Looking for a hike you can squeeze into a one and a half day window? Myrthe was after a challenging hike, with rewarding mountain views and a hut to spend the night. The Mt McIntosh Loop on New Zealand’s South Island turned out to be the perfect 28-hour microadventure.
- A loop track with fresh views the whole way
- Easily accessible
- Amazing views of New Zealand’s mountains
- Spend the night in McIntosh Hut
- The perfect spot to watch the sunset (and rise if you’re keen)
Scrambling up to McIntosh Hut
It was 3pm by the time we set off on the Mt McIntosh Loop Track from the Whakaari Conservation area car park, two kilometres south of Glenorchy. The DOC sign told us we were looking at 5-6 hours to get to McIntosh Hut. The start of the loop is cruisy enough as it follows the easier Mt Judah track.
After 4km however, it was time to leave the well-formed track and turn left towards the Buckler Burn, a fast-flowing river that we needed to cross. We were happy to discover the water only came up to our shins, as this river rises very quickly after any period of rain.
We made the most of our chance to cool off as it was 25°C and hot as hell. From here on, all that remained was, according to DOC, a ‘steep zigzag up an old mining road’. Yep, definitely steep! Luckily, the view down to Lake Wakatipu gave us a good excuse to pause regularly and take in our stunning surroundings.
About halfway up we passed the McIntyre Hut, which was a good spot to sit and share some chocolate. This hut is a bit rough, but would make for a good destination if you can’t be bothered with another hour and a half of uphill slog. Aiming for a night higher up in the mountains, we shouldered our packs again and continued on.
As soon as we reached Long Gully Saddle the pain of the uphill struggle was forgotten, as we were treated to amazing views of Mt Earnslaw, the Dart Valley, Mt McIntosh and Black Peak. A final sign promised us it would only be 30 more minutes to reach our home for the night.
In my opinion all of New Zealand’s backcountry huts are amazing, but the McIntosh Hut is something special. The hut was built around 1915 to accommodate people working in the surrounding scheelite mines. The kitchen looks much the same as it would’ve in the hut’s early days!
With the sun just about to set behind the mountain range across the lake, we opted to sit outside, taking too many photos of the sky turning pink, purple and blue.
Sunrise From Mt McIntosh
The sunset had been so stunning, we decided to set our alarm to hike up Mt McIntosh to catch the sunrise as well.
After setting off from the hut just after 5am, it turned out that there was no real trail leading to the summit, or at least none that we could find in the dark, so we were left scrambling randomly.
Eventually, we found a steep gully leading to the rocky ridge, offering us all we needed, which was a view towards the east and a (somewhat precarious) spot to perch ourselves. We craned our necks in every direction to take in the colourful show the sky was putting on for us again.
After the sun peeked over the mountains, we headed back to the hut for a power nap, followed by a leisurely breakfast. With the bigger part of the loop done on the first day, all we had left was a few hours of walking.
The remainder of the loop was possibly even steeper than the terrain from the day before, but we were glad to be going downhill instead of up, and took our time to slowly make our way down.
As soon as we got down and looked back up towards Mt McIntosh, it seemed unreal we’d been up there for sunrise just a few hours earlier. We popped out onto the road and walked 200m to the carpark to complete our loop.
A swim in the ice-cold lake followed by a lakeside picnic with all our leftover food made for the perfect finish to our 28-hour microadventure!
- Hiking boots
- Hiking poles (good for the steep stuff as well as the river crossing)
- Plenty of food and water
- Warm clothes
How To Get There
The Whakaari Conservation area car park is located 2km out of Glenorchy, 44 km from Queenstown.
- Sleepover in a hut
- Gawking at the sunset and mountainous views
Distance Covered / Elevation Gain / Duration
Day 1 – 10 km / 1,274 m / 4 hrs
Day 2 – 8 km / 192 m / 3.5 hrs