Top 5 Trails In New Zealand: By Sam David Smith


Sam David Smith is no stranger to some of the hardest treks and trails in New Zealand, heck even all over the world - but he always has a mission in mind with his camera in hand. Sam is a widely successful outdoors photographer showcasing the pure, raw beauty of nature as well as documenting his journey along the way through engaging storytelling. He's worked with companies such as Land Rover, Huawei and Ford to provide content through his niche imagery. We asked Sam to make a list of his favourite trails in New Zealand that you should try and get out to embark this coming winter:

Sam: This might be the hardest list I've ever had to make. So much of it comes down to preference, accessibility, personal ability and experience so I've tried to make this list as diverse as possible and ranging from difficult/technical through to family friendly day walks

1. The Ruapehu Crater

Starting out from the top of the Bruce Road, you can either hike the trail under the chair lift or take the chair lift for $30 to the Knoll Ridge Cafe and from there it's up to you how you'd like to reach the summit. The Crater is my single favourite location in New Zealand. It's big enough that you simply can't explore the entire summit in a day and technical enough that you really have to work for it (especially if you attempt the route in winter) and that makes arriving all the more worth while. A classic leg burner and an amazing sense of accomplishment reaching the highest point of New Zealand's North Island. 

Difficulty Rating: 3/5 (alpine experience required) 

2. The Mueller Track

One of the most rewarding climbs available to those wanting to experience the Southern Alps of NZ in a short period of time. But the leg burner of a stair way will make you work for the views, to say the least. A night in Mueller must be one of the best ways to spend a night in the South Island. If you're looking for a shorter, and safer day walk, the climb to the Sealy Tarn can be done in about an hour. 

Difficulty Rating: 2.5/5

3. Lake Adelaide

This 7 hour climb into the heart of Fiordland's backcountry was one of the hardest overnight hikes I've ever done, but you don't want anything else from a hike through some of the most beautiful back country in the world. A good group of friends, a few Up and Go's and some cold beers for the top got us through and we were rewarded with incredible views and circus of Kea awaiting our arrival. This ones not for everybody and navigation + alpine experience is required. 

Difficulty Rating: 4/5 (alpine and backcountry experience required)

4. The Routeburn Track

If a 7 hour hike through overgrown backcountry on unmarked tracks isn't for you, but you still want to experience Fiordland off of it's main road to Milford, then this is the track for you. This track runs for about 35km from North Queenstown to the Divide in Fiordland. I've personally walked this track in single day but to take it all in, it really does pay to spend 3 or 4 days exploring the unique landscapes that make this walk what it is. 

Difficulty Rating: 2/5 (family friendly track but good fitness level helpful)

5. The Tama Lakes

Being from the North Island, I can still remember seeing the Tama Lakes for the first time and realising how thankful I was to have regular access to this part of the country. If you like the Lord of the Rings, then this short 3 hour return track makes you feel right apart of it, hiking most of this trail under the towering Ngauruhoe (Mt Doom). The lower and upper Tama Lakes are both unique in colour, shape and location and it's hard to believe that these two lakes aren't visited more often by tourists for how incredible they really are. 

Difficulty Rating 1.5/5

Written and Photographed by Sam David Smith.
Forward by Zayyar Win Thein.