During the winter season (May to October) the Milford Track remains open, but with reduced facilities. Tramping is possible and beautiful, however only for parties who are well equipped and experienced at tramping and route finding in winter conditions with avalanche risk. Make sure you are fully prepared before you go.
Thick snow blankets the Mackinnon Pass, Milford Track
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The winter season
Depending on weather and track conditions, the Milford Track remains open through the winter season, from late April to late October. For dates and costs see Fees for Milford Track.
- The hut facilities and track conditions in the winter are very different to the summer, with avalanche risk on all three tracks.
- If you are considering walking during this time, read the notes below and be absolutely confident that you have the skills, fitness and equipment necessary to be safe on your trip.
- Check with the DOC Visitor Centre before your trip (contacts on right) for conditions.
- Day or shorter trip options: if a through trip (over alpine areas) is not advisable you could consider walking part of the track, staying overnight and returning the same way. For other winter options ask at the DOC Visitor Centre.
A winter crossing of alpine sections of the Milford Track should only be attempted by experienced, well equipped people.
Winter conditions and risks
The following conditions and risks can be present on the Milford Track in the winter and spring seasons:
- Cold, very wet and windy weather is common.
- Snow and ice are common in high areas. Deep snow often hides the track markers.
- During winter the days are shorter and light is low due to mountain ridges.
- In winter many bridges are removed to avoid damage; the rivers are large, swift and icy cold.
- Avalanches are common and dangerous. They happen daily in some conditions and their starting zones often cannot be seen from the track. The risk is higher during or directly after snow and rain – this can change quickly over a 24 hour period.
- The Milford Track is mainly complex avalanche terrain with over 57 avalanche paths, which may bring avalanche debris to the valley floor. For more information see: Be avalanche alert in Fiordland.
Take responsibility for your own safety - be prepared
Winter tramping can be a real adventure, but just as with any adventure - the decisions you make and your safety are your responsibility. Below are some minimum recommendations for winter tramping on the Great Walks in Fiordland.
Find out more in Plan and prepare and Safety guidelines.
- Check conditions: check with the DOC Visitor Centre for conditions and weather before your trip (contacts on right). See Fiordland alerts.
- Always leave trip intentions and fill in hut books as you walk.
- Carry a mountain radio and/or personal locator beacon in case of emergency.
- Ensure all in your party are suitably fit and experienced in winter tramping, including navigation skills, river crossings, alpine conditions, safety judgement.
- Be equipped: carry the right supplies and gear for alpine and winter conditions (see Equip yourself well).
Huts in winter
There is no hut booking available in winter however you must buy hut tickets (or hut pass) before your trip. See Fees on Milford Track.
- Hut rangers are not present in winter, although DOC rangers do occasional checks on facilities (and hut tickets).
- In winter the following are not provided: fuel for cooking, fuel for heating, lighting, radios, running water.
- A pit toilet is provided in winter. Please do not put rubbish in sinks or toilets. Please carry out all rubbish.
- Fire for heating: please put ashes into the metal drums provided – to avoid risk of huts burning down. Replace all wood used.
Many of the bridges are removed over winter to avoid damage from avalanches.
You must be competent at crossing large, swift, icy rivers.
The track over Mackinnon Pass is not marked and is often covered in deep snow.
You need to have navigation and alpine skills to traverse this section of track.
All transport must be arranged before starting the track.
There is not always a daily service in winter. You must discuss an alternate option with transport operators before you begin your walk.
What to take
You need to be totally self-sufficient when tramping in winter. Having the correct food clothing and equipment is essential:
- Food - allow for at least two extra days
- Warm clothing
- Warm sleeping bag
- Survival blanket
- Stove and gas for cooking
- Lighter or matches
- Ice axe
- Toilet paper
- First aid kit
- Personal locator beacon
- Mountain radio (optional)
Include the following avalanche safety/rescue equipment:
- Avalanche beacon
- Snow shovel
- Avalanche probe
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