Read a description of the Milford Track during the Great Walks season, including distances and estimated walking times, features, optional side trips, a track map and hill profile.
What to expect
Great Walks tracks are well formed, with bridges and viewpoints
Great Walk tracks are of a higher standard than most other tracks so are well formed and easy to follow. The tracks are usually quite wide depending on the terrain – some fit two people walking side by side in flat areas.
The surface is usually gravel, rock or dirt, and like any track can get slippery in wet weather.
Most rivers and waterways on these tracks have sturdy bridges. Occasionally there are also small streams that cross the track but are usually easy enough to step across safely. Be aware that in wet weather rivers can rise very quickly and flood the tracks – especially on the Milford Track.
There are hill climbs where the track becomes steeper, which is all the better for views.
What to expect outside of the Great Walks season
Great Walker on the 'finest walk in the world'
The Milford Track (53.5 km) starts at Glade Wharf (at the head of Lake Te Anau, access from Te Anau Downs, 27 km from Te Anau). It finishes at Sandfly Point in Milford Sound. The track may only be walked in one direction and takes 4 days to complete, with each night spent at a pre-booked hut.
View the Milford Track brochure (PDF, 3,458K).
Day 1 – Glade Wharf to Clinton Hut
1–1 hr 30 min, 5 km
Make your way to the wharf at Te Anau Downs (25 km from Te Anau), where the boat to the start of the track departs. After a 1 hour 15 minutes cruise across the lake, there is an easy 1 km walk to Glade House, the first overnight stop for guided walkers.
Just past Glade House is the first and largest of several suspension bridges encountered on your walk. The well graded track continues for approximately an hour, through attractive beech forest along the banks of the beautiful Clinton River.
Clinton Hut is reached just before the 3 mile marker. There are good swimming holes near the hut.
To fish the Clinton River, you require a full fishing license and clean gear certificate. These are available prior to departure at the Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre.
Side trip – Wetland Walkway
15 min return
A short side track to the wetland area is signposted 10 minutes before Clinton Hut. Guided walks with the DOC ranger may be available during the late afternoon.
Day 2 – Clinton Hut to Mintaro Hut
Wonderful water on the Milford Track
6 hr, 16.5 km
It’s a gradual climb from Clinton Hut as the track follows the Clinton River to its source, Lake Mintaro, at the base of Mackinnon Pass. After an hour you arrive at Clinton Forks where there is a view of the north branch of the Clinton River. A toilet is also located here.
Between the 5 and 6 mile markers you cross a large open area formed by a landslide, which occurred in 1982. This created a small lake, known as ‘Dead Lake’ because of the dead beech trees seen here. Between here and Hirere Falls (about 20 minutes) the track can be prone to flooding during heavy rain. There is a toilet just before the Hirere Falls guided walk shelter.
Soon you’ll get your first view of the Mackinnon Pass and the impressive Pompolona ice field. Cross the open ‘prairie’ area and climb a small hill to the Bus Stop shelter just before Marlene’s Creek. This shelter can be used during heavy rain if the bridge over Marlene’s Creek is impassable. There is a toilet located after the creek.
After passing the turnoff to the Pompolona guided walks hut, there is a short climb before descending to a swingbridge. It is approximately 1 hour 30 minutes from here to Mintaro Hut. You will notice the vegetation starting to change, reflecting the higher altitude and heavier rainfall.
Day 3 – Mintaro Hut to Dumpling Hut
Milford Track weaving under a fuchsia tree
6–7 hr, 14 km
From Mintaro Hut there is a well-graded, zigzag climb of about 2 hours to the Mackinnon Memorial. On the way there are excellent views of Lake Mintaro and the Clinton Valley. A takes a further 20 minutes to reach the Pass Day Shelter from the memorial, crossing the highest point on the track at 1,154 m. The shelter is supplied with a gas-cooker during summer and has the toilet with the best view in Fiordland!
The 8 km walk from the Mackinnon Pass to Dumpling Hut provides spectacular views, dropping 970 m steadily over rocky, uneven terrain. The track crosses beneath Mt Balloon and the Jervois Glacier to the Moraine Creek Bridge. During times of extreme weather conditions, walkers may be directed down a steep emergency track, which will require extra care and time.
Shortly after the Moraine Creek Bridge, the track passes the 18 mile marker. It then follows a boardwalk and staircase beside the Roaring Burn River, with its numerous waterfalls. The Robert Allen Shelter and a toilet are located near Dudleigh Falls and the 19 mile marker.
A set of zigzags leads to the bottom of the pass and Quintin Shelter, where there is also a toilet. Here a side track leads to the magnificent Sutherland Falls. There is an excellent view of Sutherland Falls about 20 minutes past the junction, along the main track to Dumpling Hut. Just before reaching the hut, there is a raised boardwalk – a great place to see glow worms after dark.
Side trip – Sutherland Falls
1 hr 30 min return
The side trip to Sutherland Falls is a definite highlight that is highly recommended and well worth the effort. Leave your pack at the shelter (but take your raincoat as the power of the falls generates a lot of spray) and follow the track to the falls. The impressive falls drop 580 m (904 feet) in three leaps from Lake Quill.
Day 4 – Dumpling Hut to Sandfly Point
5 hr 30 min – 6 hr, 18 km
You should aim to leave Dumpling Hut between 8 am and 9 am, to connect with the boats departing at either 2 pm or 3 pm from Sandfly Point for Milford Sound/Piopiotahi.
From Dumpling Hut the track follows the Arthur River to the historic Boatshed, where there is a toilet. After crossing the swingbridge (a good place to see trout and eels) it is about 20 minutes to beautiful MacKay Falls and Bell Rock.
There are two more swingbridges further on at Poseidon Creek, near the 28 mile post. Admire the rock cuttings alongside the Arthur River and Lake Ada, which were blasted and hand cut by labourers when the track was first constructed.
Just after the 30 mile marker, are Giant Gate Falls, with a shelter and toilet located here. From the falls, the final 1 hour 30 minutes walk leads to Sandfly Point and the end of the Milford Track. There can be flooding through this section of track during heavy rain, which may cause delays. The final 2 miles of smooth, wide track was built by a prison labour gang in the late 19th century.
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