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The Milford Road is the most rewarding place to spend time anywhere in New Zealand, there is so much to see and do. There are a number of inexpensive Department of Conservation (DOC) campsites on the road as well as limited motel or backpacker style accommodation at Knobs Flat, Gunn’s Camp and Milford Sound. You will never regret spending extra time exploring the Milford Road. Here are 3 of the most interesting day walks.
The Key Summit track leaves from The Divide carpark, officially it is 90 minutes to the top on a steep but very well maintained, benched and gravelled track. Most of the way it follows the Routeburn Track, going off on a tangent to Key Summit at the tree line, where the Routeburn scoots off to Howden Hut.
Key Summit is safe from avalanche risk and can be walked any time of year provided you are properly prepared. Stop frequently to enjoy the walk through the unique and captivating forest. As you climb above the road listen for birds, the area is heavily managed by DOC in conjunction with Air New Zealand and the Fiordland Conservation Trust, birdlife is a big reason to love this amazing walk.
At Key Summit there is a short ‘must do’ interpretive walk through the alpine wetland, but the real attraction is the expansive view of the Darran Mountains and the Hollyford Valley. The Key Summit walk is good any time of day, the photography from the summit is phenomenal as the sun sets.
There are toilets at The Divide and on the track close to Key Summit.
The Lake Marian track starts a short distance down the Hollyford Road. The track crosses the crystal clear Hollyford River by a long suspension bridge and it is an easy 15 minute walk to the trestle, built into the rock beside the raging Marian River. Beyond the trestle the track climbs steeply through forest to sublime Lake Marian, surrounded on all sides by precipitous granite peaks.
The 90 minute walk to the lake is hard going, the track is steep and rocky, but completely worthwhile. Once you reach the lake, plan to spend time lounging in the sun on one of the many huge boulders overlooking the water. Lake Marian has a subterranean outlet. The sides of Lake Marian as well as the valley beyond the lake are extremely avalanche prone in the winter and spring.
There are toilets on the Hollyford Road and on the track close to Lake Marian.
The Gertrude Saddle provides expansive views of the Darran Mountains and Milford Sound.
It’s at least a 6 hour round trip and best in the summer. During winter and spring the Gertrude Valley is subject to avalanche risk.
The steep sided alpine valley is not heavily forested, walk through fascinating tussocky herb fields until you begin to climb to the saddle on bare, sometimes steep and exposed granite. Near the saddle is Black Lake, completely surrounded by rock. Heavy predator control in the Gertrude Valley by DOC in conjunction with The Alpine Club makes it excellent habitat for Rock Wren and other bird species.
The Gertrude Saddle is not an easy walk but for most capable hikers and in the summer, it may be the most rewarding day walk on the Milford Road.
Quietlight offers low key, customised tours to Milford Sound, Mavora Lakes and Coastal Southland.