Skip to Content
How to Hike Avalanche Peak From Arthur’s Pass, New Zealand

How to Hike Avalanche Peak From Arthur’s Pass, New Zealand

Olly Gaspar

By Olly Gaspar, full-time traveler for 6 years. I visit every place I write about & share real tips, photos, & advice from my trips.

Avalanche Peak New Zealand is a steep but rewarding day hike to an alpine peak overlooking Arthur’s Pass and surrounding mountains.

After many visits to the region, my absolute favourite hike in Arthur’s Pass is the route to Avalanche Peak.

This is a challenging day hike leading to a 1,833-meter peak which (usually) offers excellent views over the entire Arthur’s Pass area and Devil’s Punchbowl waterfall from the adjacent mountain range.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to witness the grandiose views promised on my hike due to some lingering clouds. However, the walk up through the native forests was still worth the trip. Here’s what you need to know to hike to the summit.

Overview & Things to Know

  • Hike Length/Duration: 9.2 km, 4-6 hours return loop
  • Elevation: 1,110 m gain, 1,833 m AMSL at the peak
  • Difficulty: Moderate (steep) in summer, difficult in winter
  • Map & Route: My Strava | Download GPX (2.0 MB)

The Avalanche Peak hike is one of the most challenging, yet rewarding hikes available near Arthur's Pass Village. It's also the only mountain summit in the area with a marked route to the peak.

Sadly, Avalanche Peak New Zealand is renowned for being a dangerous track. In fact, several people have lost their lives making their way up to the Avalanche Peak summit. Remember to always be prepared, monitor weather conditions and speak to the staff at the visitor center to get up-to-date route information and to register intent.

Avalanche warning: The DOC recommends that you have avalanche experience and equipment before undertaking this hike during the avalanche season. Remember to consult the DOC before departing.

Avalanche peak route new zealand
Summit route to Avalanche Peak

Where is the Avalanche Peak Trailhead?

There are two tracks that join up to the Avalanche Peak summit. Both start on the SH73 near Arthur's Pass Village. There is an option to hike both as a loop or ascend and come back down on the same track.

I'd recommend starting with the Avalanche Peak Track and descending on Scotts Route. You'll find the trailhead signpost just opposite the road from the new visitor center (before Glasgow Creek). I've pinned the location on the map below.

There's a free parking place just opposite the DOC Visitor Center. We left our car here for most of the day while we completed this hike.

Tip: The great thing about this hike is that it can be completed in a loop, which means you'll get great views of the entire surrounding area without having to double back on the entire route.

Hiker climbing to avalanche peak in heavy fog
Peter's lookout drive we seek travel

Tip: How to Get Around in New Zealand

Rent a car! New Zealand is very safe for motorists & driving is the best way to explore the country.

I always DiscoverCars to get the best deals. Or, if you want a camper, I've had good experiences in NZ with Spaceships & Travellers Autobarn.

Arthurs pass from avalanche peak route new zealand
Kea bird at arthurs pass new zealand

My Experience Hiking the Avalanche Peak Track

For the purpose of this blog post, I'll outline the route I took; ascend on the Avalanche Peak Track and descend on Scotts Track.

Following the tree markers, the track quickly darts into the treeline and almost immediately begins climbing steeply. You'll get a good understanding of what to expect on this hike within the first 5-10 minutes.

Although it's steep, the treeline section isn't technically difficult. There are a few sections where we were able to briefly break out and get great views over the Arthur's Pass Village.

Hiker in the forested section of the avalanche peak track

After a few minutes of climbing, you'll pass the Avalanche Creek Waterfall. You can get some great shots of it from the trail.

Avalanche creek waterfall arthurs pass
Grayl water filter bottle

Get Clean Drinking Water on Your Hike

I take the Grayl GeoPress Purifier Bottle on every hike and use it as my go-to source for filtering water all over the world. I've even used it to drink tap water in India!

Compare how the GeoPress stacks up against the best water bottle filters on the market.

Breaking Through the Treeline

After approximately 1-1.5 hours of hiking, we finally broke out from the tree line and into an exposed alpine area. This is officially the end of the Avalanche Peak Track and the start of the Avalanche Peak Route.

The difference is that a route is just a marked "route" that shows the best way to the peak, while a track is a well-marked and maintained "path" that you can stick to.

This means that this section is much more difficult and requires a bit of focus to make sure you stay in the right direction. The DOC advises that if visibility or conditions are poor, then it's best to turn around at the treeline as this alpine section is exposed and can get dangerous quickly.

Avalanche peak track views of arthurs pass
Hiker on the avalanche peak route to the summit
Avalanche peak tussocks

Last Route to the Avalanche Peak Summit

I was hiking here in early Autumn, so the snow hadn't set in yet and the visibility was fair. We followed the yellow pole markers all the way up for another 1 hour until we reached a rocky outcrop. From here, there is a clear route to the summit that leads left.

At this section, we saw yellow and orange pole markers merging. Remember that the yellow markers indicate Arthur's Peak Route, while the orange markers are for Scott's route.

Hiker on the avalanche peak route to the summit

Loop Return to Arthur's Pass

After taking in the views (of the fog in my case), we began the descent back to Arthurs Pass Village. Following the same route back to the marker merging point, we began the descent, this time following the orange markers for Scotts Route.

The views on the descent were much more impressive for us, with uninterrupted landscapes across the nearby mountains and Devil's Punchbowl Waterfall across the valley.

We spent much longer on the descent as we took photos and watched the Kea birds as they flew overhead.

Kea bird at avalanche peak
Hiker walking the scotts route down to avalanche peak with views of devil's punchbowl waterfall
View of arthurs pass mountains

Descending The Scotts Track

After descending Scotts Route, there's a clear, almost door-like entry back into the tree line. This is the start of Scotts Track, which descends back down to State Highway 73, just a few hundred metres further up from where we began the Avalanche Peak track.

From here, we also got a great view of Devils Punchbowl Waterfall across the valley.

Hiker on the avalanche peak route in new zealand

Where to Stay in Arthur's Pass

Arthur's pass alpine motel

1. Arthur's Pass Alpine Motel Motel

The best-reviewed and bang-for-buck motel in the area. These rooms offer kitchen facilities & great views of the valley and surrounding mountains.

Cabin lodge in arthur's pass

2. The Nook Lodge

While I didn't stay here, if you're in a larger group or if you'd prefer an entire apartment, then you can't go wrong with The Nook. This place offers a private bathroom, bedroom, living room, & mountain views.

Mountain house accommodation in arthur's pass

3. Mountain House Backpacker Lodge

A Great lodge within 1.4 km of Devils Punchbowl Falls & just 600 metres from Arthur's Pass Train Station, this backpacker lodge offers excellent common areas (lounge & kitchen) for socialising with other travelers.

More Photos from My Hike

I strongly believe that if you're always waiting for the "perfect conditions", then you'll inevitably miss out on opportunity altogether. An example of this is that if I had decided to postpone the Avalanche Peak hike due to the heavy fog, then I probably would have missed out on the hike altogether!

Sometimes you just have to get out there. Maybe 3 times out of 10 the conditions might not be ideal, but if you're waiting for the goldilocks hiking conditions then there's a big chance that you might miss out on the other 7 bangers!

Regardless, here are some more photos from my not-so-ideal hiking conditions on Avalanche Peak New Zealand. If you use this guide and snap some better shots than me, make sure to let me know, I'd love to share them. Oh, and for more New Zealand travel guides, take a pick below!

Hiker on the forested part of the avalanche peak track
Hiker standing on a rock on the avalanche peak route
Trail and river along the scotts route from avalanche peak
Arthurs pass from the avalanche peak track
Devils punchbowl waterfall from the avalanche peak hike
Arthurs pass from the avalanche peak track
Avalanche creek waterfall arthurs pass
Thanks for Reading

I'm Olly Gaspar, adventure traveler from Australia. I’ve spent the last six years traveling the world full-time, sharing my first-hand experiences & photography in over 700 travel guides on We Seek Travel. I visit every destination I write about to bring you unique travel itineraries, epic hiking routes, fun tour ideas, travel & photography gear ideas, & interesting places to stay.

I only make genuine, worthwhile recommendations based on my experience, expertise, & research. If you buy through my links, I may get a commission, supporting this website at no extra cost to you. Read my Publishing Ethics Statement.