Milford Track

Key information: Milford Track

  • The Milford Track, one of the world's most famous walks, offers an exquisite taste of New Zealand's Fiordland.
  • It offers the chance to tramp through some stunning scenery, finishing at the breathtakingly picturesque Milford Sound.
  • Wander past waterfalls, take in peaks both far and near, and scramble over undergrowth and rubble on New Zealand's premier route.
  • This is a tough walk through high mountains, during which you may have to be self-sufficient. 

Walkopedia rating

  • Walkopedia rating84
  • Beauty32
  • Natural interest16
  • Human interest2
  • Charisma34
  • Negative points0
  • Total rating84

Vital Statistics

  • Length: 53.5km
  • 4 days
  • Maximum Altitude: 1,100m
  • Level of Difficulty: Strenuous
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WALK SUMMARY

The Milford Track is one of the most famous walks in the world; a unique experience and one that has delighted visitors since its inception over one hundred years ago. Despite its immense popularity, a maximum of 40 walkers being allowed to start the single direction trail per day ensures that you find it a more personal and intimate experience than the figure of 1,400 annual travellers might have you think.

 

The trail winds its way through the spectacular terrain of the South Island's Fiordland National Park, finally ending at the magnificent and world famous Milford Sound. To experience this sensational trek, through dense forests and incredible gorges, you must first and rather unconventionally make your way via bus and then boat, to the secluded trail head at Glade Wharf, at the head of Lake Te Anau, before making your way to the nearby first hut. Such huts are maintained by the park, and populate the trackside along its length, providing some wonderful settings for relaxing evenings spent reflecting on the perfect vistas gawped at during the day's exertions.

 

From Day 2, the trail becomes that much more demanding; after a beautiful stretch along the side of the glacial Lake Mintaro, and having emerged into that gorgeous shoreline from a cascade filled canyon, you are faced with the somewhat more daunting task of contending with a series of switchbacks to attain the altitude of the Mackinnon Pass. Should the weather favour you, your exertions will be rewarded with extensive views over Mt Eliot and the Jervois Glacier and massive tracts of alpine landscape will unfold behind you.

 

En route you will pass countless waterfalls and careering cascades, notable among them the Sutherland Falls, with a quite sensational three-tiered 1,904ft drop to its distant plug pool. At 3,519ft, the Mackinnon Pass marks the highest point on the trail, offering sweeping vistas over the rugged alpine landscape of Arthur Valley below. There are hanging valleys and glacial troughs, rock faces scored with striations, a whole multitude of the features that abound in any area heavily affected by glaciation, all of which contribute to the walk's character. Ultimately though, it is the majesty of Milford Sound, with Mitre Peak rearing up at its head, that encapsulates the essence of this fabulous trek; sheer grand brilliance. An experience impossible to forget. 

 

If you do not have time to walk the entire Milford Track, it is possible to get a coach and catamaran transfer from the town of Te Anau to the head of Lake Te Anau and do a guided day walk along the start of the Milford Track. The outing takes 9 hours and includes a picnic lunch at Clinton Hikers Hut. Contact Real Journeys Visitor Centre in Te Anau for further information and prices.

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Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

See also expedition planning, including our universal expedition checklist. Walkopedia encourages responsible travel.

Guidebooks/maps/background reading

Suggest books and maps

 

Guidebooks

Hiking and Tramping Tracks in New Zealand: Rimutaka Rail Trail, Milford Track, Kepler Track, Tongariro Alpine Crossing, Heaphy Track – Books Llc, May 2010

On the Milford Track - Rosalind Harker, GP Books, 1989

 

Other books

Lonely Planet: Tramping in New Zealand – Jim Dufresne

Kiwi Footpaths: Track Guide Number 1 - Gordon and Michele Hoskin, Peter and John Kamp
 

Maps

Stanfords: www.stanfords.co.uk.  An excellent (and user-friendly) online specialist source of worldwide maps (it is also good for guidebooks).
 

 

Best times to walk/weather

Best times to walk

It is important to note that due to the popularity of this trek, the demand is immense; as such it is advisable to book months in advance if possible! The times of year to try and aim for are the summer months; though it rains year-round (Milford Sound records an astonishing 7m of rainfall a year), there is reduced risk of snow and avalanche during this period. Thus December/January time is ideal.

Weather

Due to the alpine nature of the trek, come prepared for unpredictable mountain weather and cold nights. Be aware that the heavy rainfall the Fiordland National Park receives sometimes floods areas of the path, which may necessitate fording standing water up to 1 meter in depth. At least one wet day is inevitable, so come fully prepared for bad weather.

 

For detailed weather information, have a look at: www.worldweather.org or www.bbc.co.uk/weather/world/country-guides.
 

 

Getting there/transport/permits/fees

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Those on organised expeditions are likely to be transported from arranged departure points. The expedition operators are likely to provide the bus transfer to Lake Te Anau, and too the boat across to Glade Wharf

 

Permits are needed to do this walk independently during the hiking season. They are unnecessary during the low season, but be warned that during such times the huts DO NOT remain stocked. Permits can be obtained online via www.travelink.co.nz/MilfordTrackIndependent , but sell out quickly. If you plan to join an organized expedition, the expedition organizers will arrange the requisite permit.
 

 

Route(s)

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There is only one route, though the huts are available either exclusively to guided parties or for the sole use of independent hikers. The itineraries read (in order of huts stayed in):

 

Guided: Glade House – Pompolana – Quintin

Independent: Clinton – Mintaro - Dumpling
 

 

Possible problems, health, other warnings

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  • Altitude: can affect some; acclimatize appropriately. Come prepared to cope, be ready to evacuate people in extreme cases.
  • Extreme mountain weather: expect rain: snow, severe cold and wind are also possible at any time of year.
  • Heat: can be a factor. Carry enough water and protect yourself.
  • Heights: can be dangerous; not for those who have difficulties with heights.
  • This is remote country: you will have to carry all your food and other supplies/food and other supplies if hiking independently during the low season. Help may be hard to get if things go wrong.

Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk. Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.

 

Make sure you have appropriate insurance.
 
 

Guided or independent?

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Independent

You can do this walk independently, but you will need to be self-sufficient, so come fully prepared.

Guided/supported

 While this walk can be done independently, most people form or join organised/supported expeditions. Given the remoteness of the country and difficulty of getting supplies, many will prefer to do it this way, and travelling here with a knowledgeable guide has real advantages. Organisers can also arrange for permits to be obtained.

 

A reputable guide for the trek is:

(In fact Ultimate Hikes is the only company allowed to guide you for the whole trek.)
 

 

Accommodation

Separate huts for independent/guided hikers.

 

NB: Huts for independent travelers are left completely empty – though open – during the low season.

 

 

 

Other information and tips

You can rent gear and buy supplies in Te Anau

 

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Useful websites and information

There are many websites with relevant information. Here are some that we think are useful or have been recommended to us.

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Other things to do in the area

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Other walks

There are also several day walks around Queenstown and Te Anau, including:

  • Key Summit, Milford Sound, 3.8 miles there and back
  • Ben Lomond, Queentowm, 5.6 miles there and back.
  • Moonlight Track, Queenstown, 6.2 miles there and back

Other activities

  • Fishing can be prolific; prepare to dine on a sumptuous supper of trout caught by your own fair hands!
  • Queenstown, a short journey from Te Anau, is often claimed to be the adventure sports capital of the world: there are many things to choose from, so many that we name but a few here:
    • Sailing
    • Paragliding
    • Bungee Jumping
    • Jet-Boating
    • Parachuting
    • Mountain Biking

Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk.

Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.

COMMUNITY COMMENTS AND PHOTOS

Name: Greg Locock
Posted on: 19/10/2010
Hmm. I know they market it as 'the best walk in the world', but really that is daft. Firstly the public accomodation is on a strict rota basis, and you get one night in each hut, in high season. So you you won't be stopping to smell the roses. Secondly, the bloody sandlies on the last day, at the not very enigmatically named Sandfly Point, are actually less irritating than the constant stream of helicopters and light aircraft buzzing overhead. Thirdly, it only takes three days. Well OK, that isn't really a criticism, but if you are caught by a bad weather system you could do the whole thing in the rain. Very minor whinge - the public huts are a bit soulless. The scenery is terrific and the change from temperate forest to snowy wind whipped pass and then back to sea level is bracing, and the actual walk is not especially hard, when we did it we shared the path with some 60 year olds. The ferry trip in is good fun, I didn't enjoy the boat trip out so much, probably just end-of-walk blues.


Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.

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OTHER ACCOUNTS
share your experiences

Add your experiences, suggestions and photos. We would be delighted to receive your writing and ideas (which will be attributed appropriately where published).

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.

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