track leads through old moraine river terraces and tall red beech to pretty Lake Sylvan in Mount Aspiring National Park.
- Mount Alfred - A good zigzag track climbs three quarters of the way up Mt Alfred. From there you'll follow a marked route to the bush line.
- Scott Creek Track - This route to a bush line musterers' hut is for experienced hikers. It is irregularly marked, steep and in parts obscure and washed out.
- Sugarloaf/Rockburn Track - This marked track traverses moraine through beech forest from Lake Sylvan.
- Rees Dart Track - A four to five day hiking circuit around the southern end of Mt Aspiring National Park, following the Rees and Dart Rivers.
Outdoor Safety Code
- Plan your trip
- Tell someone
- Be aware of the weather
- Know your limits
- Take sufficient supplies
To help plan your holiday in the Glenorchy region, simply choose from the main categories below:
More Off the Beaten Track Suggestions
If you want to discover some of New Zealand's hidden treasures, travel to some out-of-the-way places and see sites that many travellers and tourists miss out on, look at more of our 'Off the Beaten Track' suggestions.