What Is Considered a Short Hike – I’ve asked the major publications

If you, like me, enjoy adventure and love strolling on trails, hiking might just be your favorite activity. But have you ever considered a short hike? Also, what is considered a short hike?

Well, as evident from the name, a short hike may be best defined as a short-duration hike, typically a day hike or a short walk. Most short hikes last a couple of hours to an entire day, depending on the complexity of the trail. Ideal for people with moderate fitness, the journey of an average short hike will not be more than 10 hours (travel and return).

When it comes to short hikes, you can never leave New Zealand behind. Lined with lofty mountains, beautiful coastlines, and lush national parks – this destination has all the ingredients for a perfect short hike. The most popular short hikes in New Zealand may be found in South Island. However, North Island too has its gems. In this article, I will discuss all these short hikes detailing what exactly you can expect during the trip.

The table below contains the average from some major publication from what they have categories and curated as “short hikes”.

A short hike is considered to be from 0.3 – 22 km with an average of 5,2 km (3.2 miles). “Short” does necessarily mean “easy”. That means short hikes last a couple of hours to an entire day with the average no more than 10 hours. 


Top rates “short hikes” Average
newzealand.com 0.5 – 9.5 km 3.5 km (2.2 miles)
alltrails.com 0.5 – 10.1 km 4.7 km (2.9 miles)
tramper.nz 0.6 – 22 km (*1) 7.0 km (4.3 miles)
tipadvisor.com 0.3 – 16.1 km 3.8 km (2,4 miles)
gonetraming.com 3.1 – 16 km 7.0 km (4.3 miles)
Overall average 5.2 km (3.2 miles)

(*1) tramper.nz frequently mentions hikes and tramping trails on 50 – 90 km as “short hikes”. It makes sense as it is a site for hikers, but these were not included as most of us regular folks wouldn’t consider a hike with an overnight stay as “short”. These are therefore not included in the average.


Mount Manaia Track (distance 3.5 km)

If you are looking to travel to North New Zealand, you absolutely cannot miss the Mount Manaia Track. With impeccable harbor entrances, this hike takes a 3.5 km trail, and depending on your fitness level, it will require two to three hours for the return journey. The defining element of this track lies in the beauty of the island. Created by the natural geological forces, the coastlines are spectacular, to say the least. Since the track can be easily traveled by people with low to average fitness level, you can easily head for the trip without thinking twice.

The beautiful native forest is teeming with trees and despite being a slightly steady steep, the picturesque view from the hilltop is truly rewarding. As you walk up to the base, you will find the mountains resembling an old castle. This is the product of volcanic energy that has created this beautiful land. At this stage, you might also want to look out for the Chicken islands since they are yet another spectacular treat.

Like several other parts of New Zealand, the government is struggling to revamp the natural habitat of the wildlife, and the forest falls in this category. During your hike, you can stroll under the sweet shade of palm and kauri trees while fathoming the beauty of the rata and Pohutukawa pokes.


Roy’s Peak Track (distance 16 km)

One of the best tracks for walking, Roy’s Peak Track is beautifully nestled in the South Island. Popular for its picturesque setting, this track is often frequented by celebrities. The biggest highlight of this area is the iconic Lake Wanaka which is created from the stone-studded stretch of Mount Alta.

The trek can be performed by individuals with moderate fitness levels. You start from the base of Mount Aspiring Road, stroll along the beautiful grass meadows of tussock, and ultimately reach the central ridge. The entire route is unavailable during the spring months due to the lambing season. So, I wouldn’t recommend visiting the trail between October and November.


Mt. John Lakeshore Track (distance 8.2 km)

This trek will take around three hours and I absolutely love it for the breathtakingly beautiful views of Tekapo Lake, which also happens to be one of my favorite lakes. As a part of the trek, I started the hike from the stunningly beautiful Tekapo Springs and moved up until I reached Mt. John Observatory. This journey took me 45 to 50 minutes. Unfortunately, the observatory point does not offer many views. You will only get to witness the breath-taking views when you manage to reach the top.

Finally, when you end up reaching the top point, you would be bowled over by the unreal views of Tekapo lake and the subsequent greenery around it. Thanks to this trek, I ended up falling in love with NZ in just a couple of hours.

What do you call a person from New Zealand?
Me tramping the Mt. John Lakeshore Track

From Mount John, I moved to the downward trail to finally stop at the lakeshore. If you take the Lakeshore Road to hike down from the observatory, it will take you around two hours to make it to the base. Also, note that most of this trail has an open terrain. So, while you will get some of the best views, you also need to be wary of the hottest sun.

If you are planning for this short trek any time soon, I suggest bringing enough water and sunscreen for a pleasant and safe trekking experience.


Rangitoto Summit Track (distance 3.1 km)

If you don’t mind trekking to active Volcanoes, Rangitoto Summit Track might just be your best bet! Popular as the youngest active volcano in the country, Rangitoto had its last eruption close to 600 years back. The overall trek seemed to be moderately difficult and I could make it with my average fitness level. The trail stretches up to seven km and it took me two hours to return.

Getting to the trekking spot is quite simple. You need to visit Queen’s Wharf in Auckland, and simply catch the right ferry. Upon reaching the spot, you will find multiple ferries moving between the volcano and the city.

The track seemed like a simple climb as I walked through the largest Pohutukawa forest in the world. During the journey, I also got the chance to catch a glimpse of some lava fields. Finally, when I reached the summit I was taken aback by the truly incredible views. You won’t even need binoculars to see the beautiful Hauraki Gulf. Besides, in my opinion, this trek gives you the best views of Auckland.

The government of New Zealand had heard complaints about a frequent pest infestation. So, in 2011 they launched the biggest pest eradication drive across the globe. Thanks to the drive, the island was free from pesky mammalian pests. Unfortunately, it also led to the death of several exotic birds of the country. With that said, you still can spot a couple of native birds if you are observant enough.


Sandfly Bay (distance 7.6 km)

If you have ever visited Seal Point Road, you are probably familiar with Sandfly Bay too. This trek is really short since all it took me was a pleasant walk along the road to finally reach the bay. Initially, I was worried that the trek would come with hoards of sandflies, but only later on did I realize that it was not sandflies that gave the bay its name. Instead, the bay is named for its fine sand which is often blown away due to the intense winds. Collectively, the harsh winds and the fine sand has ended up creating some of the best sand dunes.

The hike is enjoyable and as you walk along the sand to the beach you will reach a final point where a bunch of seals has decided to rest. I loved watching these beautiful creatures in their natural habitat. They were not confined, and they seemed quite well-rested.

Unlike common treks, this one comes with a steep downward trail. With the loose sand in place, it was more of a brief workout for me. Overall, the return took around 45 minutes and I thoroughly enjoyed the journey. It is worth noting that the return time may vary depending on how fast you walk and your fitness level. You should also note that you won’t be allowed to go until the beach’s end since it has been saved by the authorities as a conservation zone.


Wainui Falls Track (distance 3.8 km)

The Wainui Falls Track is one of the best options for anyone who enjoys waterfalls in their trail. Spanning across a stretch of 3.8 km, this is one of the shortest treks to be featured on my list. The total trek took me 1 hr 20 minutes and you can attempt it with low or average fitness.

While there are many things to love about the trek, what truly stood out for me was the waterfall. It was both dreamy and truly dramatic. As the water started cascading and tumbling, the lower level of water ended up spraying and frothing. The trail was easy and being large and wide, it was also quite accessible on the northern parts of the South Island.

The trail is nestled around 20 km away from the beautiful Takaka village, which also happens to be the final town on the western corner of the iconic Tasman National Park. As you keep walking, you will find multiple signs that lead you to the beginning of the walk. You can then take a brief stroll along the farmlands before finally entering the lush, green forests.

The forest is lined by palms, ferns, and ratas, all of which collectively make it cool and breezy. After walking at a stretch, you will witness a steep track that will finally lead you to the falls. The journey is amazing and the thundering sound of the falls is unreal, to say the least.


Bottom line

Well, that was all about short hikes in New Zealand. Since I have listed multiple destinations set across both North and South Island, you can always pick your favorite depending on the location of your hotel/homestay in the country. Overall, it will be a remarkable treat that you will remember for several years to come.