Milford Sound Day Walks: Hike Rainforest and Alpine Trails

Exploring on foot is one of the best ways to soak up Milford Sound’s spectacular natural beauty.

The area offers a wealth of half and full day walk options you can enjoy without a guide.Walk through lush rainforest or explore alpine tracks leading to stunning waterfalls, ice fields and mountain lakes. Here’s our top picks for the best day walking experiences the area has to offer. 

Gertrude Valley – 4-5 Hours – Summer/Autumn

On this walk, hikers climb to Gertrude Saddle; an exciting and unforgettable alpine hiking experience that offers stunning mountain views, waterfalls and ice fields. The Gertrude Valley Track is one of New Zealand’s most accessible alpine walks and is complete with sensational views to Milford Sound and the surrounding Darran Mountains. The first hour follows the valley floor before climbing large granite slabs and outcrops to Black Lake. Here, the ice fields above feed numerous waterfalls on rock faces all around the valley. The final exhilarating climb to Gertrude Saddle provides a rewarding vista of alpine peaks with the classic U-shaped, glacially carved valleys below. Take a picnic lunch and enjoy the alpine environment for the afternoon. This walk is not suitable in wet/wintery conditions.

A caution from Department of Conservation: Parts of the track are very steep and not suitable for those with limited tramping experience, or a dislike for heights. The track goes up steep rock slabs and is treacherous when wet or frosty - there are steel cables to assist you.

Grave Talbot – 3-4 Hours – Lower track all year, Upper track summer/autumn

Experience the ground-shuddering rumble that comes from walking next to a raging Fiordland River on this hike. This track follows the Gulliver River as it thunders down through the forest to the valley floor. Large rimu and beech trees line the river, providing a majestic canopy above the track. The upper reaches of the walk follows the Esperance River to emerge into the grasslands at the base of the rock walls below Mt McPherson.  It’s a 3-4 hour round-trip to the Esperance River grasslands, but this can be reduced to a shorter stroll along the Gulliver River. The upper track is exposed to avalanches in winter and spring.

Key Summit – 3 Hours – All year

Hike along a well-formed track to Key Summit for unforgettable 360-degree lake to sea views of Fiordland as well as vistas to Mt Christina and the Darran Mountains. This walk is suitable for all abilities with its well-formed “sandshoe” track right to the top.  Hikers climb through stunted alpine vegetation, above the bush line and amongst alpine tarns. On clear days the panoramic views to Lake Te Anau and north past Mt Tutoko to Martins Bay are spectacular. In the right conditions, the summit is the perfect place for a picnic lunch or sunset drink. In winter and spring snow often occurs on the summit and sometimes along the length of the track.

Lake Marian – 3-4 Hours – All year

Choose to climb to a beautiful alpine lake alongside raging mountain rivers or take an easy 20-minute stroll along Marian Creek for exceptional views.  Beautiful waterways are the main feature of this walk. From the rolling waters of the Hollyford River to raging Marian Creek and finally the picturesque Lake Marian, this walk showcases the area’s diverse rivers, creeks and lakes. Hikers also get to enjoy spectacular views of the immense rock faces and alpine peaks that tower high above. In the warmer months the lake is an ideal place to lounge around in the sun and enjoy a refreshing swim. Along the way you’ll leave the sand flies in the valley and enjoy soaking up the beauty of the alpine flowers that dot the track. In winter, hikers are able to watch spectacular avalanches roar down the mountains behind Lake Marian. This walk takes 3-4 hours comfortably, but does involve a consistent climb to the Lake. For a shorter experience, take 20 minutes to experience the thundering Marian Creek from a modern walkway with exceptional vantage points.

Tutoko – 5-6 Hours – All year



Walk through enchanting rainforest and enjoy views of Fiordland’s highest peak on the Tutoko Track. A magical rainforest walk that’s dotted with ferns, moss, lichens and bubbling streams, this track provides an opportunity to experience the unique rainforest flora along the valley floor. Hikers will also enjoy exceptional views of Mt Tutoko at 2834m (Fiordland’s highest peak) at the end of the track. Watching the icefalls drop from the Herbert Icefields into the upper reaches of Leader Creek is a highlight of this track. A 5-6 hour round trip allows plenty of time to explore the river banks and enjoy the alpine scenery.

Looking for more of a challenge? Consider tackling one of Fiordland's famous multi-day hikes – the Milford Track, Routeburn, Greenstone and Caples Tracks or the Hollyford Track are all highly recommended.
Milford Sound's day walks and hikes perfectly complement the repertoire of exciting activities here – try a guided kayak tour or boat cruise and get out on the water for a different perspective.

For accommodation that's handy to the walks and activities Milford Sound has to offer, consider a stay at Milford Lodge. From award-winning chalets to powered campervan sites and dorms, the lodge is located in Milford Sound itself - one of New Zealand's most naturally beautiful places. Find out more about accommodation types here, or contact us directly

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