An easy overnight stay or day walk, and a short drive from Queenstown, Heather Jock Hut is a beautiful option for a low-maintenance adventure, even in winter!


  • Rewarding views for little effort
  • Great opportunity for a winter adventure 
  • Historic mining sites along the track 
  • Bivvy experience 
  • The option to stay overnight

Wild Weather Won’t Stop Us

I remember looking out the window from our house in Queenstown. The weather was dark, windy, and rainy. It was basically the kind of weather that makes you want to curl up on the couch with a movie and hot choccie. 

But four of us had taken two days off work, and were determined to have our girls’ adventure. After three failed attempts of the hike to Mueller Hut in Mount Cook, because of extreme weather, we decided to plan a hike where the weather couldn’t disturb our plans.

We opted for the Heather Jock Hut – a safe, easy and accessible hike that still offered rewarding views and a remote experience.


Hitting the Heather Jock Trail

Leaving with our raincoats and cosy mid-layers, we headed out for the 45 minute drive towards Glenorchy. The road there’s absolutely beautiful, and definitely worth a cruise, however it’s pretty twisty and we had to make a couple stops for the girls’ tummies in the back. Lucky it’s a good excuse to check out the views of Lake Wakatipu! 

The trail starts at a car park on the right when coming from Queenstown (literally the only place you can come from to get to Glenorchy), and it’s the gateway to the Wharkaari Conservation Area. As the trail to Heather Jock Hut hits a couple of junctions to other huts, we had a quick look at the DOC map before starting, to get our bearings.



The walk’s pretty easy and we’d allowed for plenty of daylight, so took our time heading up to the hut, yarning all the way. Except for some clouds, the weather miraculously cleared up, so we were stoked. It’s a gradual walk up to Heather Jock Hut, with pretty easy terrain, mostly on the gravel trail that’s known as Mt Judah Rd. 

After about 30 minutes we reached the first junction. This gives you the option of heading to McIntyre or McIntosh Hut to the left, or Heather Jock Hut on the right – the signage is pretty clear. 

Continuing up the road, you’ll reach a second junction. At this junction, there are two routes which both take you to Heather Jock, in around the same amount of time. 

The left hand track takes you over a small river crossing and via Bonnie Jean Hut, which we thought was a more interesting route. On our way up we stopped in Bonnie Jean Hut for a few minutes (this isn’t for overnight stays), checking out the historical mining site. You can take the opposite route when heading back down so you don’t miss any of the views.


Arrival at Heather Jock Hut

After about 2.5 hours of easy uphill trekking, we reached Heather Jock Hut at 1,400 metres. With the sun shining, we soaked up the warm rays, feeling smug about our decision to do the hike despite the previously poor weather. As we had plenty of daylight available, we explored up the hill behind us, checking out what mountains and landscapes were hiding. 



The only facilities at this hut are a separate long drop toilet and a water tank. The ‘hut’ is actually more of a bivvy – it basically just provides four walls and a roof. But when you can stay for free, and take in the incredible views, who can complain? Heather Jock Hut also technically only fits three people. But as we didn’t mind sharing a bed, we were able to fit in four of us. You can also bring a sleeping mat to squeeze in an extra person. 

The hut works on a first come, first serve basis. About 5 minutes after we arrived back at the hut post exploring, a couple arrived. Luckily for us, they were just visiting as a day walk. This hike’s pretty off the beaten track, so if you’re doing it in the winter, there’s a pretty low chance that the hut will be taken. But if you’re concerned about missing out, make sure you allow enough time and energy to head on McIntyre or McIntosh Hut, or head back down to the car park. 


A Bump in The Night

As we hiked in winter and it becomes dark early on, we spent a few hours cosying up in our sleeping bags and chatting – it felt like a remote sleepover! Around 10pm, we heard an ear-splitting bang on the door – it sounded like someone was trying to get into the hut. My first thought that the boys we live with were playing a prank on us – either that or zombies were taking over. 

Then there was another loud bang on the window. Naturally, we screamed our heads off. This was probably one of the more terrifying wilderness experiences I’ve ever had. After a few minutes of screaming, we discovered that the banging was actually a pesky kea, New Zealand’s native alpine parrot. It was hanging off the window and pecking at the glass, its eyes glaring at us, its prey.

Although keas are not actually dangerous (just VERY cheeky), we were too scared to even leave the hut to use the outside bathroom! I personally was paranoid that it’d lock me in the long drop. Beware of the wild keas haunting you in the night…

Despite the terrifying kea event, we eventually got to sleep. It was a very, very cold night, so we were pretty glad we decided to share beds. When you visit this hut, make sure to bring plenty of warm gear.

The next morning, we were delighted with the most beautiful layer of snow around our hut and the mountains. It felt like we were in a winter wonderland. This was a beautiful surprise to start the day, and it was definitely worth the chilling night in the bivvy. 


Essential Gear

New Zealand’s weather is unpredictable and erratic, and you need to be prepared for a change in conditions. Be prepared for any and all weather types. 



  • First aid kit equipped with a survival blanket
  • Drink bottle/hydration pack with 2 litres of water 
  • Food for the afternoon, dinner, and breakfast the next day
  • Sleeping bag – The warmer your sleeping bag, the better off you’ll be. It gets very cold, and could snow, so if you don’t have a good quality sleeping bag, bring extra warm clothes to sleep in. 
  • Sleeping bag liner – Although these seem very thin, they can make a huge difference to your warmth levels.
  • Toiletries – The toilet should have paper, but it’s always smart to bring some spare! 
  • Cooking gear – stove, gas, lighter, pots/pan, bowl, cup, fork/spoon. This is a self-service hut, so you have to be self-sustainable. Or, you can just bring premade food in a container as it’s an easy walk and the extra weight doesn’t matter too much
  • Head torch and lamp, plus spare batteries



  • Camera to snap all the beautiful views
  • Sleeping mat for extra warmth and insulation 
  • Personal locator beacon (there’s no reception in this area and no ranger nearby) 



  • Waterproof and windproof raincoat 
  •  A warm mid-layer (such as a fleece or wool top). A couple of these are probably needed for winter. 
  • Down jacket, or other warm outer layer 
  • Thermal tops and bottoms 
  • Beanie and gloves are essential
  • Hiking boots with ankle support and grip
  • Warm, woollen socks and extra pairs
  • Sunglasses (keep off that potential snow glare) 

How To Get There

Drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy. The trailhead is a car park with a sign/map, and it’s about 5 minutes before you reach Glenorchy town.

When coming from Queenstown, the trailhead car park’s on the right (If you put Heather Jock Hut into Google maps it should direct you there) 

Skill Level


The walk itself’s pretty easy, but as you’re staying overnight in a bivvy style hut, you have to be decently prepared with warm gear.

Distance / Duration

8.4km one way / 2-3 hours return, if you’re taking the simple route there and back. Otherwise you can make it into a loop by going via McIntyre Hut.