The Routeburn Track – One of NZ's Great Walks
Spectacular views of towering mountain peaks and ranges, pristine lakes, crystal clear rivers, sheer bluffs, deep valleys, cascading waterfalls, goblin like forests, grassy flats, prolific birdlife and alpine flowers make this a truly remarkable experience.
The Routeburn Track traverses Mount Aspiring and Fiordland National Park, a high alpine area that can be walked in either direction. Start at Glenorchy (the most popular choice) or The Divide between Te Anau and Milford Sound.
The 32 kilometre, well marked track can be completed in 2 to 4 days. There are four huts with basic facilities and bunk style accommodation and two campsites. Bookings are essential.
In this region of high rainfall, you need a good raincoat and as the conditions are unpredicatable, you must be prepared for cold weather and strong winds any time of the year. We started the track just after Christmas and on day two, light rain quickly turned to sleet, then snow. Within 30 minutes a blanket of heavy snow covered the ground and continued to fall until lunchtime.
There are some challenging steepish bits and slips can occur after heavy rain, so you need a good level of fitness, however I would not rate it as an especially difficult walk.
Day One. Starting from Glenorchy end. Most people bypass Routeburn Flats Hut continuing to Routeburn Falls Hut a distance of 8.8km approx 2½ - 3½ hours. However if starting late in the day Routeburn Flats Hut is a good choice. Over the swing bridge the track gets off to a gentle start to Bridal Veil Stream then rises steadily through grassy flats, tussock and beech forest with excellent views of mountain ranges and the valley below.
Day Two. Routeburn Falls Hut to Mackenzie Hut 11.3km, 4½ - 6 hours. (Including a lunch stop 6 hours for us.) This sub-alpine section is the most spectacular part of the walk, but it is also the most exposed part of the track. DoC staff and Hut Wardens provide warnings if adverse conditions expected. It's all uphill to the Harris Saddle Shelter, a good place to rest, have lunch or take respite in atrocious weather. On a clear day you will enjoy stunning views of Lake Harris and Darran Mountains. For the fit and keen, a steep side trip up Mt Conical affords spectacular views of Lake McKerrow, Hollyford Valley, Martins Bay and the Tasman Sea. Leaving the shelter, the track is quite narrow and the ground drops away steeply to the Route Burn River in the valley far below, so stay alert. The track skirts along the ridge dropping steeply via a series of zig zag switchbacks to Lake Mackenzie Hut.
Day 3 Mackenzie Hut to Howden Hut, 8.6kms 3 – 4 hours. The track meanders along with a few steep sections; Lake Howden and Earland Falls the highlights of the day. The track gradually descends to Howden Hut, although most hikers bypass this hut and continue to the end at the Divide. However no longer young and agile, I prefer to take it slowly and savour the experience. When carrying a fully laden pack, shorter distances each day ensure your adventure is positive, rather than being long and arduous, plus you have more time to explore.
Day 4 Howden Hut to The Divide. It's pretty much all downhill, apart from the side track to Key Summit. It's definitely worth a visit to this alpine wetland and the views over the Darran Mountains and Hollyford Valley are magnificent.
The Routeburn can be linked with the Greenstone, Caples Tracks for those who want to extend their adventure, although it is more arduous.
Historic Kinloch Lodge is a great place to stay the night if starting from the Glenorchy end. A range of accommodation to suit all budgets is available and their restaurant offers great food.Details HERE
For a full track desciption and bookings click HERE
Guided trips of the Routeburn are available for those who want the comfort of a lodge with hot showers and meals. For itinenary details click HERE