With the power of social media ever-growing, the popularity of certain New Zealand trails and landmarks are becoming increasingly more popular. While scrolling social media for New Zealand hikes, no matter where I looked, there were always photos of Mt Roy. Beautiful, undeniably, but I couldn’t easily find another hike that was just as spectacular until I came across Isthamus peak.
Isthmus Peak is a similar hike to Mt Roy, but much quieter. It sits up above the neck between Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea that gives amazing views over both lakes and views of the Southern Alps.
The track, a 5-7 hour return, climbed up a constant, steep incline for 16km trail to the top of the peak. The beginning of the trail took us through bush and over sheep fences, before opening up to the bottom of the mountain into grazing fields. As we walked along the bottom of the mountain before the incline, we were stared down by herds of sheep above and below us. Many New Zealand hiking paths cut through sheep fields, which is always the first reminder that I am not in the U.S. anymore.
As we began to climb higher, the path turned into a gravel farm road, making several switchbacks towards the top. Let me repeat, it was at a constant incline. Every corner we turned, we were matched with another steep hill that we trudged through to climb a bit higher every time. Although our legs were already in pain and we were taken out of breath, the view behind us as we climbed became increasingly stunning. The higher we climbed, the more of the lakes and snow-capped mountains we saw. After reaching what we initially thought was the peak, the path continued behind the mountain and up more before veering to the right to cross a ridge line where a sign pointed us towards the final peak. The last stretch was a push, but the views we knew we saw once we stepped over that last hill would be rewarding.
After a few hours, we reached the 1385m Isthamus Peak and were rewarded with the most incredible 360 degree views of Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea.
The top, felt like the top of the world. We sat there exhausted as could be, eating our sandwiches and taking in all that our eyes could see. On the way back down, there were several stops to take in the last bits of the views and to give our knees and hamstrings a break form the constant 2hrs of steep downhill.
Isthamus peak, although overshadowed by the social media instameet, Roy’s Peak, is a highly recommended on my list, and one of the most incredible places I’ve been to in New Zealand.