Global Adventure - Backpack New Zealand’s Best “Great Walks” and Tramping Trails


Global Adventure - Backpack New Zealand’s Best “Great Walks” and Tramping Trails

Our 16-day main itinerary (rated strenuous to very strenuous with hiking days up to 14 miles and elevation gains up to 3650 feet and some rugged, moderately exposed terrain) will first explore the striking alpine ridges, peaks, glaciers and waterfalls of the Kepler and Routeburn “Great Walks”, and the magnificent Mount Cook National Park, plus opportunities to cruise under the waterfalls and green cliffs of the awesome Milford Sound and take in an optional walk and boat trip through famous glow-worm caves with their twinkling tendrils extending down from the dark cave roof! The trip will involve walking 5-14 strenuous miles per day between backcountry huts with overnight packs (no tents or stoves but all other overnight gear), plus days to explore, do optional adventure activities, and enjoy fabulous food in the towns of Queenstown and Te Anau. An optional 6-day excursion before the main adventure offers backpacking between camps, providing sunrises and sunsets over sparkling remote white-sand beaches on the Abel Tasman Coast Track and kayak (optional) in a wildlife refuge on the Tasman Sea; and an optional 4-day post-trip excursion will take us up the meandering West Matukituki river out of Wanaka, to climb high above the valley to in-your-face viewpoints of Mount Aspiring and the Dart Glacier. NOTE: The $1550 member fee given is for the 50% deposit only. The cost of any extensions you join will be assessed in full as an additional charge collected in the weeks after you register. The final payment will be collected in the fall before our departure. ALSO: Because names and commitment for the trip had to be secured in order to book huts, but we couldn't post until we were sure to have the huts, the trip was pre-advertised to general membership on facebook and through word of mouth and all roster spots were allocated. Any other applicants will be accepted to the waitlist only.

  • Fri, Feb 7, 2025 — Sat, Feb 22, 2025
  • Global Adventures Committee
  • Backpacking, Global Adventures
  • Adults
  • Strenuous/Very Strenuous
  • Challenging
  • Mileage: 70.0 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 22,160 ft
  • High Point Elevation: 6,018 ft
  • Pace: 2-2.5

For the main itinerary, arrange a flight through Auckland connecting to Queenstown, to arrive no later than the afternoon of February 7, 2025.  Take the convenient airport bus to our lodging in downtown Queenstown.  Flights connect through Vancouver, LAX and SFO to Auckland, and cross the international dateline, so you need to depart by Feb 5 to get there in time.

We'll end the main itinerary with a transfer from Te Anau to Queenstown in the morning on 22 February, 2025 to meet your early evening flights to Auckland to connect to flights home.   Going back across the date line you'll arrive home just a little later than you departed from Auckland! 

Itinerary Highlights:    The main itinerary will start and end in Queenstown, with easy air connections through Auckland. Transport around the country during the trip will be by charter bus, rental vans and tramper shuttles.   The main part of the trip will consist of 2-4-day ‘tramps’ (the Kiwi word for backpacking) between huts in New Zealand’s excellent backcountry hut system.  Because the huts have toilets and (usually filtered) water as well as bunks with mattresses and gas cookers, we need only carry a smaller overnight pack with our sleeping bags, cooking and eating utensils, clothing and food.  The huts are basic dorm-style shared bunk accommodations, typically with 10-20 other trampers and shared bathrooms.   Our tramps will cover 5-14 miles per day, with as much as 3700 feet of daily elevation gain on sometimes rugged, rocky but well-marked track.  Between our tramps and hut-stays we will stay in the fun and scenic lakeside adventure towns of Queenstown and Te Anau, in comfortable, 3-star hotels and hostels (double or triple occupancy, private or shared bath) where we can shower and wash clothes, connect to the internet, enjoy the tasty local food, resupply and rest up for the next tramp.  

  • The pre-trip excursion will start with a flight to Nelson at the far north of the South Island, from where we’ll take a bus and water taxi north to the start of the Abel Tasman Coast track (another Great Walk!). This 4-day track is along beaches and coastal bluffs, with some tidal crossings (must be timed carefully!), and we’ll be camping each night for astounding remote, scenic campsites.  Because we’re camping, if you are interested in doing this excursion you will need to carry your own food, tents and all overnight gear.
  • A post-trip excursion will start with an afternoon and evening in the laid-back, lovely lakeside town of Wanaka before we transfer to the start of the West Matukituki river track with the mountains rising high above us. We’ll stay two nights at the Aspiring Hut and (weather permitting) hike up-valley to the base of Mount Aspiring and up the steep slopes to a high vantage point above and across the valley and a glacier just on the other side.  This segment ends with a transfer back to Queenstown for flights out.

Time of Year:    Our itinerary in February is high summer, with warm temperatures and a reduced chance of rainfall but also late enough to avoid the biggest crowds.  However, in the alpine  there can be snow at any time of year (I've been whited-out on the Kepler in February before!) so we'll need to be prepared for all kinds of weather.

Lodging:   Before and after our tramping segments we’ll stay in comfortable 3-star lodgings (twin-share basis with en-suite bath) within convenient walking distance of restaurants and local sights, in the lively adventure hubs of Nelson, Queenstown, Te Anau and Wanaka.  During our Kepler and Routeburn tramps we’ll stay in huts with basic dorm-style accommodations, toilets and (usually filtered) running water as well as bunks with mattresses and gas cookers.  Dorm bunkrooms are typically shared with 10-20 other trampers.  At Mount Cook park we’ll stay in bunk-room accommodations (4-6 bunks with just our party) in the village. During our Abel Tasman Coast Track walk we’ll be camping in lovely remote and scenic camps (in our own tents) with running water, sometimes toilets, and the crashing waves nearby!

Food:   When we’re in town, breakfasts will usually be included at most of our hotels and we’ll also have a few group dinners at some of the many fantastic local restaurants. You’ll be amazed and thrilled by the great food and wine you can find across the country! Lunches and some dinners in town will be on your own to give you some space and a chance to try more tailored offerings.  (There are generally very good vegetarian options and foods to accommodate a range of dietary restrictions).   Note that restaurant options in Mt Cook Park are limited and expensive!  At the huts during our tramping segments, we will provide and prepare our own food, generally purchased from one of the many excellent supermarkets and health food stores that can be found in our gateway towns.

Leader’s Experience:   Cheryl Talbert ( has been a hiking and backpacking leader since 2009, and a Global Adventures leader since 2011. She has led a number of extended high-country backpacks in the US as well as successful international trips and treks including Turkey, Spain, Portugal, Norway, Italy, New Zealand, Australia, Belize, Iceland, the Himalaya, southern and northern Patagonia, Jordan and Peru (she is leading a trekking trip to Kyrgyzstan this summer!).  This will be her sixth trekking trip to New Zealand, her third time leading this route for the Mountaineers.

Participant Requirements:   Participants must be Mountaineers members with a current waiver on file. Because participants must carry ~20 pounds of gear and food for 3 successive days at a time on sometimes steep and rough, rocky trail with moderate exposure (see example at this link), a high level of conditioning, balance and recent multi-day trekking or strenuous hiking experience are required along with the appropriate gear for variable, potentially extreme weather.   In addition, this is a group trip (though plenty of opportunities for solitude will be available) so participants must be flexible and accommodating, have a positive attitude, and be able to amicably handle close quarters and the company of others for extended periods.  Participants must complete and return a liability waiver and a detailed medical information form, and a doctor’s approval if the leader requests it based on current or recent medical conditions.   International medical treatment and evacuation coverage will be required (not included in the trip price).

    • NOTE: Your leader makes most of the arrangements and provides logistics support during the trip, but is NOT a tour guide!  As a Mountaineers group we will operate as interdependent, capable travelers making our way together and helping one another succeed and be safe.  You must have the ability to navigate on trails with a map and compass.
    • NOTE: Participants must be fully vaccinated to participate in the trip.  In addition, participants are expected to practice conservative covid behavior before and during transit to the trip including masking and avoiding crowded indoor spaces whenever possible; and that they will carry covid self-tests on the trip and use them in the week before or any time during the trip when they experience a symptom commonly related to covid.  Any positive test may mean that the participant will need to mask up and isolate as much as possible until they are symptom free.  The same measures will be expected if anyone arrives with, or contracts, any significant respiratory illness symptoms.

Trip Price Detail:    $3100 for main itinerary, $650 for the Abel Tasman extension, and for the Wanaka post-trip extension the price will depend on how many people want to join. This includes all lodging, three dinners and most breakfasts in town , ground transport, luggage transfers, and all required permits plus a transfer and cruise on Milford Sound.  Not included are the participants’ international airfare, insurance, passport fees, food for the tramping segments, lunches and some dinners in town, alcoholic beverages, optional tours, and any personal items.

Registration Instructions:   Since this trip couldn't be posted until huts were secured, and the names of the group members had to be defined in order to book the hut tickets, the trip was advertised on facebook and word of mouth and all the spots were allocated to qualified Mountaineers members in advance.   However, there are often cancellations on these trips.  To be approved for the waitlist, please submit the application form at the button below. After the leader’s approval, the leader will add you to the waitlist (but note cancellations may occur quite late, only a couple of weeks before departure). 





The Supplemental Information Form should be completed in the weeks before the trip to update the leader on any conditions that have changed since you applied.

Cancellation Policy:   If you cancel from the main Fiordland-Mt Cook itinerary up to a week before departure you will be a refund less a $250 cancellation penalty;  after that you will not be eligible for a refund.  If you cancel from the Abel Tasman pre-trip extension up to a week before departure you will be eligible for a refund less a $150 cancellation penalty; after tht you will not be eligible for a refund.  If you cancel from the Aspiring post-trip extension up to a week before departure you will be eligible for a refund less a $150 cancellation penalty; after tht you will not be eligible for a refund.   These penalties will apply even if you are able to get someone to take your place, because changing the names on a hut booking incurs the same penalty as cancellation.


Backpack New Zealand’s Best “Great Walks” and Tramping Trails

Required Equipment

Required Equipment

After receiving your deposit, the leader will send out a series of letters or emails providing information to help participants succeed on the trip, including recommended and required gear, recommended maps and guidebooks.


Trip Reports