When I first visited Wanaka I was amazed at Mt. Iron. Amongst the many mountains of the region, this one just seemed strange. With one side being a gradient to the peak, and then the other side just dropping straight down giving it a triangle shape. Not your usual equilateral triangle mountain though, like a sideways acute triangle. It then has no real mountains around it, it is just alone next to the town by the lake. I was also super excited to see that it allowed on-leash dogs. I thought when I moved to Wanaka I would be doing this walk a lot, but boy was I wrong.
If you want to see more of Mt Iron, I have a small section of a vlog that shows the first time I hiked it. You can view that here starting at 4:21.
Mount Iron is a less than five minute drive from Wanaka town centre, or if you want to walk from centre of town maybe about a twenty to thirty minute walk. It is a Department of Conservation walk, although half of it is on private farm land. In total, the walk from car park doing the loop track it is 4.5km and is stated to take up to an hour and a half. However, even at my unfittest, in the middle of Summer heat I think it has taken me an hour max. It just depends on how many stops you take for a rest, and photoshoot opportunities. They also state that this walk is suitable for all ages and abilities.
You can do the walk as a loop, or just up and down one side of your choice. Both sides have different views, as well as different walking experiences. The west side, which is towards Wanaka, has the best views of the lake, Wanaka, and Mount Aspiring National Park. I find that this side has a sharper gradient, but the actual path is more groomed. There are less rocks, and the path itself is a lot wider. This side has the least amount of shade though, so in peak sun you will melt into a puddle if you chose to go up this side. This is also the private property side, so you may see sheep on this side and the actual walk itself, ignoring the view, is kind of ugly. It is just like walking through someone's paddock, which technically you are.
The east side of Mount Iron points towards Albert town, and the Upper Clutha River. This side is longer, with a much gentler gradient than the other side. However, the path itself is 'bush walk' skinny, and at points has more rocks and things to trip over on. This side I call the shaded side as most of it you are covered by trees which makes for a nicer walk in the Summer. It does limit your landscape views though until you see breaks in the trees.
I think if it is your first time doing the hike, it is better to hike up the west and descent down the east side as this will make the most of the views available. Both sides have the same summit experience and you will get 360 views at the top so this is purely just for the slog up. After your first time though, it doesn't really matter how you do it. Up and down the same side, or the full loop, you will definitely find a preference.
I found this the perfect entry level hike, and an amazing way to see the Wanaka region without the slog of doing Roy's Peak. At the Summit you get such an incredible 360 view of this side of Central Otago and the mountain scapes. You can see both Lake Hawea and Wanaka, Mount Aspiring Mountains, Mountains along the Crown Range, and whatever that range of mountains is that separates Wanaka from the Lindis Pass. I took my family up here when they visited, and they are definitely not the fittest mountain hiking wise, but we easily done it within an hour up and down. I actually would recommend this a lot more than Roy's Peak or Isthumus Peak for most people as those two are quite tiresome and take up a lot of time for those travelling.
After me stating all these good things about it, you may be thinking "why don't you do this often?". Well, as I stated in the intro this is an onleash dog walk. You are allowed your dogs on this walk due to the farmer allowing dogs that are onleash on his property. Do the people of Wanaka listen to that? Not at all. I wrote about Bob's Cove in Queenstown and one of my major complaints in that review was the other dog owners as well. I actually think Mount Iron is even worse than that walk. I have walked this a few times, and there has not been once that I haven't had un-invited dogs approach us. I have found that Wanaka in general has quite lazy owners as they have a lot of 'friendly' dog breeds.
There are exceptions of course. I have had lovely dog owners put their dogs on leash when they see Diego on one. Others have dogs that are under impeccable recall that come back to the owner and walk with them instead of coming into our space. There are also those dogs that have no interest in Diego or I and they just continue their walk without annoying us. On the other hand, I have had dogs jump up at me when I have had to pick Diego up to avoid their three boisterous and over the top poodle crosses. I have had dogs continually get in our space even after telling the owner to get their dog. I also started walking Diego up Mount Iron with a muzzle on to hopefully get people to think before allowing their dogs to approach. This also done minimal difference to how these owners behaved.
It makes this walk almost unbearable when you have a reactive dog, or are trying to train your dog. When Diego was quite reactive, and I was unsure how to control the situation there is no way I could of done this walk. Now that I am better equipped, I can do this walk semi-successfully but I need to be in the right headspace. I need to be ready to be on full alert, and take it as a full training walk for Diego. So with that being said, if you have a reactive dog, or even one that isn't sure about dogs approaching them, I wouldn't recommend this walk for a fun walk. If you have a super sociable dog, you will be fine. But please, don't be one of those owners that ignore the request of the land owner, and other dog owners and have your dog off-leash.
I really hope this blog posts help if you are in Wanaka, or planning on visiting soon and want to know good spots to take your dog. I do recommend this walk, and think it is such a good one for how quick it is. I just want to make sure you are all prepared mentally for what might happen.
p.s Sorry for the lack of path photos, and only the summit photos. I have realised I have never actually taken photos on this walk apart from when my family came. I will get some path photos next time I go up! The vlog linked in the introduction shows a lot of the paths in the meantime.