One of the better years I’ve had hiking, with five memorable multi-day hikes, and many day walks. I enjoyed a quieter New Zealand than for many years, with the borders closed, though locals have been exploring the country in record numbers.
Old Ghost Track, January
A good start to the year, walking one of the best tracks on the West Coast. A shared biking / hiking track, I thought two thirds of it would be better travelled on a bike, but I was glad to be walking the middle third along the tops, to fully appreciate the scenery without the risk of falling off it…
Around Mt Taranaki Circuit and Syme Hut, January
A hugely varied, and enjoyable four day circuit of the New Zealand’s second tallest volcano (after Mt Ruapehu), culminating in one of the most memorable nights I’ve ever had hiking, having Syme Hut to myself and some of the best sunsets and sunrises I’ve seen.
Angelus Hut, February
Perfect weather for visiting one of New Zealand’s best huts (though I camped), taking the epic Robert Ridge Track both ways, and enjoying refreshing swims in the Lake Angelus tarns.
North West Circuit, March
The longest hike I’ve done in New Zealand, carrying six days of supplies over the tough terrain of Stewart Island, a mix of super muddy bush and stunning beaches. It was a mixture of the sublime and the exhausting, and always memorable.
Diamond Lake and Rocky Mountain, September
The first of two excellent day walks near Wanaka, enjoying the wonderful mixture of lakes and snow capped mountains.
Isthmus Peak Track, September
A more challenging version of Roys Peak Track, a steep but straightforward climb with Lake Hāwea behind, before reaching a ridge with views of Lake Wanaka, and summit with views of both lakes.
Copland Track, October
A return to the West Coast, to walk out to the incredible Welcome Flat Hut and it’s famous hot springs. The weather was ideal, a welcome contrast from just a few days earlier when I had to bail on walking the Paparoa Track due to a severe weather warning.
Robert’s Point Track, October
A beautiful West Coast day walk out as close to face of Franz Josef Glacier as is safely possible, helped by some of the longest suspension bridges in New Zealand.
Wellington, throughout the year
One of the reasons I moved to the capital last year (just as Covid started) was that it is the best city in New Zealand for walking, with near endless opportunities for spectacular views and interesting tracks, only minutes away from built up areas. I’ve walked pretty much every track in Wellington City this year, and a few further afield.
On a relatively calm day (which does happen occasionally) it’s hard to beat Te Kopahou Reserve on the South Coast for incredible views and decent hills.
I ranked Johnson’s Hill as the best summit in Wellington, and as it’s my local I’ve been up it more than 40 times this year.
For a change I’ve also ventured to the other side of Karori valley up Wrights Hill a few times for a different perspective.
I walked all six walkways (Northern, Southern, Skyline, City to Sea, Eastern, and Makara) multiple times in full or part over the year. A big day was walking ~25km along the Northern Skyline to Mt Kaukau, and back home along the Skyline Walkway.
Puke Ariki Traverse is one of the best full day walks close to Wellington, with a train station close to each end.
A new find was Battle Hill Farm Forest Park, only 35 mins drive from home, with the Transmission Gully – Puketiro Loop a decent half day walk mainly along old forestry tracks up to a scenic spot for lunch.
Kapiti Island is a magical place to visit, home to many native species as an offshore sanctuary. It’s a relatively short but decent walk up to the 521m summit for epic views.
To finish with one of the more unusual walks, out to the Putangirua Pinnacles at the southern end of the Wairarapa. They’re a surreal sight, used as the ‘Paths of the Dead’ scene in the Return of the King.