3 Days 32 km

Highlights

  • Soaring mountain peaks
  • Beautiful Lake Harris
  • Moss-draped forests

Proximity

GRADE: INTERMEDIATE

Best time: late Oct to late April

Tramp among soaring mountain peaks, huge valleys, waterfalls and jewel-like lakes.

Find out more about planning your visit to Fiordland National Park and walking the Routeburn Track, Great Walk. 

1. Overview of the Routeburn Track

While the Routeburn Track may be a shorter multi-day hike, it has some of the biggest scenery.

With soaring mountain peaks, huge valleys, waterfalls and jewel-like lakes the Routeburn Track links the Mount Aspiring National Park with Fiordland National Park.

The highest point of the track is 1,255 metres above sea level and the views are simply spectacular. 

Parts of the Routeburn Track have been shaped by glacier covered lands, fiords, rocky coasts, towering cliffs, lakes and waterfalls.

Birdlife is prolific through forested sections of the track with an abundance of native tomtits, robins, fantails, wood pigeons and bellbirds. You may also spot a cheeky kea, the world's only alpine parrot. 

This is not a loop track and can be walked in either direction. One track end is at the Routeburn Shelter (near Glenorchy) and the other is at The Divide (closer to Te Anau).

It is recommended that this track is avoided between May and September because of the high risk of avalanches

2. Walking the Routeburn Track

The fitter you are the more you will enjoy yourself, so a good level of fitness and strength is necessary. 

Find out more about the walk and what is involved; 

Day 1, Routeburn Shelter to Routeburn Falls Hut, 8.8km

From the carpark, cross a swing bridge to begin the track itself.

Meander through beautiful beech forest before walking above the Routeburn Gorge. A second swing bridge takes walkers to open, grassy flats, before the track climbs steadily through more beech forest.

Cross two more swing bridges & enjoy the huge views of the valley below before arriving at Routeburn Falls Hut(opens in new window).

Day 2, Routeburn Falls Hut to Lake McKenzie Hut, 11.3km

This morning's walk climbs steadily to the outlet of the river at Lake Harris - don't forget to occasionally stop and look behind you for great views of the Routeburn Valley.

The long climb to the Harris Saddle, the highest point of the track, is worth every step. Beautiful Lake Harris greets you with waters that will be either deep blue or slate grey, depending on the weather. The saddle has many other pretty little tarns hidden in its folds.

From the top of the saddle, you are surrounded by mountains - the Darren Range, Mount Madeline (2,537m) and Mount Tutoko (2,746m), just to mention a few.

The track then traverses down towards the Hollyford Valley, where Lake McKenzie becomes visible. Once through the bush walkers arrive at Lake Mackenzie Hut(opens in new window).

Day 3, Lake McKenzie Hut to The Divide, 12km

Leaving Lake Mackenzie Hut, the track winds through grassy flats dotted with trees before coming to the spectacular Earland Falls (174m).

The track then continues on a gradual descent to the Lake Howden Hut, the perfect place to stop for lunch. From here, the track climbs steadily to the Key Summit Track turnoff.

Key Summit provides panoramic views over the Humboldt and Darran Mountains. Walkers then head gradually downhill through silver beech forest to the divide on Milford Road.

3. Accommodation on the Routeburn Track

There are four public huts and two campsites on the Routeburn Track which the Department of Conservation take care of.

There are also two private lodges, run by Ultimate Hikes(opens in new window)

The Department of Conservation huts are equipped with mattresses, flushing toilets, running water, cooking facilities with fuel and a conservation ranger.

During off peak season (May to September), fuel, running water and rangers are not present. There is a high risk of avalanches in this area off season so we do not recommend walking outside of the Great Walks season.

Reservations are required for all huts and campsites. You can buy hut tickets and make reservations at DOC visitor centres nationwide(opens in new window), or through their online booking service(opens in new window).  

Book Routeburn Track huts

4. Towns near Routeburn Track

One end of the Routeburn Track begins near Glenorchy where you can find a great range of accommodation, from campsites up to luxury resorts. The Headwaters Eco Lodge(opens in new window) and Mrs. Woolly's Camp Ground(opens in new window) are great eco friendly options.

Queenstown is 45 minutes drive to Glenorchy and a good place to stock up on gear and food prior to your walk. With plenty of accommodation options, beautiful scenery and a plethora of activities to do Queenstown is a great place to stay for a few nights.

The other end of the track is closer to Te Anau, which is also a great place to base yourself before or after the Routeburn Track. Plenty of accommodation options, most close to picturesque Lake Te Anau. With glowworms, nice restaurants and the gateway to Milford Sound, there is more to Te Anau than meets the eye, it's worth staying a few nights. 

5. Getting to the Routeburn Track trail head

Routeburn Track can be accessed from both ends: Routeburn Shelter (25 km from Glenorchy) along a partially unsealed road, and The Divide Shelter, (85 km from Te Anau).

The distance between the Routeburn Shelter and The Divide Shelter is 325 kilometres. 

Local operators offer transfer services or one way relocation of your own car, find out more at; 

6. Book a guided tour of Routeburn Track

Booking a walk with a tour provider

There are a number of specialist tour operators who can aide you in bringing your walking experience to life. Take a look at these businesses to find out if a walking tour is right for you

Full track option 

Day walk

Booking a walk independently

If you want to do a Great Walk independently, you will need to book the DOC accommodation on the trails. The fee for this varies between each Great Walk. It is recommended that you book in advance for this popular walk.

7. How to prepare for the Great Walks of New Zealand

Five simple rules, also known as The Land Safety Code, to help you stay safe when trekking or tramping in the outdoors of New Zealand. 

1. Choose the right trip for you

Make sure the chosen trip is suitable for your fitness level.

2. Understand the weather

New Zealand's weather changes quickly, always check the forecast. If the weather is bad, wait until it clears or turn around. 

3. Pack warm clothes and extra food

Prepare for bad weather and an unexpected night out.

4. Share your plans and ways to get help

Tell a trusted person your trip details and take a personal locator beacon with you - these can be purchased or hired from local gear shops.

5. Take care of yourself and others 

Eat, drink and rest. Stay with your group and always make decisions together. 

The Land Safety Code

What to pack for Great Walks of New Zealand

Having the right gear is imperative when tramping in the outdoors. 

Watch this video(opens in new window) to find out how to pack your gear. 

Find out all you need to know about walking in New Zealand at Adventure Smart(opens in new window).

Find out what to pack

View Routeburn Track on the map

Department of Conservation

Click the link below for more information and detailed maps about this trail.

Routeburn Track(opens in new window)

Book your Routeburn Track journey

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