The Routeburn Track

Small but perfectly formed, New Zealand’s Routeburn Track is 32 km of wild alpine beauty connecting Fiordland and Mt Aspiring National Parks. Encounter soaring mountain peaks, huge valleys, mesmerising waterfalls and crystal-clear lakes, admiring the prolific birdlife at home among majestic native forests, as the track winds up to 1,255 metres above sea level, affording incredible views above the natural spectacle below.

The Routeburn Track is often included in longer itineraries in combination with other Fiordland attractions, however as a standalone walk, the track is best explored over two to four days and can be broken up into five sections. The track can be undertaken in either direction and four public huts and two campsites are available to book in advance for independent travellers.

Routeburn Shelter to Routeburn Flats Hut

The first section will take most agile walkers around two hours, covering a distance of 7.5 km and begins at Routeburn Shelter, approximately 68km from Queenstown. The track gently winds alongside the crystal-clear water of the Route Burn (river). Shortly beyond Sugarloaf Stream, a climb to Bridal Veil Waterfall leads to a swing bridge and open grassed flats, here the Routeburn Flats Hut and Campsite provides basic accommodation and facilities.

From Routeburn Flats Hut to Routeburn Falls Hut

The next shorter section of track climbs steadily through beautiful beech forest over 2.3 km, offering memorable views of the Humboldt Mountains. More accommodation is available here, at Routeburn Falls Hut, on the edge of the bushline and close to the impressive Routeburn Falls cascade.

Routeburn Falls Hut to Lake Mackenzie Hut

A full day of steady walking will cover a distance of 11.3 km between Routeburn Falls and Lake Mackenzie. The track climbs gradually up the valley, through wetlands and tussock-covered flats, before meandering along the bluffs above Lake Harris to reach the highest point on the track at Harris Saddle/TarahakaWhakatipu (1,255 m).

From here, the track winds downward, crossing Hollyford Face, and taking in impressive views over the Darran Mountains. This section of the track is well-known for its wide variety of alpine plants. An easy descent leads to Lake Mackenzie Hut, perched alongside the serene beauty of Lake Mackenzie.

Here an optional side trip can be taken to Conical Hill, a return journey of around two hours which rewards with views of the Hollyford Valley, Lake McKerrow and Martins Bay.

Mackenzie Hut to Howden Hut

The next section covers 8.6km, taking most around three to four hours. The track crosses a small flat and climbs to the bush line before descending past the ‘Orchard’, an open grassy area decorated with ribbonwood trees, to the dramatic Earland Falls (174 m). Lake Howden Hut is the next stop after a brief descent through picturesque beech forest.

Lake Howden Hut to The Divide

The final 3.4 km section of track climbs for a short distance to the Key Summit Track turn-off. From here, a gradual downhill walk through silver beech forest leads to track’s conclusion at The Divide on the Milford Highway. At 532 m, The Divide is the lowest crossing of the Southern Alps in New Zealand. To begin or end from The Divide, easiest access is from Te Anau, approximately 85 km away.

Another side trip is possible from the Divide, this one leads to Key Summit and takes between 1 and 1hr 30 minutes to complete.

This popular walk climbs above the bushline to an alpine wetland and provides incredible views over the Darran Mountains and Hollyford Valley. The alpine nature walk passes a range of native vegetation: beech forest, subalpine shrublands and alpine tarnsand bogs and is a major drawcard to the region for bird lovers: tomtits, robins, New Zealand pigeons/kererū and bellbirds/korimako are commonly seen.

A wide variety of guided tours of the Routeburn Track exist, staying in fully catered private lodges, and are often combined with the Milford and Kepler Tracks and Milford Sound cruises for a thorough exploration of this unforgettable destination.

Most pre-booked and guided itineraries will include transport from Queenstown or Te Anau where a wide variety of accommodation options will make an extended stay in the region well worthwhile.

View all Routeburn Track walks