Corner Peak, Wanaka | An Epic Summit Hike Without The Crowds

Corner Peak is Wanaka’s best-kept secret. A summit hike that will test your endurance and your head for heights, all while offering unparalleled ridgeline views – some of the best we have experienced in New Zealand!

We were fortunate enough to hear of Corner Peak from a super helpful DOC worker at the visitor centre in Wanaka. We were seeking more challenging tracks that were void of farm roads (as much as possible) and she assured us that we would love Corner Peak – she wasn’t wrong!

If you’ve completed Roy’s Peak and Isthmus Peak, yet still seek that extra challenge and ruggedness of a less-defined hiking trail, then you must add Corner Peak to your Wanaka hiking list too.

With that said, we did encounter some complications when we hiked the Corner Peak track which were mostly caused by poorly placed trail markers and Alltrails leading us astray – though Alltrails have recently fixed the issue. 

And to help you avoid a particularly hairy and unnecessary ridgeline scramble, we’ve written the ultimate guide to hiking Corner Peak.

In this post, we’ll cover everything you need to know about the Corner Peak Track. Along with inspiring images to fuel your excitement, you’ll find detailed track notes to ensure you stick to the easiest route and other helpful tips to make your Corner Peak ascent seamless. 

Bright blue Lake Hawea from the summit of Corner Peak in Wanaka

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Essential Information About Summiting Corner Peak Near Wanaka

Quick Statistics For The Corner Peak Track

17.5 km return

6 – 8 hrs

Navigation Difficulty
Moderate-Hard – See details below

Trail Difficulty
Moderate – See Track Notes for detail

Physical Effort

Elevation Gain
1,631 m

Highest Elevation
1,683 m 

Entrance Fees

Trailhead: car park

Where Does The Corner Peak Track Start?

Car Park for the Corner Peak Track in Wanaka

Corner Peak rises dramatically from the northeastern shores of Lake Hawea, dominating the skyline and painting a breathtaking scene from the popular Haast Pass – Makarora Rd.

The trailhead for Corner Peak is located on the eastern side of the lake, roughly 100 metres past the Hawea Conservation Park Car Park on the north side of Peter Muir Bridge. This car park is also called Timaru Creek Car Park on Google Maps.

There is no phone service, toilets or other facilities in the car park, just a large clearing and a sign for Junction Flat and Top Timaru Flat – two other walks that depart from this location. 

The first sign you’ll come across for Corner Peak is found once you walk across Peter Muir Bridge. But even then, it will only say ‘Track’ and point you towards a narrow dirt path that leads past the Hawea Conservation Park sign. Only after 1.5 km will you find a sign labelled ‘Corner Peak Route’, directing you north towards the ridgeline above.

Admiring the incredible blue of Lake Hawea from the Corner Peak Track

How To Get To The Corner Peak Trailhead

Part of the allure of Corner Peak is its lesser-known status. However, this also means that you’ll find no public transport or tour options for this hike. The only way to reach the Corner Peak trailhead is by driving yourself.

The Corner Peak Trailhead is located 30 minutes north of Wanaka and 1 hour 30 minutes northeast of Queenstown.

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By Car

To reach Timaru Creek Car Park, where the Corner Peak Trailhead is located, head northeast out of Wanaka on SH6 (Lake Hawea-Albert Town Rd). Make a right onto Camp Hill Rd and continue east for 5.8 km. Then, take a left onto Gladstone Rd (which becomes Timaru Creek Rd after 6.2 km) and follow it north for the final 14 km.

The road changes to gravel right before you arrive at the small rural town of Gladstone. When we drove on it in December 2023, it was in good condition and easily accessible by all types of vehicles.

Click Here For Directions To The Hawea Conservation Park Car Park

Is The Corner Peak Track Hard?

Hiking along the jagged ridgeline to Corner Peak

The Corner Peak Track certainly steps it up a notch compared to other popular hikes in Wanaka, such as Roy’s Peak and Isthmus Peak. Along with a greater elevation gain, the rugged trail requires increased scrambling and navigation skills.

The trail exposes you to precipitous ridgelines and can easily lead you astray if you’re not paying attention. However, if you’re an intermediate to advanced hiker then you’ll have no trouble completing the Corner Peak Route – as long as you stay on course!

We found the track to be relatively straightforward, albeit seriously exposed in some sections, and only needed to use our hands on a few occasions closer to the peak. Nevertheless, the scramble sections are still easily manageable for experienced hikers.

Navigation On The Corner Peak Track

The trickiest part of Corner Peak is undoubtedly navigating the confusing route, with trail markers, fences and false tracks continuously leading you astray.

A mess of trails leading to the summit of Corner Peak
Another confusing ridge with a mess of trails. At this point we recommend you jump over the fence & take the high line

Navigation becomes challenging once you reach the first rocky ridgeline. From this point, the trail markers won’t always guide you along the ideal route and you’ll find fences cutting across the trail – with no stiles to assist in jumping over them.

At one point, roughly 6 km in, the trail will seemingly follow the fenceline to a rocky peak. However, this is not the way to go and only after jumping over the fence will you find a rock cairn indicating the correct route. We will go into detail about this section in the track notes below as following the fenceline drove us to some seriously hairy rock scrambling – basically resulting in scaling down a cliff!

Hiking around a false peak with loads of exposure on Corner Peak
Massive exposure, with a very big fall below. Note: This is the wrong trail
Hiking down a steep cliff on the Corner Peak track
This is the mountain we scurried down. Again, it is the wrong trail

When we hiked the Corner Peak Track, the marked trail on Alltrails stopped short of the true summit – right before the confusing markers and tracks began. Luckily, after we notified them about this, they’ve since updated the GPS-tracked route and it’s now correct.

Here is a link to our GPS-tracked Alltrails map from our hike. You’ll find plenty of photos geotagged along the route to help you navigate. However, at the 4.7 km and the 6 km mark, make sure you follow both low lines (left tracks) as these are the correct routes.

What To Pack For The Corner Peak Track

Hiking along a ridge with a bucket hat on the Corner Peak Track

The hike to Corner Peak takes roughly 6 – 8 hours to complete and demands a fair amount of energy. Therefore, we highly recommend packing a decent lunch and plenty of snacks for your adventure. 

Furthermore, there are no water sources along the track. While we usually bring 2 litres of water each, we ended up drinking nearly 3 litres. The hike is mostly exposed to the relentless sun and combined with the gruelling ascent, it’s safe to say we were thirsty!

Here is a list of the essentials that we recommend packing for Corner Peak:

Best Time To Summit Corner Peak

Looking out over Lake Hawea from the Corner Peak Track

The best time to summit Corner Peak is late Autumn when the sun is slightly subdued, but the mountain is yet to be coated in snow. We hiked Corner Peak in summer and the heat was intense!

If your plans to summit Corner Peak coincide with summer – or the months on either side, we recommend starting as early as possible to avoid the hottest part of the day.

Furthermore, the terrain that you’ll experience on Corner Peak can become increasingly dangerous and difficult to navigate in rain, high winds, ice or snow. It’s highly advised to only attempt the summit in fair weather.

Summiting Corner Peak In Winter

Corner Peak towers 1,683 m above sea level and often receives a healthy coating of snow during the winter months. While the mountain range isn’t subject to complex avalanche terrain like you’d find on Cascade Saddle, there is still a moderate risk once you near the summit.

While you could potentially make it to the first peak with the aid of microspikes or crampons, we don’t suggest attempting the summit in deep snow unless you have the appropriate gear, knowledge and avalanche training.

Corner Peak Track Notes

Hawea Conservation Park Car Park To The Ridgeline

Hiking across the bridge towards the Corner Peak Track Trailhead
Corner Peak Track Trailhead sign

Soon after leaving your car and walking across John Muir Bridge, you’ll come to a green sign labelled ‘Track’ with an arrow pointing to a narrow dirt path disappearing into the forest on the right.

Turning onto the dirt track, you’ll immediately begin a steady climb through sparse forest and grassy farmland to the official start of the Corner Peak Route. Some muddy sections hide within the tall grass, catching you unawares if you’re not concentrating.

Hiking along the farmers road towards the start of the Corner Peak Climb

After 1.5 km, you’ll arrive at the turn-off to Corner Peak and this is where the real fun begins…

A skinny track leads straight up the tussock-filled mountainside, and we mean straight up! You’ll climb steeply for almost a kilometre before the track starts to traverse northeast, providing a brief reprieve before shooting skyward up the neighbouring spur.

Traversing the grassy ridge line leading to the first false summit of the Corner Peak Route
Climbing the steep section of trail at the beginiing of the Corner Peak Hike

The tussock fields merge with crumbling rock just before you reach the ridgeline, offering a little variety in the trail. Then finally, after 3.9 km and 877 m elevation gain, you’ll make it to the first rocky ridgeline.

Standing on a rocky lookout over the impressively blue Lake Hawea on the Corner Peak Hike

It took us 2 hours to reach the ridgeline, where we gladly stopped for a lengthy break while overlooking Lake Hawea and the sharp rugged mountains carving up the horizon.

Traversing The Ridgeline To The Conservation Sign

Traversing the first ridgeline on the Corner Peak hike
Climbing up to the first ridgeline on Corner Peak

Leaving the boulder-strewn lookout, you’ll begin to traverse northeast along the ridgeline towards what is often confused as the summit. However, after a kilometre, you’ll come across a track leading left that cuts across the slope rather than climbing to the peak above.

Traversing the false summit on Corner Peak Tramp
Take the left trail at this junction before reaching the peak of the false summit

Take the traversing left track, which will link back up with the high line as you reach the saddle, 500 m later. This is where you’ll encounter your first fence that you’ll be forced to jump over. But don’t worry, it won’t be your last and our theory is that these fences are new and cut through the original trail.

Hiking alongside a farm fence on the Corner Peak Track
We had to jump this fence soon after this image. And yes, that is Corner Peak way in the distance
Traversing the saddle on the Corner Peak Track
You will then traverse the saddle before coming to the most confusing part of the trail

From the saddle, the trail will ascend once more and lead you to the second fence (at the 6 km mark). This is where we were misled and took the obvious trail to the right, however, THIS IS NOT THE WAY!

Important Note: The images below show the ridge line you should avoid. After reaching the peak, you’ll be staring down a cliff. We navigated around and descended from this peak, but the high exposure and risky trail conditions made it very dangerous and a questionable decision. If you find yourself on this ridge roughly 6km into the trail, chances are you’ve taken a wrong turn. It’s best to retrace your steps and follow the correct route, which we will explain below.

Instead of following the fence, jump over it and look for the rock cairns on the other side. The rock cairn marks the correct trail that traverses beneath the precipitous peak above.

Traversing on the main route underneath the false ridge line on the Corner Peak Track
This is the correct route and isn’t obvious from the other side of the fence

From here, the trail winds around the rocky ridgeline on a clear path through the dry landscape. As you progress, you’ll face a small amount of scrambling when descending from the large boulder, but the trail remains fairly straightforward to follow.

Traversing underneath the dangers ridge on Corner Peak in Wanaka
The traverse underneath the dangerous ridge
Hiking along large boulders on the Corner Peak Route
The traverse underneath the dangerous ridge

After traversing for roughly 500 m, you’ll reach the ridgeline on the north side of the razorlike peak and hit another fence.

Trails leadin towards the summit of Corner Peak in Wanaka
Another confusing ridge with tracks everywhere. Jump over the fence & take the high line
Jumping over another fence on the Corner Peak Track in Wanaka
Fence to jump to access the high line

There is a track on either side of the fence from this point. Both had their sketchy moments but overall, we would recommend jumping over the fence and taking the high line along the ridge.

Hiking along a ridgeline on the Corner Peak Route in Wanaka
The ridge along the high line
Climbing down a rock face on the Corner Peak Trail in Wanaka
The only tricky section of this ridge, right before you reach the stile

After navigating the rugged ridgeline for 600 m, you’ll arrive at a stile and a DOC conservation sign. The route from this point on isn’t marked but funnily enough, it’s much easier to follow!

The Conservation Sign To Corner Peak

Climbing over the stile on the Corner Peak Track in Wanaka

Jumping over the stile, you’ll begin a kilometre-long traverse to the saddle beneath Corner Peak’s summit. While there are no orange markers along this section of the trail, it is easy to follow thanks to the conveniently spaced rock cairns.

The traverse beneath the incredibly jagged 1,528 m peak is exposed and narrow and let’s just say we were glad to have hiking poles for balance! We were lucky to have fine weather when we completed the Corner Peak Track, but we imagine that this traverse would be quite challenging in icy or wet conditions.

The final traverse before summiting Corner Peak

Once you reach the saddle between Corner Peak and the 1,528 m peak, all that’s left is a relatively easy 800 m ascent to the summit. The worn trail traces the edge of the precipitous ridge, with nothing but the steep gradient to distract from the breathtaking views unravelling on both sides.

climbing to the summit of Corner Peak

And finally, after a total of roughly 8.9 km and 1,482 m elevation gain, you’ll be standing on the rocky summit of Corner Peak. It took us 3 hours moving time and a total of 4.5 hours to reach the summit, including a 30-minute snack break and multiple wrong turns…

Enjoying The Views From Corner Peak

Lake Hawea and Hunter River from the summit of Corner Peak

Words fail to truly capture the incredible vistas you’re afforded at the summit of Corner Peak. Snow-capped mountains form a jagged silhouette against the horizon, with Lake Hawea sprawled out between. You can even see right down the valley to the head of the Hunter River, which feeds into the impossibly blue lake.

Corner Peak is, without a doubt, our favourite day hike in the Wanaka region (outside of Mt Aspiring National Park). You’ll not only enjoy a thrilling challenge along the trek, but the views that await are beyond anything you’ll experience from other similar hikes such as Isthmus Peak and Roy’s Peak.

Returning To The Trailhead

Returning to the trailhead of Corner Peak

After exploring the summit of Corner Peak and enjoying a well-earned break, return to the trail and begin the long descent back to Timaru Creek.

We found it easier to follow the track on the return journey, partly because we learnt from our mistakes and partly thanks to the trail markers being easier to locate from this direction. But other than the steep gradient being a menace for your knees, we didn’t find that the descent was any harder than the ascent.

We took roughly 2.5 hours moving time and 3.5 hours total time to return from Corner Peak to the car park, bringing our overall time for the Corner Peak hike to 5.5 hours moving time and 8 hours total time. 

Other Important Information For Summiting Corner Peak Near Wanaka

Leave No Trace

As is the case with many of the walks near Wanaka, Corner Peak begins on private land before transitioning to conservation land near the summit. We are very fortunate that the landowners allow us to access these trails and to show our gratitude, it’s important that we leave no trace.

There are no rubbish bins or toilets at the car park or on the Corner Peak Track. Take all your rubbish with you – including food scraps and tissues – and think ahead by utilising the public toilets in Wanaka if necessary.

If nature calls while you’re on the trail, make sure you’re at least 100 m away from any water source, dig a hole at least 30 cm deep, do your business and cover it all up. For more information on how to poop in the wilderness, check out this guide by DOC.

Where To Stay Near Corner Peak

The Hidden Spring accommodation in Wanaka
The Hidden Spring

Corner Peak is located 30 minutes north of Wanaka, which serves as the perfect adventure base while exploring the various other hikes and things to do in Wanaka. Our favourite place to stay in Wanaka is The Hidden Spring, a cute and budget-friendly studio 5-minutes from the town centre.

Below is a list of the best accommodation options in Wanaka for a range of budgets:

  • Mitchella Farm – A cute budget-friendly studio cottage overlooking the Hawea Flat countryside, just 15 minutes from the Corner Peak trailhead.
  • Edgewater Hotel – A mid-range budget accommodation close to town. You’ll find a variety of rooms to suit your needs and plenty of amenities, including a spa, sauna and tennis court.
  • Ahurei Apartments – A luxurious mid to high-range apartment within easy walking distance of town, a perfect option for 2 couples or a family.

Camping Near Corner Peak

Camping at Red Bridge campsite in Wanaka

Our favourite way to get around New Zealand is by travelling in a campervan. Although there is no freedom camping in Wanaka, you’ll be pleased to know that there are plenty of campsites in Wanaka that range from holiday parks to freedom campsites just out of town.

When we’re visiting Wanaka, our go-to place to stay is the Red Bridge Freedom Campsite. However, if you’re not travelling in a self-contained campervan or would rather have a few additional creature comforts, then we suggest checking out Albert Town Campground or Mt Aspiring Holiday Park.

Final Thoughts

If you’re searching for a challenging yet rewarding hike near Wanaka, then you must add Corner Peak to your itinerary. The effort was 1,000 times worth the adventure and the views that we were gifted at the peak.

With that said, it is much more difficult compared to Isthmus Peak and Roy’s Peak, so ensure you are prepared for the increased challenge and start early to avoid being stuck in the alpine after dark.

If you are still questioning whether Corner Peak is the hike for you, please feel free to get in touch via Instagram or by leaving a comment below.

Happy Hiking 🙂