Bluebird day on the Routeburn Track, Fiordland National Park, photo by Stewart Nimmo

When is the best time to go hiking in NZ?

30 May 2016

One of the best ways to explore New Zealand is on by foot. From volcanoes to golden beaches and soaring fiords, there’s nothing better than lacing up your hiking shoes boots and breathing in a little antipodean fresh air in our Great Outdoors. So, it comes as no surprise that one of the most commonly asked questions we get is When is the best time to go hiking in New Zealand?

Below, we shed a little light on what hiking is like during different times of the year in New Zealand.


Every year from September to November, the thaw is on. Days get longer and temperatures rise, snow melts from the mountains bringing new life to waterfalls and rivers and the warming sun electrifies flora and fauna. Ahead of the summer rush, with nature in full bore and average temperatures hitting 16-19 degrees Celsius, spring is a ‘blooming’ great time to hike in New Zealand.

Hiking in Fiordland in Spring

Spring in NZ is known for having ‘four seasons in one day’ – it may be scorching sun in the morning but by lunch time wind and hail have closed in – so be prepared! A guided hike by professionals is always good idea. We recommend a walk on the Kepler Track or the Hollyford Valley if you’re looking for a multi-day trek the Hollyford Valley – these easy, low lying tracks make the most of the new growth and birdlife encircling the valleys during springtime. With speckles of snow still about, sun-showers reflecting rainbows between granite slopes and waterfalls and rivers thriving, spring enhances the magic of Fiordland’s landscapes.  All the seasons in Fiordland are subtle, but what gives spring away is the flowering of the native clematis panticulata.  For the flower-lovers out there the ranunculis lyalli, Mt Cook. Lily (which is actually a buttercup) also starts its brilliant flowering.

couple of people with hiking poles walking in the mountains on the Routeburn Track in Fiordland New Zealand

Routeburn Track Guided Walk

We think Summer is the best time to go hiking in NZ

Summer in New Zealand lasts from December to February, and in most places is balmy – sometimes even hot! Temperatures rise to 23-26 degrees Celsius and people flock to our beaches, lakes and parks to make the most of the warm weather. Take care when hiking in the heat – pack plenty of water, some sunscreen and take shade under the flowering Beech trees.

Hiking in Fiordland in Summer

With the light staying with us until 9:30-10pm and all tracks open, summer offers the best opportunity to explore alpine trails like Lake Marian and Key Summit on the Routeburn or Kepler Tracks without the slippery snow. Up in the mountains you can swap the sun’s heat for the refreshing alpine breeze. The cool sea air of Milford Sound, the jewel of Fiordland, is also a pleasant escape from the summer heat. We offer some fantastic summer hiking experiences, including a day walk on one of the ‘finest walks in the world’, the Milford Track.  In the alpine valleys the Mt Cook Lily along with other alpine herbs are out in full force.  In the low lying valleys the Manuka tree is flowering prolifically, famous for its honey – look out for the distinctive white flowers and be sure to get up close and personal for an aromatic experience!

person taking photos on the Kepler Track above Luxmore Hut in the tussock fields

Cheeky birdlife showing of for cameras on the Kepler Track


As the days cool to around 17-20 degrees Celsius, hiking in NZ turns into a bit of a fairytale - leaves turn shades of golden and burnt orange, the ground turns into a patchwork of mushrooms and toadstools and snow lightly dusts the mountains. Autumn provides some of the best vistas of contrasting colourscolors and ever-changing landscapes of the year, without the heat or crowds of summer.

Hiking in Fiordland in Autumn

Our one-day Heli-hike of the Kepler Track Great Walk takes you to the midst of Fiordland’s marvelous autumn. The panoramas of aquamarine lakes, jagged pinnacles and forests are further emphasized by the golden hues, clean air and un-crowded tracks of the autumn season, making it one of the best times to hike in New Zealand.  Rainbows abound over Lake Te Anau at this time of the year making for fun and scenic photos.             

Mitre peak with snow with seashore and tide out at Milford sound

Milford Sound - misty, moody and magic


Snow on the mountain tops and, frost on the tracks and moisture in the air; with temperatures only getting to around 10 degrees Celsius, hiking in winter is not for the faint-heartedsensational!.  But venture out into the cool air and you will be rewarded - New Zealand’s already dramatic landscapes are further emphasized by snow-capped peaks, misty valleys and dripping hoar frosts.

Hiking in Fiordland in Winter

You know the feeling after it rains when the air seems fresher, cleaner – this is Fiordland in winter. Venture into Fiordland’s pure air to experience the grandeur of Milford Sound with our Milford Coach, Cruise and Walk.  Along with the safety you experience from being in a guided tour with local experts on the sometimes treacherous Milford Road you also experience the chance to explore some of the shorter walks in the area giving you access to roaring waterfalls, quiet alpine streams and winter treasures hidden in the bush.

Each season has something different to offer when going hiking in New Zealand. Get in touch to discuss the time of year that suits you best – Fiordland’s Great Outdoors is our passion, and we love nothing more than showing off our backyard.

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