Breast Hill Track, Wanaka: A Challenging Day Walk with Panoramic Views

Breast Hill Lake Hawea


I’m going to go out on a limb here and confess that I love this walk (Breast Hill) more than the famous Roys Peak walk and Isthmus Peak hike. While Breast Hill is relatively unknown, it sure is worth the walk.  The views, the crazy varied terrain and a challenging uphill gradient, it sure is a walk that packs it all in.

The Breast Hill Track can be found near Lake Hawea in the Hawea Conservation Park, about 20-25 minutes from Wanaka.  It is part of the Te Araroa Track, the New Zealand trail.  Do note that the Breast Hill summit (1578m) is different to Breast Peak (1456m)

This isn’t a walk for the faint hearted.  It is very steep in patches, traverses some narrow ridgelines and is practically up for the entirety of the track.  If you aren’t a fit or confident tramper, then I would try out another track first.  Roys Peak or Isthmus Peak offer incredible views, but the terrain is a simple four wheel drive style track that is easy to navigate but still offers a good uphill challenge.

It’s the views, the views over Lake Hawea and surrounding mountains that make this just magical.


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Nathan and Jen from Backyard Travel Family lift their arms in delight as they reach the summit of Breast Hill, the incredible blue lake Hawea in the background along with the snowy tip of Mt Aspiring

How to get to the Breast Hill Track, Lake Hawea

The start of the Breast Hill Track is on Timaru Creek Road.  You follow the lakefront around to the eastern side (right hand side) of Lake Hawea and travel along the gravel road.  It’s about 1.7km past Lake Hawea Station, an estate you will see on your right hand side.

You will see a small DOC sign on your right hand side and will need to find somewhere on the side of the road to park.  A few hundred metres up the road, there is a “larger” pull off area that can fit about 3 cars, but calling it a carpark is a push.

If you take a look on google maps, you can see the horrendous switchbacks (zig zags) on the first part of the walk quite clearly and you can follow the track to the base from there.  There is cellphone service so you can easily take a look if you miss it (we did)

Looking down towards Lake Hawea you can see the relentless switchbacks as the track zig zags towards the carpark on the Breast Hill hike Wanaka
Take a look at those switchbacks in the first 40 minutes of climbing. You can see the road where you park at the bottom

How long is the Breast Hill track?

My garmin watch clocked the Breast Hill track at 6.5km one way with an elevation gain of 1210m.


How long does it take to walk the Breast Hill Track

I walked this track with my 8 year old son and it took us 4.5 hours to reach the summit and 7.5 hours return with a stop at Pakituhi Hut on the way way back.

Spot a small child who looks tiny in comparison with the huge mountain on the ridgeline part of the Breast Hill Track at Lake Hawea Wanaka
Up, up, up along the ridge, and the ones in background to the left. Can you spot Nathan walking ahead?

What is the Lake Hawea hike like?

Challenging, steep, incredible are the three words I like to describe it.  So lets go with a break down of what its actually like to walk it.

I would break it down into three parts.  

  1. The switchbacks
  2. The Ridgeline to the Hut
  3. Pakituhi Hut to Breast Hill summit

Part 1: The switchbacks

Well what a way to start the walk and invoke some fear.  The switchbacks start from the very beginning of the trail and zig zag their way up around 350/400m of elevation gain over 1.2km.  

What does that mean in essence? Well, it’s a very steep uphill section that gains in elevation fast.  After 6 minutes we questioned if we could do it, but no, that was just our body warming up and getting going.  But it was a lung burner for sure.

This section took us 40 minutes with some little breathers along the way.

Part 2: The Ridgeline to Pakituhi Hut

The ridgeline section was amazing!  Think scraggly up and down mountains that you would draw as a kid, and walking up and down the steepest sections.

Once you climb a small hill near the switchbacks, you can look up towards the mountain range and say “geez we are going all the way up there” and you’d be right.  You will follow a trail that goes up and down the ridges of all the hills along the way and they are steep!  But I found this section quite fun.

The trail is marked by orange markers but the track is pretty worn.  We didn’t have any issues finding the trail and for the most part you are following the fenceline up (notably a very steep and hilly fenceline)

The track is quite narrow but I never felt unsafe.  Travelling with an 8 year old, I let him lead up as you are unlikely to fall when leaning forward and I led on the way back down.  The track does require some concentration which keeps your mind busy.

To the turnoff to Pakituhi Hut, this section took 3 hours from the very bottom, or 2 hours 20 minutes from the switchbacks.

(below: perhaps the only flat section.  Around the bend to the left is the turnoff for the hut)

Part 3: The Hut to Breast Hill Summit

Now you are off the scraggly trail and on more farm-like trails.  There is still quite a way to go, but once you head up what I call the “farm hill” (which took about 20 minutes) it is a much gentler incline. (see photo below)

From here you continue across the ridgeline until you finally reach Breast Hill.  Even though the day was warm, this section across the tops was much easier, so we cooled down really quickly.  No matter what, make sure you take lots of warm layers.  Both Nathan and I added gloves and a hat along the top here.


Woohoo! The Summit

Ooh I love the amazing feeling of making it to the top and the views really are something else.  We had epic weather in April (Autumn) where there was light snow on Roys Peak the day before and beautiful clear skies today.  You can see across the Lake Hawea township, the beautiful Southern Alps, Roys Peak and Isthmus Peak track and beyond.

It took us 4.5 hours to get to the top including all our photo and snack breaks so thats a good indication that it was quite a walk to get here.

From here we headed down to Pakituhi Hut and back to the bottom.  7.5 hours round trip including all of our breaks which isn’t bad considering it said 5 hours each way.

View of the striking blue Lake Hawea and Southern Alps from the Breast Hill Track summit
The Summit of Breast Hill, overlooking Lake Hawea, the Southern Alps and Mt Aspiring National Park

Pakituhi Hut

Pakituhi Hut is a cute little 8 bed hut with has all the modern upgrades such a double glazing on the windows.  It is one roomed hut, meaning your kitchen, dining and sleeping areas are all in one room.

There’s a nice deck to sit out in the sunshine and a long drop toilet set away from the hut.

You cannot book this hut online, so it’s a first in, first served type situation.  So if you are a family or have kids and don’t wish to carry a tent up, make sure you go early in the day.

The Pakituhi Hut is on the Te Araroa Trail so can be busy during the summer months and holiday weekends.  Another option would be to walk past Breast Hill onto Stodys Hut.  Its a more basic corrugated hut, but sleeps 6 people.  From here you can head down the Timaru River Track and back along the road to make a full loop.  We haven’t done this route yet, but I’ve spied it on the map.

Inside Bushline Hut you can see a long wooden dining table and bench and stainless steel wash up area
Bushline Hut sits tucked in the valley, an 8 bed hut on the Breast Hill Summit Track and Te Araroa Trail


If you love outdoor adventures, check out some more cool hikes and outdoor activities in the Wanaka and Queenstown area below

Nathan from Backyard Travel Family looks over Lake Hawea, next to the metal trig point at the Summit of the Breast Hill Track Wanaka


Founder of Backyard Travel Family

Jen is a super organiser when it comes to travel. Having travelled extensively in Europe and Africa, has lived in London and the USA and holidayed in many parts of Asia, she is not a newbie to the travel space

Jen has three young children, 8 and under and travels around New Zealand with them.

Backyard Travel Family New Zealand. Lets share these articles and spread the love

what you need to know


- 10 minute drive from Lake Hawea
- 25 minutes drive from Wanaka
- gravel road for the last few kms but easy driving

The track

- 6.5km to the summit
- 13km return track
- 1210m elevation gain
- Steep climb, uphill the whole way
- Hut to overnight in along the way
- Not a beginners track

Suitable for kids?

This is not a hike for young kids. It is challenging terrain that will require kids to choose an appropriate trail/rocks to climb up along the way. Lots of drop offs around and will require deep concentration and hiking fitness.

With my 8 year old, this took us 7.5 hours return and this was quite a reasonable pace, as it was recommended to take 5 hours to the summit.

A good challenge for kids who are experienced trampers. Kids who want good views but are less experienced could look at Ishtmus Peak or Roys Peak, if they have the stamina for 6-8 hours.


- toilet at Pakituhi Hut, nothing at Breast Hill summit
- Shelter at Pakituhi Hut but the rest of the trail is completely exposed
- We had cellphone reception at the summit.
- Water to boil at the hut

What to bring

- Plenty of water
- Food for a big day out
- Layers at all times of the year, can be cold on the summit even in warm weather
- Waterproof jacket
- Sturdy shoes such as hiking boots
- Sunscreen, hat, sunglasses
- Beanie and gloves - we used these in April (Autumn)

Food options

- A small corner store in Lake Hawea township or the Hawea Hotel has food
- Supermarkets and plentiful cafe options in Wanaka township

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