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Lake Alta Hike Queenstown: Secret Saddle Viewpoint

Lake Alta Hike Queenstown: Secret Saddle Viewpoint

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.

Explore the short and easily accessible alpine hike located high up on the Remarkables Mountain Range above Queenstown.

Lake Alta Hike in Queenstown leads to arguably, one of the most beautiful alpine lakes in South Island New Zealand.

Sitting at the base of a small dome of jagged peaks, the lake is so picturesque that it was featured in the Lord of the Rings as Dimrill Dale. The short but rewarding hike is often considered one of the best Remarkables hiking trails.

Even if you’re not a LoTR fan (how could you not be), a drive up the Remarkables range and a short 1-hour return hike to Lake Alta should be on anybody’s Queenstown bucket list.

How to Get to the Lake Alta Track

Access to the Lake Alta hike is located directly from the car park at the Remarkables ski area. Getting here takes approximately 30 minutes from Queenstown Central.

You'll need to turn off on State Highway 6 (SH6) at the signposted junction to the ski area. From here, it's a steep, winding, but well-maintained road that climbs all the way up the mountain slope.

Location: Lake Atla Parking

Map of lake alta trailhead in queenstown

Driving up to the Remarkables

Driving up to the Remarkables is a bit of an adventure in itself, and the views are certainly a warm-up for things to come.

The road is steep, however easily managed in a 2WD in the warmer months. In winter or after a snowfall, you will need to have snow chains fitted. There are several chain-fitting aisles to pull into on the way up and at the base.

Remarkables access road cost: $10 per car only during the Summer months

Shotover country from lake alta saddle viewpoint
View of Shotover and Kawarau River from the road

What to Expect on the Hike

  • Hike Length and Duration: 3.5 km (1 hour) return to the Lake. 5 km or (1.5 -2 hours) return to the saddle viewpoint
  • Difficulty: Easy (some might find it harder due to its steepness)
  • Lake Alta Elevation: 1850 m

After making it to the Skifield car park, we found a signpost with trail information immediately after turning right up the pedestrian roadway.

This is in fact, the trailhead. The start of the hike, therefore, involves some road walking up to the ski fields before continuing on to the right, up a slope, and over a well-marked trail.

Haylea walking along the trail on the lake alta hike, queenstown

There are a few small and gentle creek crossings before reaching Lake Alta, but they are easily managed without getting wet.

The track is fairly steep the entire way up to the lake, gaining approximately 220 m of elevation from the car park to Lake Alta. From the saddle viewpoint, expect another 150 m of elevation to reach just over 2000 m above sea level.

The track is well-maintained and easy to follow. As you can see we visited when there was no snow so this might be different during the winter months.

Tip: More information and up-to-date track status can be found on the official DOC website.

Small river running through the remarkable ski field area.
Scramble to the summit viewpoint with lake alta behind hiker

Lake Alta Hike GPX Map

Below I've included the GPX route that I recorded on my hike up to Lake Alta on my Garmin watch.

This track might be useful for those trying to find the way up to the viewpoint on the saddle. However, remember that conditions change and you shouldn't rely purely on GPX.

Strava map showing the steps taken to reach lake alta
My Strava

Best Lake Alta Viewpoint: The Saddle Scramble

We had heard that it was possible to make an easy scramble up to the overlooking saddle directly north of Lake Alta.

We couldn't see a marked trail, but we figured we would try our luck by walking up the rocks to the obvious rocky outcrop under the saddle.

Once we approached the rocks, we could make out a clear scrambling route all the way to the top of the smooth, grassy saddle to the right.

To find the exact route that we took, refer to the GPX file or my Strava above. Note that since it's not a DOC track, you'll need to attempt this at your own risk. In saying that, we considered it to be easy and relatively safe, at least in Summer. I'd imaging that it'd be slippery and a lot more dangerous in Winter.

More epic hikes around Queenstown: Ben Lomond, Moke Lake, and Queenstown Hill.

Views of hiker looking over lake alta from the viewpoint
Walking down from the summit at lake alta saddle viewpoint

View From the Top of the Lake Alta Saddle

After a short but steep scramble, we were rewarded with incredible views of Lake Alta beneath us.

On the other side, there are uninterrupted views of Lake Hayes, the Kawarau River, and even the giants on the Mount Aspiring range poking above the Coronet Peak ski fields beyond the valley.

Lake alta queenstown hike
Shotover and saddle viewpoint at lake alta
Lake alta saddle viewpoint

FAQs About Lake Alta Hike

Is the hike difficult?

No, the hike is steep in some sections but this is not difficult. If you have a good level of fitness this hike should not be a problem.

Are dogs allowed on the trail?

Yes, dogs are allowed to walk on the Lake Alta Trail however they should be on a leash and should be cleaned up if they take a bathroom break!

How long does the Lake Alta hike take?

The hike to Lake Alta takes about 1 hour return. If you continue to the saddle viewpoint, it takes around 1.5 to 2 hours return depending on your pace and level of fitness.

Where does the Lake Alta hike start?

The hike starts from the car park at the Remarkables ski area, approximately a 30-minute drive from Queenstown Central.

Where to Stay in Queenstown

I've written a separate, accommodation guide to the best places to stay in Queenstown– make sure to check it out get a great deal! Otherwise, below is a quick summary of my top picks.

Shotover penthouse & spa queenstown accommodation new zealand

1. Shotover Penthouse & Spa Luxury

An incredible penthouse apartment that features an outdoor terrace with a barbecue and hot tub. It is situated 200 m from the Skyline Gondola and Luge.

Outdoor hot tub at night at the luxurious family home

2. Family Home Group Pick

Great for families due to its epic 5-bedroom option and a bonus is the trampoline and outdoor hot tub. And just an 8-minute drive from Downtown Queenstown.

The black sheep backpackers queenstown accommodation

3. Black Sheep Backpackers Budget

A fun-filled hostel that features pod beds, an outdoor hot tub, and located within walking distance from central Queenstown. Free bike rental is available.

Spaceship rentals 3840

3. Spaceship Camper Alternative

I cruised around in style in a Spaceship rental car. These are great for budget adventure travelers since you’ll get your accommodation and transport ticked off in one neat package.

More Epic Queenstown Hikes

I hope that this guide to hiking to Lake Alta from Queenstown answered all your questions and inspired you to visit this Queenstown gem.

More Photos From My Hike to Lake Alta

Remarkables sunset viewpoint over the range
Remarkables sunset hike
Sunset at the remarkables
Mount aspiring from the remarkables
Mount aspiring from the remarkables
Moke lake hike queenstown 2940
Rock scramble back down to lake alta
Shotover and saddle viewpoint at lake alta
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.