Routeburn Track, Queenstown Overview

Starting at the Queenstown side of the Southern Alps and ending at the Divide on the Te Anau side, The Routeburn Track is a trekking/tramping track running through New Zealand’s South Island. It is a very famous track among hikers and trekkers around the world and is 32 kms long. Along with popularity, the track is also recognized by National Geography, who has featured it as one of the top 11 trails in the world in 2005. The track runs through meadows, alpine gardens and reflective tarns making it the perfect alpine adventure. This track has been regarded as a Great Walk by the New Zealand’s department of conservation.

This majestic 32 km hike is a favourite of many a hiker. Due to the extensive time that's required to complete the track, there are camping sites and huts along the way for the hikers. Most of the track goes through the ridges on the High Saddle, overlapping the Mt. Aspiring National Park and the Fiordlands National Park. This route is also often called a 'tramping' route. Along the way, you'll come across many beautiful sceneries, and native NZ birds accompanying you for the distance.

There are four prominent huts along the track for trampers to take halt; Routeburn Falls Hut, Lake Howden Hut, Routeburn Flats Hut and Lake Mackenzie Hut. The shelter set up at Harris Saddle is for emergency purposes. The track runs through two national parks; Fiordland National Park and Mount Aspiring National Park.

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The Route

  • If you’re starting your journey from the Queenstown side, the track starts at the end of the Routeburn Road and gently continues up the left side of the Routeburn River after crossing the suspension bridge.
  • The track then continues beyond the sugarloaf stream and the bridal Veil waterfall leading to a much steeper climb over the gorge towards Forge Flats.
  • Soon after this point, the valley opens directed to the Routeburn Flats and then steadily towards the Routeburn falls hut. After passing these huts, the track becomes narrower till Lake Harris.
  • The track reaches the Harris shelter over Lake Harris.
  • The track then moves towards Lake Mackenzie Hut after diverting towards the Hollyford face southwards.
  • Then the track ascends towards a bush-line and slowly climbs down to meet a grassy area past the Orchard and runs through ribbonwood trees till it reaches Earland Falls.
  • The usual route goes through the base of the waterfall but during heavy rainfall, there is an alternate route exit which passes through a small bridge.
  • Gradually the track descends towards Howden Hut. Then the track crosses the Key Summit after branching off into Greenstone and Caples Track and then reaches the Divide where the track ends.

Important Information

  • Distance: The entire track is 32 kms long (excluding sidetracks).
  • Duration: The popular duration of finishing the track is 2 nights and 3 days, but it is possible to finish the track earlier.
  • Accommodation: There are camping spots and huts provided by the Department of Conservation. These hits have bunks and the facilities are to be shared with fellow trekkers. Lake Mackenzie Hut is a popular option the western side and on the eastern side people usually stay at the Falls Hut.
  • Direction: The track can be started from either ends. But if you don’t want to be encountering uphill climbs then it is suggested to start from the Divide side.
  • When to Book: It is suggested that the track be booked very early, even months in advance.

Tips

  • Carry rain-protection clothes or extra clothes as rains are common here.
  • Be sure to pack and carry your own food as there is no facility for food along the track even in the huts.
  • There are toilet facilities along the track but sometimes you may have to be ready to utilize nature and bury your waste.
  • Carry mosquito repellant
  • The bunk rooms can be a bit chilly and hence remember to carry sleeping bags to keep yourself warm.

How To Reach Routeburn Track

Even though transportation is somewhat of a hassle there are a number of options to choose from like buses, car relocation, hitchhiking or the helicopter which could prove to be a tad bit expensive. The drive from one end to another takes around 5 hours. Car relocation being a really popular option is offered by Easyhike.co.nz. During the peak seasons, ‘Info & Track’ offer transport to either side of the track.

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