The Routeburn Track is one of the 9 Great Walks in New Zealand. This well traveled and well maintained track stretches 32km (20 miles) from the Routeburn Shelter in Mt. Aspiring National Park at the head of Lake Wakatipu to The Divide on the road to Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park. Over the course of this spectacular 2-3 day walk, you will discover sweeping vistas, dazzling waterfalls and a variety of flora and fauna.
The following descriptions of the different segments of the Routeburn Track are taken from the Department of Conservation's Routeburn Track Brochure.
Routeburn Shelter to Routeburn Flats Hut
6.5 km, 1.5 - 2.5 hours
The first segment of the Routeburn Track makes an ideal day walk for those who are short on time. The wide, well maintained easy graded track crosses several swing bridges, goes past bridal veil falls and over the Routeburn Gorge before opening up to vast grassy flats. The trail forks at the end of the first segment with the fork to the right leading to Routeburn Flats Hut and the fork to the left continuing on to Routeburn Falls Hut.
Side Trip – North Branch of the Route Burn, 4 - 5 hours return. For great views of Mt. Somnus, Mt. Nereus and North Col, follow the North Branch from the Routeburn Flats Hut across the unbridged Route Burn and through beech forest & tussock clearings.
Routeburn Flats Hut to Routeburn Falls Hut
2.3 km, 1 - 1.5 hours
Between the Routeburn Flats Hut and the Routeburn Falls Hut is a significant gain in elevation. This steady climb through the beech forest crosses 2 swing bridges and offers spectacular views of the vallely below. In 1994, heavy rain created a slip which washed awya part of the original track. Take care when crossing the slip, particularly after heavy rain. The bridge at Emily Creek is the midway point of this section of the track. If trekking early or late in the season, beware of avalanches that have been know to fall as far as the bridge. There are 48 bunks at the Routeburn Falls Hut.
Routeburn Falls Hut to Lake Mackenzie Hut
11.3 km, 4.5 - 6 hours
This sub-alpine section of the Routeburn track is very exposed and can be extremely hazardous in adverse weather conditions. You should always listen to the advice of Department of Conservation staff in such conditions. From the Falls Hut to Lake Mackenzie, the track climbs steadily following the Route Burn to its outlet from Lake Harris. A steep sidle through moraine and around the bluffs above Lake Harris leads to the Harris Saddle/Tarahaka Whakatipu (1255m) and the shelter, which is available for day use only. Allow 11⁄2 - 21⁄2 hours for the climb. Sub-alpine herbs and cushion plants are a feature of the vegetation. These areas are very fragile so please keep to the track.
Side trip – Conical Hill, 1 - 2 hours return (This walk is not recommended in snow or adverse weather conditions). A short, steep, rocky climb from the Harris Saddle up Conical Hill gives superb view of the Hollyford Valley through to Lake McKerrow, Martins Bay and the Tasman Sea.
From the saddle the track drops steeply down a gully and traverses along the exposed Hollyford face, before a bush descent onto a series of zig-zags to Lake Mackenzie Hut (50 bunks). Allow three to four hours for the descent from the saddle.
The nine campsites at Lake Mackenzie are located 500m from the hut, halfway round the side of the lake. No camping is permitted between Routeburn Flats Hut and Lake Mackenzie.
Side trip – Head of Lake Mackenzie, 1 hour return.
Follow the track through the bush to the campsite and on towards to the head of Lake Mackenzie.
Lake Mackenzie Hut to Lake Howden Hut
8.6 km, 3 - 4 hours
After the Lake Mackenzie Hut, the track crosses a small flat before climbing steeply to the bushline then gradually descending past the ‘Orchard’ ( an open grassy area) to the Earland Falls (174m). Should the falls be in floos, an emergency bridge is situated down stream. From this point, the track continues a gradual descent to Lake Howden Hut (28 bunks) which is situated at the junction of the Routeburn and Greenstone/ Caples Tracks. There is a campsite at the Greenstone Saddle, 20 minutes down the Greenstone Track.
Lake Howden Hut to The Divide
3.4 km, 1 - 1.5 hours.
The track climbs for about 15 minutes to the Key Summit turn-off.
Side trip – Key Summit, 1 - 11⁄2 hours return. Take the side track which climbs above the bushline to an alpine wetland and tarn interpretive walk. Please remain on the track and boardwalks as this is a fragile area. You will be rewarded with magnificent views of the Darran Mountains and the Hollyford Valley.
From the Key Summit turn-off the gradual downhill walk to The Divide is through silver beech forest. The Divide (532m) is the lowest east/west crossing in the Southern Alps. A shelter, carpark and toilets are located at The Divide.