Fave trails: The Routeburn Track (NZ)

By travelleranto on 2013.09.10 In fave tracks hiking New Zealand

The question many people ask me when I tell them about my passion for hiking, is which trail is my favorite. This question is impossible for me to answer. Sure, I’ve been to some of the most stunning places in the world but that doesn’t mean that the hikes there are the most beautiful or spectacular. As I’ve already done my big trip this year (I spent a month in the US back in June) and will spend most of the upcoming months working at the office, I’ve decided to take you on a journey through a selection of my favorite hikes… ever!

Today I’ll share a very special hike with you, a 3 day track (or “tramp” as the Kiwi’s like to call it) called The Routeburn Track. It’s located on the Southern Island of New Zealand and crosses two national parks: Mount Aspiring and Fiordland. I walked this track back in December 2011 when I traveled through New Zealand for 6 weeks.

The Routeburn Track is one of the most popular in New Zealand and eventhough it may be crowded, you just have to forget about the other people and enjoy it. If you leave from the huts early and take long brakes, you may have the track for yourself many times.

I started the trail from the Queenstown end (I took a transfer there) and spent the first day hiking through the Routeburn Flats up to the Routeburn Hut. There were quite some dayhikers on the trail too, but many of them don’t make it all the way up. The first part of the trail is easy and follows the Routeburn River, a fast flowing and emerald green stream finding its way through deep narrows and along wide banks. After crossing the flats I ascended up to the Routeburn Falls and the DOC hut. The view from there is simply stunning:
Upon arrival at the hut I was shocked to hear that the previous days the track had been closed further up because of serious avalanche danger: people could opt to fly over with a helicopter (a pricy option) or go back instead. Going back was no option… not on this trail I had been looking forward to hiking for years. I decided to head out further up to see what the status was and the rangers working on the track told me that probably the next day the ledge would be opened again for hikers without danger.lakeharris1

So before going to bed that night, I crossed my fingers and the next morning the hut warden brought the good news that everyone could pass at their own convenience. The situation would be monitored by the rangers on the spot and they would tell us if it would be safe to cross the ice covered ledge. So on my way I went, to the beautifully situated Lake Harris and the Harris Saddle, the place where you actually walk from Mt. Aspiring NP into Fiordland NP. This latter one is well known to be one of the wettest places on earth and I was told that I’d spend at least one day in full rain on the Routeburn. Despite it was cloudy on the saddle, the sky cleared while descending a bit again and within moments I had a stunning view on the Serpentine Range and the Hollyford Valley down below. It definetely felt like being at the end of the world…


After a couple more hours of walking I saw that day’s final destination: Lake Mackenzie, a bright blue Alpine Lake down in the valley below. A great place to cool down, the water looked great but was in fact freezing… The second day ended with a really funny yet interesting hut warden talk about the surroundings of this beautifully located hut.

On my last day the only plan was to hike down to The Divide, where I’d be picked up and taken back to Queenstown. The hike was fairly easy and mostly downhill through an ancient rainforest. I passed the gorgeous Earland Falls, among the highest in New Zealand and also did a little side trip to Key Summit (a popular destination for day hikers). The hike ended at The Divide, where a bus picked me up and brought me back to reality and the world of people and shops. Along the way I met quite some trampers who extended their hike with the Greenstone or Caples Tracks, leaving me dreaming for more. 6 Weeks was clearly not enough. One day I will go back to this beautiful place that is nowadays also called Middle Earth…


If you are interested in hiking the Routeburn Track too, it’s important to know that you have to book the huts early in advance as they tend to fill up fast. Check  the DOC site for more information and reservations. Although I thought I was not too early (beginning of December) there still was snow on the trail and it was officially closed the days before. So don’t go too early in the season. You will also need transfers to make it to the start and beginning of the trail.

As I said before, the Routeburn is among the most popular multi day tramps in New Zealand. Sure, you will meet other people and you won’t be alone most of the time, but never mind that. I realise I was extremely lucky to have 3 sunny days on the trail, I’ve heard of trampers who were unfortunate enough to have nothing but rain. I was lucky though and had one of the best tramps … ever!


OK, I wasn’t entirely honest when saying I’ll be at the office most of the time. This weekend I’m going mountainbiking in Belgium, so keep an eye out for my next blog!

4 Responses to "Fave trails: The Routeburn Track (NZ)"

    Comments (4)

  1. Skuggan wrote:

    Do you know if I would be allowed to set up a small tent just for the night i New Zeeland or on this trail?

  2. Nice read. I just passed this onto a colleague who was doing a little research on that. He actually bought me lunch as I found it for him! Therefore let me rephrase: Thanx for lunch!

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nice to meet you

My name is Antonette (Anto) and I’m a 30-something outdoor fan living in The Netherlands. Traveling is my passion (hence the username travelleranto) and I like to spend my journeys the active way, mostly by hiking and camping.

If I’m not on the way, I work as a product manager for a Dutch tour operator specialized in natural destinations, such as Alaska, Argentina and Iceland. When not in the outdoors or behind an office desk, I enjoy writing (for my own site but also some Dutch websites), photography and reading.

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