#1 best hiking town in the world

Queenstown, New Zealand

The Adventure Capital of the World, a gorgeous location on Lake Wakatipu opposite the saw-toothed Remarkable range.

If you’ve never been to New Zealand, start planning. Now. It’s our #1 hiking destination on Earth.

Queenstown is an international resort town in Otago in the south-west of New Zealand’s South Island. …

According to the 2006 census, the usually resident population of the Queenstown urban area … is 10,416 …

… a centre for adventure tourism. Skiing, jet boating, whitewater rafting, bungy jumping, mountain biking, tramping and fly fishing are all strong promotional themes. …

Queenstown is the departure point for a large number of day trips to the similarly famous Milford Sound …

More interesting photos tagged Queenstown.

If you find it too much of a tourist trap, move away up the lake to Te Anau (pop. about 2000). It’s got everything you need to stage for an epic Kiwi hike.

Our favourite hike hikes out of Queenstown and Te Anau are:

Milford Track
• Routeburn Track
• Kepler Track

These are the three on the list of Great Walks. (Kiwis avoid them because they’re crowded with international tourists. Locals can take you on hikes just as good, but unknown to foreigners.)

on the Milford Track
on the Kepler Track

More “best hikes” in New Zealand and Australiasia.

Best months for these alpine tramps are December – March.

Start with our New Zealand information page.


OK. What world class hiking towns did we miss?

Honourable mentions will be posted tomorrow.

5 Replies to “#1 best hiking town in the world”

  1. Thanks for the stimulating ideas. All 10 are worthy. Here would be mine. I emphasized out-the-door access and places with an extended season; prioritizing long term viability rather than a weekend visit. Like Rick, I spread the picks around the world for variety.

    10. Zermatt – Super classic, terrific trails, town is total kitsch, food blah. One visit is required. And enough.

    9. Canazei – In the Dolomites, good weather, less well-known while still gorgeous scenery. Don’t miss the Via Ferrata’s.

    8. Marin County – The surprise on my list has excellent hiking 365 days/year, great cultural opportunities, and the Sierra’s, Lost Coast, and Big Sur are not far.

    7. Puerto Natales – Gotta follow summer to the Southern Hemisphere. This town is booming with pleasant amenities, is the closest to Paine, and there is 1,000’s of kms of routes virtually unknown.

    6. Banff – Like being in the Alps except everyone speaks English and is nicer. Excellent trails out the door, plus super long wilderness trips no one has heard of.

    5. Chamonix – This used to be the center of worldwide mountain culture. It is #1 in terms of trails, but a 2-3 month season and high cost limit how much time you can be there.

    4. Kathmandu – I’m violating my precept of “Out the door” by recommending the capital, but there’s so much to do in Nepal, this really is where one has to operate from. Still inexpensive, would score higher but for intense pollution.

    3. Te Anau – No outdoor list of any kind is complete w/o New Zealand. This is the base for Kepler, Milford, and close to the Routeburn Tracks. #1 for friendliness.

    2. Boulder – World class recreation, literally out your door, and great hiking all year, all winter. Not the #1 trails, but clearly #1 for access, all in a very progressive actual town where people can make a living.

    1. Cusco – 11,000′ in the tropics. Your choice of 5 kinds of Mangos or Avocados then hike to 20,000′. No problem going out 365 days/year and the lowest cost on this list. You can walk out your door right up onto the altiplano. Forget the “Inca Trail”; that’s not why Cusco is on this list.

  2. I’d also like to give “honorary mention” shout-outs to Mammoth Lakes, CA (for Yosemite and the Eastern Sierras) and Hood River, OR (for the Columbia River Gorge, Mt. St. Helens, and Mt. Hood).

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