Milford Track

This article is an itinerary.

The Milford Track is a hiking (tramping) trail (track) located in Fiordland National Park on New Zealand's South Island.

A Waterfall on Milford Track

For other tracks, see Tramping in New Zealand.

Understand

The Milford Track was formed in 1888, after the discovery of the Mackinnon Pass by Quintin McKinnon and Ernest Mitchell. Until the Homer Tunnel opened in 1954, it was the only land route into Milford Sound.

This is a DOC Great Walk and as such receives a very large number of visitors per year. On top of its Great Walk status, the Milford is considered by many to be one of the greatest hikes in the world thanks to its amazing scenery. The entire track takes four days -- only available to be walked in one direction -- from the Te Anau end to Milford Sound. There is also the option for one day guided walks of the first section of the track.

The track is not recommended for children under 10 years. Children under 15 years must be accompanied by an adult on the track.

Peak season

Peak season runs from late October to late April. Bookings are required during this time. These bookings can be made online, by post, fax or phone. Make sure to book early, as popular dates are often booked many months ahead of time. Many dates in December and January are fully booked within a few hours of booking opening (usually in June or July).

The summer 2015/16 season runs from 27 Oct 2015 to 27 Apr 2016 and bookings are now open. The summer 2016 season starts on 25 Oct 2016.

Off Peak/Winter season

Running from May to mid-October. During the off peak season snow fall and thaws make parts of the track impassable. As such, only the most experienced trampers should attempt this trek during off-peak and should be exceptionally well-outfitted. Great Walk fees are not applied to tramping during the off-peak season, but simply the standard backcountry fees apply.

Guided walks

Glade House - the first overnight stop for guided walkers

As an alternative to booking with the DOC, you can book a package with Ultimate Hikes. This costs between $1930 (dorm bed) to $2920 (single ensuite room). These walks follow the same route as those who have booked with the DOC, in groups of up to 50 with a leader, but stay in different accommodation. The package includes meals in the lodges, and transport from / to Queenstown. There is less to carry each day, as there is no need to carry food, cooking equipment or a sleeping bag.

If you don't have time (or stamina) for a full walk, Real Journeys run guided day walks on the first few miles of the route. You can also book a return on their boat if you wish to do your own similar day walk.

Trips & Tramps run half day guided walks on the final section of the walk from Milford Sound, with the walk going from Sandfly Point to Giants Gate waterfall.

Prepare

Cooking facilities in the Clinton Hut

Just like any multi-night tramping excursion, be sure to lay out your plans in advance. Make a packing list and check it before leaving. Preparedness is key to surviving an emergency in the wilderness.

Bunk beds in the Clinton Hut

Get in

The track starts at the head of Lake Te Anau. Boat transport is required to get to the start of the track. All reservations should be made at least one week in advance. Popular dates in peak season are often booked many months ahead of time, so make sure to book early! Real Journeys operates lake transfers from Te Anau Downs to Glade House during track season. (The start of the Milford Track) website

Walk

The route described here assumes that you are walking independently and staying at the DOC huts. If you do a guided walk, you will follow the same route, but have different overnight stops and so will generally be an hour or two behind the independent walkers. This prevents walkers feeling crowded.

Profile of the track

Due to the booking system of the Great Walk, it is not an option to pass a hut in an effort to move on to the next hut. Also, there is no camping allowed on the Milford Track.

During the peak season the huts, Clinton, Mintaro and Dumpling, have gas cookers, tables, cold running water, lighting and heating in the common area. The bunkrooms are communal with mattresses provided. Flush toilets are also available.

Day one

As somewhat of a gift from the DOC, the first day is rather easy with just over an hour consumed riding on a boat to the track start. On the boat trip you will pass a memorial cross at the point where Quintin Mackinnon's empty boat was found after he went missing in 1892.

From the landing you tramp about 5 km. to the Clinton Hut where you will spend your first night. The DOC times this 5 km. between an hour to an hour and a half. Along the way you will pass Glade House, the hut for guided walkers. The track is track is fairly level and follows the Clinton River.

Once at Clinton Hut, you may take some time to go swimming in the Clinton River or take a short trip through the nearby wetlands on a boardwalk. Depending on the DOC staffing at the hut, the warden(s) may offer an interpretation trip in the late afternoon.

Clinton Hut sleeps 40 split between two bunkrooms.

After dark you can go for a few hundred yards along the track (in the direction you will go tomorrow) to a small community of glow worm

Day two

Day two is a 16.5 km. walk that the DOC has timed at approximately 6 hours. The track is a gentle ascent, following the Cliton River toward Lake Mintaro. This section crosses through more than 50 avalanche passes, making it extremely dangerous in the off-peak season. There are several sections of the track where stopping is not permitted due to the risk of avalanche - avoid stopping for a break or lunch in these sections, but a 10 second stop to take a photo should be ok.

Flooding is also a consideration on this day's tramp. Between Hirere Falls and Marlenes Creek a heavy rain can cause problems for walkers. If it is wet you can pause for shelter at   Hirere Falls and at the   Bus Stop Shelter.

A short detour may be possible to   Hidden Lake, but this track is sometimes closed due to the avalanche risk.

About an hour and a half from this night's hut is a turn-off for Pompolona Hut where guided walkers stay the night. About 1 mile after this is the   St Quintin Falls, a 230m waterfall.

After gaining about 250 m. in elevation, much of it in the last couple of hours, you'll spend the night in Mintaro hut with up to 39 other people spread through 3 bunkrooms. Nearby Lake Mintaro is worth a short stroll on a nice day.

Day three

Mackinnon Memorial
Mackinnon Pass Shelter

Day three is a 14 km. walk that should take between 6 and 7 hours. You'll start the day at approximately 500 m. and end it at around 100 m., but along the way you'll go over Mackinnon Pass at 1069 m.

It takes just over two hours to make it from Mintaro Hut to the peak, with the Mackinnon Memorial along the way. (As an interesting aside, if you were to take the plunge from the memorial, it would take you nearly 12 seconds to hit the bottom.) At the top you'll find a shelter with a toilet and, during the summer, a cooking ring.

It is 8 km. from the pass to Dumpling Hut and it descends 970 m. in that stretch. Regular breaks are suggested in order to reduce the stress as you descend this uneven terrain. At the start of the season, the main track may be closed due to the avalanche risk, and a steeper emergency track is used.

Day four

Abandoned Hiking Boots At The Track End

Your final day is 18 km. in 5 1/2 to 6 hours.

Aircraft and the Milford Track

While on the track you may notice the presence of an aircraft. Aircraft are an essential part of the track environmental management system that enables you to walk the track The only reason you are able to walk the track is because the aircraft service the track and remove every bit of waste you generate including toilet waste. As there are no roads, track maintenance and building is enabled by aircraft and all supplies to the lodges are flown in. If you injure yourself so you can't continue or you go missing, aircraft are the only practical method to carry out search and rescue.

Sleep

DOC Huts

Lodges for Guided Walks

Walkers on the the guided walks have relatively luxurious facilities, but pay about five times as much as those using the DOC huts.

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Wednesday, September 23, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.