New Zealand
Hiking Photos

Check out all the Hiking & Tramping Photos in New Zealand.

New Zealand Routeburn Track

New Zealanders and overseas visitors have turned to unspoiled hills, forests and coasts of our magnificent New Zealand landscape in search of physical recreation and spiritual solace. The Routeburn track is one of the safest tracks to be found in New Zealand's remote back country, free from river crossings, well marked and well provided with huts. It may be sensibly tackled by the inexperienced provided that their party includes one or two seasoned trampers or hikers. So go to it, embark on the discovery of our unequalled New Zealand natural landscape.

Discover Routeburn Track, one of Aspiring and Fiordland National parks top destinations for tramping and hiking track adventures - the Routeburn Track, Queenstown, Glenorchy New Zealand.

General Information

Routeburn Track lies wholly within two national parks: Mount Aspiring National Park ( from the Routeburn Valley to Harris Saddle) and Fiordland National Park ( from the saddle to the Milford road. All natives birds and flora are protected; plants must not be removed and domestic animals, such as dogs, are prohibited. All mammals (except bats) are introduced, noxious and fair game but hunting of these (e.g. red deer) is not allowed except by permit (consult park rangers). It is the responsibility of every traveller to see that the environment remains undamaged and unpolluted and is preserved as nearly as possible in its natural state. Information about both parks may be obtained from the official park handbooks, available at Government bookshops and all major booksellers.

The nearest Aspiring park station to the Routeburn is the visitor centre at Glenorchy, at the head of Lake Wakatipu ( address Senior Ranger, Mount Aspiring National Park, Glenorchy). The nearest Fiordland park ranger station is the headquarteres at Te Anau ( Address: Chief Ranger, Fiordland National Park, PO Box 29 Te Anau. Information and advice about travelling in the parks are freely available.

During the Routeburn Track season ( mid November to May ) national park wardens are in attendance at all huts to collect hut fees, give advice and provide park interpretation. Huts are linked by radio so that wardens may monitor the movement of track walkers. Even so, for safety's sake, you must ensure that you register your group's names and intentions in national park hut books along the track.

One Way  
Time 2 - 3 days
From Routeburn Shelter, head of Lake Wakatipu
To The Divide, Milford Te Anau Road
Distance 32.1 km
Huts 4 Great Walks Huts, 2 Great Walks Campsites
Grade medium
Highest Point
1275m, Harris Saddle
Lowest Point 450m
Maps Map 260 D40 / C40 Milford
Map 260 D41 Eglinton
Map 260 E40 Earnslaw
  • Alpine lakes and scenery
  • Beech Forest in the East, Rain Forest in the West
  • Fine views of the Darran Mountains and Hollyford Valley
  • Four Huts, two shelters, two emergency shelters
  • Good side-trips
  • Excellent transport to and from both track ends
Routeburn Track is one of the most popular tramps or hikes in New Zealand. It is a true alpine walk - deep valleys bracketed by bluffs, waterfalls opening on to steep tussock tops giving dramatic views of the Darran Mountains. Routeburn Track is generally of high quality and slips through this rugged part of the Southern Alps with deceptive ease - past clear-eyed lakes, herbfields and the thick rain forest on the west side. Huts are large and comfortable with wardens on duty through the peak summer months.

Routeburn track can be walked from either end. From the east, access is by road from Queenstown to Glenorchy to the Routeburn via the Dart River Bridge ( approx. 78 km). During the summer, a daily return bus service operates from Queenstown to the start of the track.

From the west, access is by road from Te Anau to The Divide on the road to Milford Sound ( approx. 85 km) Between Te Anau amd Milford there is a twice-daily return service by Bus companies. Reservations are essetial. For current information and bookings, consult any NZ Railways or Road Services office or a travel agent.

Track Transport

Routeburn Track is well served by public transport, with several bus companies, including Info & Track Ltd. and Track Net. Glenorchy Holiday Park is a pick up location for ( Info & Track) buses in Glenorchy, but they do not run their own bus services,running regular, daily services throughout the summer. During the Great Walks season, Info & Track Ltd run 2 busess daily from Queenstown or Glenorchy to the Routeburn Shelter and Tracknet run multiple serivces between the Divide Shelter, Milford, Te Anau and Queenstown.

A bus from Queenstown to the Routeburn Shelter costs about $42pp from Queenstown to the Routeburn Track. A bus from the Divide back to Queenstown is $78 pp, but the loop package is discounted at $110pp. Buses are available from Te Anau to The Divide, the western end of the Routeburn Track. Bus companies offer total trip packages reurning to Queenstown, and these may also be tied in with accomodation deals. There is considerable competition on this route, so a variety of options are available tos suit your particular needs.


Local Services
There is plenty of accomodation at both Te Anau and Queenstown, ranging from youth hostels and backpackers' hostels to plush hotels. Of course, in season ( particularly after Boxing Day, December 26), these can get very busy. Glenorchy has a comfortable motorcamp with cabins and rooms for backpackers. There is a hostel lodge at Milford Sound, and for the adventurous the Hollyford Motor Camp has cabins and local colour.
Huts and Camping

Camping is forbidden within 500 m of the track, which because of the nature of the terriain means that you are obliged to use the huts. There are two designated camping areas - one by Routeburn Flats huts and the other by Lake Howden. huts can get uncomfortably crowded during the summer. Hut bookings required.

There are private huts, the property of Routeburn Walk Ltd, at Routeburn Falls and Lake McKenzie. Other huts are maintained by the National Parks and a nominal fee is charged for overnight use. The comfort and condition of these huts depends on their responsible use by track walkers. Use of park huts is controlled by wardens. During the season you may not stay in any hut for more than 2 nights unless bad weather prevents movement. Camping is not permitted within 500 metres of the track or huts except under the direction of wardens. You may need to carry a tent, however, if you are planning a return journey via the Greenstone or Caples Valleys.

Weather and Season
Routeburn Track lies within a mountain environment. Prevailing winds are north-west and south-west; heavy rainfall is common and snow may fall down to 1000m at almost any time of the year. The Hollyford Face between Harris Saddle and Lake MacKenzie is particularly exposed to wind and preciptation. The sub-alpine areas of the track are snowbound during the winter and early spring and the steeper faces are liable to avalanche. The usual season for walking the track is mid-November to late April. The saddle crossing should not be undertaken at any time except under favourable weather conditions. Only highly experienced trampers, hikers and climbers should undertake the track outside this season.
Clothing and Equipment

Walkers must take adequately warm clothing. In fine weather, shorts and a light shirt may be worn but long trousers, a warm shirt and woollen sweater essential for cold conditions. A waterproof parka is also essential. Boots must be worn and these must be properly broken in. A comfortable pack and warm sleeping bag are essential: there is no bedding in the huts.

All food and all utensils must be carried. Gas rings and fuel are provided in huts during the season. Each hut also has a stove for heating and drying. No fires are allowed outside approved fireplaces. Remember to remove all rubbish which you are unable to burn - pack out what you pack in - in the rubbish bags provided.

You should take a small first aid kit,torch, small compass, and of course, appropriate track guide

Fitness and Preparation

It is important to ensure that you are physically fit. If you are not preoccupied with blistered feet or sore muscles then not only will you cover the ground more quickly and safely, but you will have more time and opportunity to appreciate the scenery and natural features that you have made so much effort to reach! So - break in those boots, make sure your clothing and gear are comfortable and adequate, plan your food requirements, and undertake several training tramps or hikes of increasing length and difficulty. There's only one way to get fit for tramping - and that's tramping.

Before you leave home, inform relatives or friends of your intentations and dates of travel and put your names and plans in the log books along the way. This will make your location easier should you suffer any mishap. On the track, keep your party together at all times; reduces the chance of a member getting lost or having an accident. Remember - the pace of your party is that of its slowest member.

Approach to Walking

Don't rush and don't loiter. Keep up a good, steady pace and don't indulge in too many rest stops - it's surprising how the time gets away from you. And rests should not be too long, otherwise you may stiffen up and lose your rhythm. Don't hang around if its wet and cold - keep body heat up. Start out early each day, so that you're always time in hand.

Keep your party together at all times; this reduces the chance of a member getting lost or having an accident. Remember the golden rule - the pace of the party is that of its slowest member.
Guided Walks
For novices, young people, and older people - or simply for those who like and can afford a few mod cons - Routeburn Walk Ltd offer a professional guiding services. For a fee you will be taken over the Routeburn track in 4 days, with nights at their comfortable lodge-huts. You can carry only a light pack with personal effects. There are sleeping bags and shower facilities at the huts, and the food is cooked for you, though members of the parties usually assist with domestic chores. Guides help you to appreciate the natural environment and history of the Routeburn Track and are willing to take you on interesting side trips. For further information and reservations you should contact your travel agent or write to Routeburn Walks Ltd, PO Box 271, Queenstown.

Although the Routeburn Track is a well-graded, well marked, well hutted and well used track, it must not be undertaken lightly. People have died on the Routeburn Track from underestimating weather conditions. Your group must be fit and well prepared. Make a conservative estimate of your capabilities and needs, plan well, and by the time you reach the Routeburn Track you'll have no worries.

The stretch of track between Falls Hut and McKenzie Hut is open and exposed. Bad weather will easily delay you and it is sensible to have a day in hand - especially if you want to enjoy the view. Routeburn Track varies between an easy country walk and a standard tramping or hiking trail. Although always well graded, it can be stony and rough underfoot.

More>> Routeburn Track Photos & DOC Routeburn Track Information
Distances Tracks / Times

Those travelling from the Milford Road end may simply reverse the information; distances are the smae and travelling times similar; reverse times shown in parathenses (). The total average travelling time for the track is 13 hours, so that a very fit, skilled tramper, with a light pack might accomplish in one summer's day. The 'record' is 5.5 hours!

But observation of one's surroundings is reduced in direct proportion to the speed of travel and, one might add, the weight of one's load. Most Routeburn Walkers will want to take their time - for comfort's sake and to take in to the full attraction of the natural environment.

Routeburn Shelter to Routeburn Flats
6.5 km
2.5 hours (2)
Flats to Routeburn Falls
2.3 km
1.5 hrs (1)
Routeburn Falls to Harris Saddle
4.3 km
2 hrs (1.5)
Harris Saddle to Lake McKensie
7 km
3 hrs (3.5)
Lake McKenzie to Lake Howden
8.6 km
3 hrs ( 3.5)
Lake Howden to Divide
3.4 km
1 hr ( 1.5 hr)



Further Information

Department of Conservation

Cnr Mull & Oban Streets, Glenorchy
Phone: (03) 442 9937


All Right Reserved. Copyright © BackCountry New Zealand, 2004 - 2018.