There’s no lack of jaw-dropping views in New Zealand, and the Sawyer Burn Track that looks over Lake Hāwea is certainly one that will leave your gob, smacked.


  • Sweeping views of surrounding mountains and Lake Hāwea
  • Quiet, less-known hike
  • Heart-pumping morning exercise!

Stumbling Upon The Sawyer Burn Track

Travelling in New Zealand is so rewarding for those who love to hike. Sometimes the best experiences are unplanned and come from following your curiosity. Such was the case with our short hike along the Sawyer Burn Track in Hāwea Conservation Park.


A Wrong Turn In The Right Direction // Sawyer Burn Track (NZ), track, woman, mountain


We’d been driving along Lake Hāwea on our way to Wanaka, planning to do a different track, but missed it and decided not to turn around. Instead, we thought we’d check out a possible spot to camp for the night and took an unsealed road by the lake, passing free-roaming cows, to Kidds Bush Campsite. From there we discovered a walking track sign and began what we thought would be a gentle morning stroll.

Serene Views In Total Solitude

Instead, it was a steady uphill (but thankfully shady) climb that zig-zagged its way through a pretty forest. We took lots of breaks to catch our breath and admire the view we could glimpse between the trees. At its highest point, the track opens up to a surprising view of the lake and surrounding mountains. Here you can spot tiny white boats drifting across the bright blue lake, way down below. We perched ourselves on a rock to eat a lunch of hard-boiled eggs and tomato on crackers while we enjoyed the view. 


A Wrong Turn In The Right Direction // Sawyer Burn Track (NZ), blue lake, mountains


The track continues through the mountains to Sawyer Burn Hut, for those willing to scramble along next to the cliff face. It should take another 1.5 hours from the bush line where we stopped for lunch. We did this hike in summer and the weather was beautiful. According to the DOC, the track runs through terrain that’s at risk of avalanches from May to November. While fine weather allowed us to be spontaneous, planning and caution during the colder months is essential.

We decided to turn around after we’d eaten lunch. It was a quick descent and it was hard not to start running because of the steepness. At the bottom we were sweaty, shaky-legged and satisfied. We recommend this hike for its relative quick ascent to incredible views, and for its loneliness. We didn’t come across any other hikers.


A Wrong Turn In The Right Direction // Sawyer Burn Track (NZ), track, woman, mountains, peaks

Essential Gear

  • Sturdy footwear
  • Water and snacks
  • Sun protection
  • Windproof jacket
  • Appropriate snow gear if attempting in winter 

How To Get There

You can find the trailhead at Kidds Bush reserve campsite (searchable on Google Maps). It’s 6km down an unsealed road off Makarora-Lake Hāwea Road.



  • Hiking
  • Photography 
  • Dropping your jaw in wonder

Skill Level

Beginner – Intermediate: the hike is quite steep the whole way to the tree line, so a moderate level of fitness is required.   

Duration / Distance

2 hours / 5km return to the tree line and 5 hours return to Sawyer Burn Hut