The Routeburn Track in the Glenorchy region is one of New Zealand's most highly anticipated walks. It passes through the Humboldt Mountains and provides incredibly diverse scenery and views of fantastic southwestern wilderness.
Rich birdlife, forested valleys and cascading waterfalls along with rivers, lakes and majestic mountains make up the scenery this walk is famous for.
Visitors with moderate levels of fitness can hike this route easily and the short distances between the different Department of Conservation (DOC) huts along the route makes it easy on the trampers.
Those who are not confident about their fitness levels are best advised to go on a guided walk on the Routeburn Track where they do not need to carry heavy backpacks or camping and cooking equipment.
They only carry their personal effects and the walk is done at a relaxed pace, typically only 5 to 6 hours a day with guides providing information or assistance along the way. The guided walks carry a more expensive price tag.
The Routeburn Track extends over 33 kilometres and takes 2 to 3 days to hike. Most hikers walk westwards from Glenorchy to the Divide.
The track is laced with rough terrain and steep paths and requires trampers to carry backpacks and walk anywhere from 5 to 6 hours per day. The route goes through spline country and snowfall. It is prone to flooding at times and can be closed.
On the first day, there are buses leaving at mid-morning and mid-afternoon, reaching Routeburn Flats or Routeburn Falls Hut. Buses drop trampers at the Routeburn Shelter.
You have a 7 kilometre walk from the Routeburn Shelter to Routeburn Flats Hut on a steady uphill not-so-strenuous track following the Route Burn. You see river flats, water flats and beech forests along the way to the Routeburn Flats Hut.
Adjoining this is the Routeburn Flats Campsite where you can pitch tents. On the same day, you can tackle the next leg of the 2 kilometre journey from Routeburn Flats Hut to Routeburn Falls Hut which is steeper and rougher.
But the strain is worth it when at the end of it, you get to stay at the modern Routeburn Falls Hut, perched superbly to offer classy eastward views.
On the second day, you walk from Routeburn Falls Hut to Mackenzie Hut, a good 11 kilometre walk. The major part of the walk covers the alpine tussock or growing grass clumps of the Harris Saddle and the terrain is wet spongy.
If you are lucky, you can catch a glimpse of the chamois or goat-like antelope climbing the rocks on either side of the saddle. The track ascends to the Harris Saddle Shelter and this offers protection from the winds and has toilets.
From here, a climb up the Conical Hill, a 2 kilometre return, is worth the effort to get brilliant views of the Hollyford Valley and the Tasman Sea.
From the saddle, you cross from the Mt Aspiring National Park into the Fiordland National Park and walk along the edge of the Hollyford Valley before reaching Mackenzie Hut. There is a campsite behind the bush near the hut.
On the third day, you walk from the Mackenzie Hut to the Howden Hut along a 9 kilometre route that proceeds along the mountainside past the Earland Falls. The Howden Hut is at the intersection of three walking routes namely the Greenstone and Caples tracks.
The Routeburn Track continues from the Howden Hut to the Divide along a 3 kilometre track affording a climb to Key Summit along the way with excellent views of the three major rivers, the Hollyford, Eglinton and Greenstone.
From the Key Summit, the track descends to the car park at the Divide.