Lord of the Rings Hiking Tours in New Zealand


With magical landscapes around every corner, it can be hard to see where Middle-earth ends and the real New Zealand begins. A country with film-star good looks, New Zealand is the only place in the world where you can lace up your hiking boots and explore actual Lord of the Rings filming locations on foot.

Lord of the Rings Hiking Tours in New Zealand

Magical Landscapes around every corner...

In the North Island, visitors can easily discover epic landscapes like Tongariro – the home of the Dark Lord Sauron. In the South Island, you’re free to imagine yourself floating down the glistening Pelorus River, just like the escaping Dwarves did in The Desolation of Smaug.

Hiking Locations Map

See our top picks of Lord of the Rings hiking tours in New Zealand, and get ready for your unexpected journey to begin!

Tongariro Alpine Crossing – Mordor / Mt Doom 

Deep in the heart of New Zealand’s Dual Heritage, Tongariro National Park is the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, known as one of the best one-day walks in the world and one of New Zealand’s nine ‘Great Walks.’ The North Island’s Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a hike filled with sweeping desolate landscapes and emerald water-filled craters, complete with a stratovolcano at its centre. It is little wonder Sir Peter Jackson chose Mt Ngauruhoe (also known as Mt Doom) to become the home of Mordor and the Dark Lord Sauron in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. This exceptional hike takes approximately 8 hours. Pass tussock-filled landscapes and climb the ‘devil’s staircase’ to cross an alpine ridge offering incredible views of the surrounding Ruapehu area. More experienced hikers can traverse the summit of Mt Doom (Mt Ngauruhoe), which adds an extra 3 hours return to the hike, but for those wanting to experience one of the most majestic Lord of the Rings hiking tours in New Zealand, it’s well worth the journey.

Getting there: The start of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing can be reached by car or a pre-booked shuttle bus.  

Putangirua Pinnacles – Paths of the Dead

Surrounded by rugged terrain and watched over by ancient geological creations is the Putangirua Pinnacles track. This area set the scene for the unnerving trek undertaken by Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli as they sought the ‘Paths of the Dead’ in The Return of the King. Two direct hiking routes take you to the Putangirua Pinnacles, which can be undertaken in 2-4 hours.

Getting there: The Putangirua Pinnacles track is located in the Aorangi Forest Park, just an hour’s drive from Martinborough.

Pelorus River – Dwarves in Barrels

With crystal clear waters, framed by native forest it’s easy to see why Pelorus River was chosen for the Dwarves in Barrels scene during The Desolation of Smaug. This glorious part of New Zealand is perfect for those wanting to get out and explore the great outdoors. There are plenty of hiking options to help you get the most out of your time in Pelorus. A short riverside walk gives you a glimpse of the river that was once full of Dwarves on the silver screen, while a 3-4 hour trek takes you through podocarp forests, over a swing bridge and past thundering waterfalls on a track that makes up part of New Zealand’s Te Araroa Trail - The Long Pathway, an incredible walk that runs the length of New Zealand.

Getting there: The Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve is located between Blenheim and Nelson in New Zealand’s South Island.

Takaka Hill - Chetwood Forest

With it karst marble outcrops Takaka Hill was the perfect setting for Chetwood Forest in The Fellowship of the Ring – an area traversed by Hobbits and Aragorn (Strider) as they escaped from the fictional village of Bree. Inland tracks lead to the ethereal Takaka Hill which can be started at the beginning of the Abel Tasman National Park and takes approximately 2.5 – 3 hours. Those wanting to explore more Lord of the Rings hiking tours in New Zealand can do so by undertaking a multi-day hike of the Abel Tasman Coastal Track, a varied hike filled with lush forests giving way to white sandy-shores and welcoming wildlife.

Getting there: From Motueka in the beautiful Golden Bay, it is just 20 minutes (approx) to the Abel Tasman National Park.

Hakatere Potts Road – Edoras

Glacier-carved valleys, sparkling rivers and rugged mountainous landscapes await you at Edoras, a must-do stop on any Lord of the Rings hiking tour in New Zealand. It was Mt Sunday that was transformed into the home of the Rohan people and Meduseld in The Two Towers. You can experience the raw and untouched beauty of this Lord of the Rings location with an easily accessible hike through the beautiful Hakatere Conservation Park.

Getting there: Drive 25km (15.5 miles) along an unsealed (gravel) road before beginning your journey to the summit of Mt Sunday.

Aoraki/ Mt Cook National Park – The Two Towers

Aoraki / Mt Cook’s celestial landscapes shone to full effect during the memorable opening scene of The Two Towers in an area so magical Peter Jackson revisited it for The Desolation of Smaug where some of the scenes were set against a backdrop of the bright turquoise Lake Pukaki. One of the best ways to experience this location is with a hike on the Hooker Valley Track. During the 4 hour trek, you can expect to encounter swing bridges, glacier lakes and incredible views of Aoraki / Mt Cook - New Zealand’s tallest mountain.

Getting there: The Hooker Valley hike begins at the Visitor Centre, or the White Horse Hill car park.

Milford Track – Fangorn Forest

Hailed as one of the ‘Eighth Wonders of the World’ the remote wilderness of the Milford Sound became the location of Fangorn Forest during The Two Towers. The stunning Milford Track that leads to Milford Sound is one of the country’s most beloved destinations and is another of New Zealand’s ‘Great Walks.’ The Milford Track can be hiked on a day or multi-day expedition and there are many options to allow you to pick the perfect Milford Track experience tailored just for you. Your options include a 5-day guided hike that allows you to truly immerse yourself in the wonder of natural New Zealand. Freedom walkers can also walk the Milford Track, but are advised to check all details of the journey before they begin. For those just wanting a taste of the ancient wilderness that became Fangorn Forest, there are also one-day hike options available. Whatever you chose, the wildlife, rainforest and spectacular falls will leave you in awe of your Lord of the Rings hiking tour in New Zealand.

Getting there: The best way to reach the start of the Milford Track is by departing Queenstown or Te Anau.

Would you like to add one of these amazing walks to your dream New Zealand holiday? To receive a free, no obligation, personalised itinerary - just follow the link and answer a few brief questions

Other Interested in Other Lord of the Rings Tours?

We have handcrafted a series of inspiring of New Zealand Lord of the Rings Tours that can all be fully customised to your exact requirements.

Be Inspired - See our LoTR New Zealand Tour Video
First Light Travel's Hiking Tours


Brent Narbey
Brent Narbey
: 11 Aug 2015 (Last updated: 1 Oct 2021)

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