Mount Alfred to me is like being back in my junior high, PE class and it’s mile day. Four miles around the track really doesn’t look that intimidating, but as you start running you want to fall into the fetal position on the ground and cry for your mother. Or maybe that was just me. But when it’s over, even though you cant feel your body, you proud of yourself because you did it.
Mount Alfred is located on the South Island in the Otago Region and rising about 4,511 ft. high and is roughly an hour from Queenstown or approx. 20 minutes from the heart of the small town of Glenorchy. If you are looking to summit, plan on a 4-7 hours roundtrip day. We did it in about 4 ½ hours. The hike starts at the northern end of Lake Wakatipu and if you follow signs for the famous Routeburn Track and you’ll hit the very small carport on your right for Mount Alfred. Its really small so make sure you don’t miss it. If I could recommend bringing one thing aside from the usual water and snacks, it’s a warm jacket because the weather changes without warning and the winds at the top can be ferocious.
For about 75% of the way up you are zigzagging through incredible moss covered beech forest that creates a natural canopy. And you’re breathing in the freshest air…in the world. You follow the small orange arrows to destiny. There is mud. Lots of it. If you wear running shoes you may be sorry. Bust out or invest in good hiking shoes because they are worth it. There are tons of streams and you could drink the water.
This hike was like being on a stair master for 2 hours going up then an hour and a half coming down. When I go to the gym, I’m on a Stairmaster for what, maybe 10 minutes before I lose my mind and want to collapse in the corner with a chocolate coconut donut. Hence the nickname we gave this baby, “Nature’s Stairmaster. ”
With a hike like this, where you can accomplish it in a day, its great because when you get halfway, if you don’t attempt to make it to the top your are going to feel like a piece of shit and a failure.
In the end, the summit holds this spectacular panoramic 360-degree view of the Southern Alps, Dart and Rees Valley. At the summit there is this narrow path you follow to get to the tippy top. The summit is much bigger and more open then you would expect by looking at it from the ground or water. It’s airy and open. You feel like you’re in the “Sound of Music.” I was dancing at the top. No idea where that energy came from.
And you suddenly become really proud of yourself, until you realize you have to go back down and you have zero clue where the trail is. By the end of the day we had buns of steel.
Going to New Zealand? Click here for more information on climbing Mount Alfred.