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Tramping (also known as hiking) is one of the best ways to explore the pristine forests, clear blue lakes, sparkling rivers, fern-filled valleys, and snowcapped peaks of New Zealand. The Department of Conservation (DOC), P.O. Box 10-420, Wellington (tel. 04/471-0726; fax 04/471-1082; www.doc.govt.nz), maintains more than 12,500km (about 7,700 miles) of tracks (trails) and 1,000 backcountry huts throughout New Zealand's 13 national parks and numerous scenic reserves.

Many companies offer combination tours of hiking, kayaking, and other adventures in one or more areas. The New Zealand Guided Walks Network (www.walknewzealand.com) was set up in conjunction with Tourism New Zealand to raise the profile of high-quality guided walking experiences available in New Zealand. The Walks Network is a group of independent companies that operate guided walks in our national parks, wilderness areas, and special reserves, providing the best available accommodations with meals, comfortable bedding, and bathroom facilities. Qualified guides provide comprehensive interpretation of natural and cultural history; walkers need only carry personal items - not including food or bedding.

Hiking New Zealand, in Christchurch (tel. 03/384-3706; fax 03/376-6483; www.hikingnewzealand.com) offers small group hiking/camping tours of 5 to 20 days throughout the national parks. They're designed for people wanting to participate in day hikes and a variety of other activities like cycling, kayaking, jet boating, caving, viewing wildlife, and glacier hiking in iconic New Zealand locations.

Bush and Beyond (tel./fax 03/528-9054; www.bushandbeyond.co.nz) offers guided 1- to 8-day tramps in Kahurangi National Park; you can also add in photography and wildlife excursions. Kahurangi Guided Walks (tel. 03/525-7177; www.kahurangiwalks.co.nz) also operates in this area, offering year-round small-group guided walks in the Abel Tasman and Kahurangi national parks.

New Zealand Wild Walks (tel. 03/443-9422; www.wildwalks.co.nz) offers remote treks for fit, adventurous travelers in the backcountry of Mount Aspiring National Park. Small guided groups of five people maximum tackle everything from picturesque beech forests and isolated valleys to alpine meadows and glacier trekking. Wildsouth Discovery Ltd. (tel. 03/332-3665; www.wildsouth.com/#) offer exclusive, private walking tours in South Island. Tours are easy to moderate and they have 9-day Wildsouth Discovery Tours via luxury 4WD minibuses, which include guided walks, heritage and ecology experiences. They also offer 14-day Natural North'South New Zealand tours in conjunction with Kiwi Dundee Adventures in the Coromandel. And in the far south, Kiwi Wilderness Walks (tel. 021/359-592; fax 03/442-8342; www.nzwalk.com) offers 3- to 5-day tramping, kayaking, and wildlife experiences in remote areas of Stewart Island, the Waitutu Track, and Dusky Sound.

Tuatara Tours  (tel. 0800/377-378 in NZ, or 03/962-3280; www.tuataratours.co.nz) specializes in fully guided outdoor walking adventures aimed at people with an average-to-excellent level of fitness. Four- to 14-day guided walks (and cycling tours) explore the South Island, with well-informed guides and a very comfortable level of accommodation. More excellent "moderate" hikes in the North Island are offered by Walking Legends (tel. 07/345-7363; www.walkinglegends.com), which has 3- to 6-day packages around Lake Waikaremoana and in the remote regions of Te Urewera National Park.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.