Hiking The Routeburn Track New Zealand


The Routeburn Track New Zealand is a 20-mile route through the Southern Alps which links Fiordland National Park and Mount Aspiring. It is considered one of the best hikes in the world because of its valleys, meadows, forests, and alpine lakes. The beauty of this area is increased with the views of snow-covered mountain peaks.

The Routeburn Trail New Zealand makes it easy to connect to nature with the song of many different bird species, the mist from the splendid waterfalls, and the taste of crispy cold water from glaciers. In this article, we will talk about everything you need to know about this gorgeous route.

Routeburn Track New Zealand Guide

What You Should Expect

This route is quite easy to follow because it offers a standard that is much higher than at most other tracks, considering it is one of New Zealand’s Great Walks.  Even though some tracks can only fit two people side by side, they are usually very wide. The surface is usually dirt, rock, or gravel, and it can get a bit slippery during the wet season.

Most waterways and rivers are equipped with sturdy bridges. Some small streams occasionally cross the track, but they are straightforward to cross. But, keep in mind that rivers can flood the tracks very quickly during wet weather.

Also, several hills make the track steeper. This will give you an opportunity for even better views, so don’t forget to prepare your backpacking camera.

When to Go

The Great Walk season starts in October and lasts until April. The Routeburn Trail New Zealand offers the best weather conditions during the season, but it is also more crowded. Facilities are reduced from May to October, and there are also many safety hazards. If you are not experienced, equipped, and fit enough, it is not advised to hike this route during the off-season.

Walking Options

You can hike the full track. Most hikers take 3 days and 2 nights to finish the hike, staying at the Routeburn Falls huts and Lake Mackenzie. But, you can also extend the trip if you stay at some other huts.

Try a day walk. There are some Routeburn Track New Zealand day-hike options. You can choose from Routeburn Nature Walk, Earland Falls Track, Lake Howden Track, and Key Summit Track.

Where to Stay

There are 2 campsites and 4 huts along with the Routeburn Trail New Zealand. Bear in mind that they should be booked in advance during the walking season. But, these campsites and huts can be fully booked months in advance. Booking usually starts in February, and you can find out the exact dates online.

Even when the huts and campsites are overcrowded, camping outside the camping sites is not permitted. DOC rangers patrol the track and will make sure everything is done according to the rules.

During the Great Walks season, the huts include:

  • A communal sleeping area with many bunks and mattresses
  • Washbasins, cold running water, toilers, and sufficient water supply (without showers)
  • Solar lighting and fuel heating in the main area
  • Fuel cooking facilities, seating, and tables (without utensils)
  • DOC rangers who are willing to help you out in case any emergency arises, as well as inform you about the weather and the environment

Outside the season, the accommodation does not include:

  • You will have to pack your cooking stove during this period
  • Flush toilets. They will be replaced with pit toilets
  • Running water. The water inside the huts will be turned off. But, you will be able to get water from the water tank placed outside. If the water is frozen you can get it by melting snow or the nearest water source
  • DOC rangers in the huts
  • Bed reservations. Those who first come will get the bed

Facilities at the Campsite


The Routeburn Track New Zealand campsites are usually located near huts and are always placed in scenic locations. You won’t be able to use the facilities, but you will find the following things at each campsite:

  • Tap water supply
  • An open shelter for cooking
  • A clean toilet
  • A hut warden who may check the tickets and offer a friendly chat

The Route

Firstly, starting at the end of the Routeburn Road, the route crosses a bridge and introduces you to a side up the Routeburn River. Then, it crosses the sugarloaf stream as well as the Bridal Veil waterfall, leading to a climb that goes above the Forge Flats gorge. Soon after this point, the valley will open up, leading towards the Routeburn flats and crossing the Routeburn again.

After you leave the Routeburn Flats hut, the track will lead you to a steady climb towards the Routeburn Falls Hut. Along the way, you will pass Emily Creek and Eagle Bluff. This location will reward you with gorgeous views of Mt Momus and Mt Somnus.

Next, the Routeburn Trail New Zealand will lead you to a narrow climb next to Lake Harris. This area will let you enjoy the view of Lake Wilson and the Serpentine Range. Next, you will arrive at the Harris Shelter, before descending to Lake Mackenzie Hut. From there, the track leads to a small climb, and then to a gradual descent past an open area called the ‘Orchard’.

Finally, the route will pass under the Earland Falls, continuing the descend until the Howden Hut. The road will lead you to Glenorchy, past the Divide Road and Key summit, before you come to the end of the route.

Hiking Tips

  • Always check the weather conditions before you plan your trip because bad weather can make it more difficult to hike through this area.
  • Since weather can be very unstable in this region, you should bring the appropriate gear for all situations
  • Pack more food than you think it’s necessary. This hike is not among the most difficult ones, but it is a good idea to bring more food to avoid any potential problems
  • Book everything in advance, including transport, accommodation, and transfers to the end and the start of the hike
  • If you are starting your hike from The Divide, you should take the shuttle service or have a one hour drive from Te Anau. On the other hand, if you start at the Routeburn Shelter, you will need to be dropped off or drive to Queenstown. A car relocation service can be of great help if you decide to go with your car because it will wait for you at the end of the track when you finish

The Routeburn Track Pros

  • Gorgeous nature, including valleys, mountains, and alpine lakes
  • There is no need to walk back the same route because this trail is one way only
  • The bridges and the tracks are well maintained so it is quite easy to hike through this area
  • There is no entrance fee, but the hut accommodation should be paid

The Routeburn Track Cons

  • The weather can be very unpredictable, so it is necessary to pack adequate gear for all conditions
  • Some of the benefits are not available during the off-season

Equipment Checklist

  • Lightweight backpack
  • Hiking clothes
  • Hiking boots
  • Sunglasses
  • Water bottle
  • Water filter
  • Hiking hat
  • Warm hat
  • Hiking gloves
  • Sleeping bag
  • Camera

Globo Surf Overview

This 20-mile hike will reward you with some of the most amazing views, as well as the highest standards. The Routeburn Track is not the most difficult route, but you should bear in mind the weather can be very unpredictable.

You need to prepare all the necessary gear for all weather conditions and be aware of all the risks of this remote location. Also, it is important to know the difference between the Great Walk season benefits and how they can change if you decide to hike off-season.

More Backpacking/Hiking Reviews:


  1. Routeburn Track, newzealand.com
Globo Surf
My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!