Moonlight Valley & Queenstown Backcountry Hike

Moonlight Valley & Queenstown Backcountry Hike

Trip Highlights

  • Relax in the comfort and beautiful setting of Moonlight Lodge
  • Exclusive backcountry hike on a private station
  • Hike beneath mountains, over golden tussock ridges and through native beech forests
  • Overnight wilderness camping with views of Skippers Canyon
  • Scenic jetboat transfer up the Shotover River
  • Explore goldmining history and alpine flora and fauna
  • Heli-hike to the dominant peak of Mt Gilbert
  • Summit Ben Lomond (1748m) with views over Lake Wakatipu
  • Learn about NZ high country life from station owners John and Ginny Foster

Trip Summary

This exclusive five day walk is a fabulous way to experience the rugged ranges behind Queenstown within the high country property of Ben Lomond Station. The walk extends through a variety of spectacular landscapes from tussock ridgelines high above the Shotover River to a heli-hike on the sub-alpine summit of Mt Gilbert (1787m). You will explore abandoned gold mining relics, water races, razorback ridges, beautiful beech forests, and river valleys right until the finish with an optional summit of Ben Lomond (1748m).

Accommodation is in the well appointed Moonlight Lodge where the comfortable lounge room has views of nearby peaks and is the perfect place to relax and enjoy the delicious three course meals and kiwi-hospitality from the Foster Family who own the station.

The walking experience is completed by spending a night wilderness camping on a secluded spot in the Shotover Canyon then a utilising a jetboat for a scenic upriver transfer which gives access to remote trails.

Trip Grading

To determine the grade of a particular adventure we consider a number of factors. These include the condition of the terrain, the altitude, the number of pass crossings and the length of the trip.

While part of this itinerary does utilise formed tracks, some days the hikes involve untracked scree and tussock. The walking is ‘easy-gradual’ but without a formed track to follow. The sense of isolation and wilderness is a strong feature of this trip. For you to be able to really enjoy this trip we recommend that you are confident walking across uneven terrain and are able to walk comfortably for a few hours at a time (with breaks included).

We recommend 90 minutes of aerobic type exercise, (either cycling, jogging or power walking) three times a week for the three months leading up to your trip.


We will collect you from a central city pick up point in Queenstown around 09:00am before we drive the short distance to the Moonlight Track trail head to commence todays walk. The Shotover Valley was an early Maori trading route to the West Coast which then became the site of one of the worlds most significant, 19th century gold strikes. The narrow but well defined trail follows one of the most dramatic and scenic valleys in the Wakatipu Basin. The walk initially traverses high above the Shotover River, once called "the richest river in the world". The trail descends into the old gold mining settlement of Sefferstown which was a gold rush tent village with over 3,000 occupants at its peak in 1863. Named from its occupation by the large Seffers family (of Crimean/Russian origin) and contained several stores, a hotel, post office and library. Following Moonlight Creek, the trail undulates beneath bluffs with views of soaring tussock covered ridges and native forest before coming to a plateau where the impressive Moonlight Lodge is located, overlooking sweeping tussock terraces and stunning beech forest. As day turns to night we savour the sun setting behind mountain silhouettes and a star-studded sky - one of the clearest and darkest skies in the southern hemisphere and enjoy a delicious meal prepared by your hosts, John and Ginny Foster. The lodge consists of comfortable double/twin ensuite rooms along with open plan lounge and dining areas (licensed bar) which are the perfect place to relax and enjoy the large stone fireplace and commanding views. Please Note: Tomorrow night we will be wilderness camping near to the historic Blue Jacket Hut. You will need to carry your clothing and personal items you require for one overnight and the following day. Tents and cooking equipment will be waiting onsite. Hiking distance: approx. 9km - Time: approx. 4hrs

Meals:  L,D

From the lodge we climb along a ridgeline which separates the Shotover River and Moonlight River valleys and offers breathtaking views of the Southern Alps. After lunch we drop off the ridge and descend via steep switchbacks to cross Blue Jacket Creek and follow a rough trail to our campsite, located on a terrace overlooking the Shotover River. 2 person tents will be supplied and meals will be prepared and enjoyed in the rustic hut before enjoying the 'star show' once the long evening night sky turns dark. Those who have paid for a single supplement will get their own tent. Please Note: There are no showers and the toilet is a traditional longdrop loo with a view! The hut is fully equipped for cooking, yet has no facilities for sleeping. It provides a homely and unique setting for our night in the outdoors. Hiking distance: approx. 8km - Time: approx. 3hrs

Meals:  B,L,D

An early morning breakfast prepared by your guides will fuel you for another day of hiking the exclusive high country trails of Ben Lomond Station. We break camp and drop down to the Shotover River where a waiting jetboat will take us up river for a scenic and informative ride and give you an opportunity to see the river and canyons from a different perspective. We disembark at Maori Point which was one of the earliest and richest alluvial gold mining beaches in the Shotover Valley (1863) and its name records the finding of gold by two Maori prospectors, an uncommon record amongst the European-dominated mining sites. We follow trails back to Moonlight Lodge via the Stoney Creek water race. This spectacular water race was built nearly 150 years ago to carry water to the Skippers gold sluices and in places is carved out of sheer bluffs (fenced for your safety of course!). The majority of the walk is on well-formed tracks, passing through native beech forests where the song of bird calls is clear. We return to Moonlight Lodge where a well deserved cold drink and shower awaits and can be enjoyed along with another delicious meal and warm hospitality from the Foster family. Does life in the mountains get any better? Hiking distance: approx. 8km - Time: approx. 4hrs

Meals:  B,L,D

Todays hike and magical views have the potential to be the highlight of the trip. A heli-hike takes us trekking far from the valley floor and into the extraordinary sub-alpine environment at the summit of Mt Gilbert - the dominant mountain we see from the lodge. Once the helicopter has dropped us at the peak, we are left in silence with the inspiring panoramas of the nearby Harrison and Richardson Ranges, the mountains and valleys we have been exploring over the past 3 days. Depending on the prevailing weather and group ability, we have a range of trails to descend from Mt Gilbert back to Moonlight Lodge. Please Note: The flight is subject to weather conditions; if cancelled due to poor weather, there will be an option of a heli transfer tomorrow to Queenstown - subject to availability. Hiking distance: approx. 7km - Time: approx. 3hrs

Meals:  B,L,D

After a final hearty breakfast, we farewell our hosts and commence the walk out and return to Queenstown. We hike to the Ben Lomond saddle (1326m) and the stronger members of the group can choose to take the side trip to the summit of Ben Lomond at 1748m where the views continue to deliver. From the saddle, we can see our earlier route from Skippers and Shotover Canyons, and the expanse of the Southern Alps and Lake Wakatipu. We descend until we reach the gondola, which provides a quick ride into Queenstown and then a short walk to the centrally located luggage collection point. A final drink together to celebrate our Moonlight adventure concludes the trip. Hiking distance: approx. 11km - Time: approx. 5 hrs

Meals:  B,L

What's Included

  • Delicious home cooked meals (4 breakfasts, 5 lunches, 4 dinners)
  • 3 nights well appointed lodge with electricity and hot showers (twin share)
  • 1 night wilderness camping using a private mountain hut for meals (shared facilities)
  • 2 professional qualified hiking guides
  • Scenic jetboat transfer on day 2, heli-hike on day 4, Skyline Gondola descent on day 5 of tour
  • Luggage transfer (15kgs max) on day 1 and day 5
  • Snacks and water while hiking
  • Private vehicle transport to trail head
  • Packs and poles (on request if required) - please let our staff know in advance
  • Pre departure information kit to help you plan and prepare
  • New Zealand Goods and Services Tax (GST)

What's Not Included

  • International or domestic flights and taxes
  • Arrival and departure airport transfers
  • Meals not mentioned in the itinerary
  • All beverages, other than breakfast
  • Sleeping bag and sleeping mat for camping (can be rented, please let us know in advance)
  • Water bottle (help us save the environment and bring your own drink bottle or hydration system)
  • Optional activities not mentioned in the itinerary
  • Personal expenses (eg. phone calls, internet, laundry, alcohol, shopping etc)
  • Travel insurance
  • Visa (if required)
  • Tips

Upcoming Travel Dates



Duration:5 Days
Starting Point:Queenstown
Finishing Point:Queenstown
Wilderness Camping
Jet boating
Grade:Moderate  Click for more information
Trip Code:MSQ
Prices From:NZD$2995
Single Supplement:NZD$895