New Zealanders are pretty good at heading for the hills. With a culture steeped in the outdoors and the surrounding areas of just about every town cloaked in vistas, it's not hard to see why. From the craggy peaks of the Southern Alps to the lush, coastal hills of the North Island, there's something for every fitness level. Lockdowns have made many Kiwis itch to get back outside, some with our best furry buddies in tow.
Lucky for New Zealanders, the country has a wealth of dog-friendly mountains to summit and hills to romp around. Knowing where dogs are allowed is the first step in having a grand adventure with your pooch, so check DOC or council's websites for more information. Some places, like national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, forbid dogs but take that as an excuse to find off-the-beaten-track tramps.
If you've found a DOC walk that interests you, check on the web page to see if dogs are allowed — and if a permit is needed. Permits are easy to obtain, just email the DOC site a few days before your intended leave date requesting one. If you've found a tramp not managed by DOC, check council websites or i-Sites to denote the dog-friendliness of the area. Many places are off-limits to dogs seasonally, whether it be for bird nesting, lambing, or sheep measles.
When bringing your dog along, come prepared with all the necessary paperwork and registration, plus poop bags, extra water, and a lead! Being prepared on a tramp allows both of you — and everyone around you — to have a much more enjoyable time.
So with summer upon us, there's never been a better time to dust off those tramping boots, pack a few snacks, and head into the mountains for some well-deserved solitude with nature. Here are a few of our favourite mountain and hill walks around the country that allow dogs.
Tararua Forest Park — Gentle Annie Track
4.5km one way — Easy — Dogs allowed
This popular Tararua walk ambles up at a steady incline to the Rocky Lookout, which shows off panoramic views of Mount Holdsworth and the upper Atiwhakatu Valley. Continue among shady tōtara before crossing boardwalks to reach the Mountain Shelter Hut, a perfect resting place among silver beech. The hut, built in 2003, sits on the original 1952 site of Mountain Shelter #2 and includes plenty of photos of the hut and trampers from days past. Walk back the way you came.
Remutaka Forest Park — Butcher Track
2hr one way — Advanced — Dogs on leash only
This grunt of a walk offers excellent views of the Wellington harbour once summited. The 400m climb is mostly covered by dense bush, providing plenty of places for you and your pooch to catch your breath. You can return via the same track or link on to the Cattle Ridge Track for a 4hr/12km round trip.
Central North Island — Kaimanawa Forest - Mt Urchin Track
3-4hr return via same track — Advanced — Dogs with a DOC permit only
This mountain summit is a leg burner! Climb steadily through beech forest until you reach the Urchin Trig at 1391m. Above the bush line, you'll enjoy spectacular views of Lake Taupō and Tongariro National Park's Volcanoes. Go back down the way you came.
Waikato — Ketemaringi Track
5hr return via same track — Expert — Dogs with a DOC permit only
The Ketemaringi track takes trampers to the top of Ketemaringi Trig within the first hour and then descends down a ridge and into pine forest and scrub. Go back down the way you came or have someone pick you up from the carpark on the other side and drive you back!
Coromandel — Karangahake Gorge — Karangahake Gorge Historic Walkway
4hr return via same track — Easy — Dogs on leash
This exciting hike follows a historic railway into a gorge, passing old mining sites, battery sites, and plenty of mining relics, plus beautiful natural scenery. The longer track follows along the river and ends at Waikano station. This visually appealing walk features plenty of history among the densely covered bush.
Coromandel — Kauaeranga Valley — Tarawaere Dam Track Loop
2-3hr loop — Advanced — Dogs on leash
Deep in the Coromandel is a forested gem full of dog-friendly tramps. From short walks to longer tramps, the valley offers a host of spots that welcome furry friends. The Tarawaere Dam Track Loop starts with a river crossing — there's no bridge, so be prepared for wet feet — and follows the Tarawaere Stream many times to the remains of the rafter flume dam. At the derelict dam, you'll continue along the loop track back to the Kauaeranga River. Along the way, you'll walk through the regenerative bush with clues to the area's mining past.
Marlborough Sounds — Nydia Track
2 days return — Advanced — Dogs with DOC permit only
For those looking to try their hand at the backcountry, look no further than Nydia Track. The track follows a lush coast and regenerating forest, offering plenty of places to catch your breath and enjoy the view. The mountains aren't nearly as rugged as the infamous Southern Alps further south, but the saddles you'll climb along the way will provide equally breath-taking views. Take in the serenity with a night of camping next to the beach.
Kaikōura — Mt Fyffe
8hr return — Easy — Dogs with DOC permit only
The beauty is undeniable when standing at the summit of Mt Fyffe. Catch your breath from an impressive climb with views of the Kaikōura plains and peninsula — and even the North Island on a clear day. The track follows a 4WD road up to the quaint Mt Fyffe hut and then continues on up to the mountain. Be prepared for a bit of snow in the shoulder season!
Canterbury — Hanmer Springs — Mount Isobel
3-6hr return — Advanced — Dogs allowed
Nestled in the ranges on the outskirts of Hanmer Springs, Mt Isobel offers a great day tramp for you and your pup. There are four different starting points, which make the walk longer or shorter depending on your interest. Wherever you start, you'll tramp through subalpine scrub and open grassland before opening up to an exposed ridge. The summit at 1324m offers panoramic views of the town, the Hanmer Basin, and more.
Canterbury — Craigieburn Forest Park — Helicopter Hill
4hr return — Easy — Dogs on leash
Just outside Arthur's Pass National Park, you'll find the walking, tramping, and biking trails of Craigieburn Forest Park. A favourite among Christchurch locals, bagging summits up here feels seemingly endless — all with slightly different vantage points of the valley below and the Southern Alps beyond. Helicopter Hill is a popular tramp, starting with a steep and steady climb up regenerating beech forest, through to Lyndon Saddle, and finally to the top of the hill, at 1256m.
Lake Ōhau — Greta Track
6-7hr loop — Advanced — Dogs on leash
This track begins by passing a 1890s derelict musterer's hut before carrying on to a 5km climb to the western side of Ben Ōhau/Ruataniwha Peak. If you're keen to summit, make a quick deviation from the track and scramble up the scree. Once satisfied, you'll make your way back down the mountain and lower into the valley where you'll find Greta's Stream. You'll cross a few times, providing a cool reprieve for feet and paws from the Otago heat, and then end near the car park. Views at the top include the entirety of Lake Ōhau, the Ōhau ski field, and more of the valley.
Queenstown — Mt Crichton Loop Track
2.5hr loop — Easy — Dogs on leash
There are many dog-friendly mountain walks to choose from in the Queenstown Lakes District, but Mt Crichton Loop Track is a winner for its gentle ease. Following along the red beech forest, you'll slowly ascend to the summit with views of Lake Dispute and Lake Wakatipu. With a short hour side mission to the Sam Summers Hut, you'll pass along evidence of the area's gold mining history. Loop back around to the bottom.
If you're ready for an adventure this summer, grab your dog and head for the hills. Not only will you enjoy the companionship, but you'll explore less-travelled paths with unique landscapes, often with a bit of history. And your pooch will thank you for not leaving him at home.
Please note that any places affected by alert level restrictions will only allow travel when restrictions are lifted.
Check alert level restrictions and Ministry of Health advice before travel. covid19.govt.nz