Giants Gate Falls

Image: Graham Dainty | ©

Introduction

Experience 'the finest walk in the world' as you retrace the steps of early explorers on the world-renowed Milford Track. Take a journey along valleys carved by glaciers, wander through ancient rainforests and admire cascading waterfalls.

Highlights

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  • Take your camera and capture the stunning panoramas from Mackinnon Pass across ancient valleys carved by glaciers.

  • Take a side trip to Sutherland Falls, which drop 580 m.

  • Enjoy the emerald waters of the Clinton River.

Explore with Google Street ViewWatch videos


2018/2019 bookings

Bookings are open for trips from 23 October 2018 - 30 April 2019.

International visitors - check new prices.

Video

Track overview

53.5 km one way

Seasonal restrictions

In the Great Walks season (23 October 2018 - 30 April 2019):

  • Bookings are required for huts
  • Huts have gas cooking stoves and resident wardens

Outside the Great Walks season (1 May 2018 - 22 October 2018):

  • Facilities, including bridges, are greatly reduced
  • Flood and avalanche risks exist
  • Experience is required
  • Bookings are not required - huts are first come, first served

Dog access

No dogs

Brochures

About this track

Description

What to expect

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.

Outside the Great Walks season (1 May 2018 - 22 October 2018):

Facilities are greatly reduced and there are additional safety hazards to consider.

Walking the track during this time should only be attempted by fit, experienced and well-equipped people. For more information see Walking the Milford Track outside the Great Walks season.

Detailed description

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.

Track profile

This map shows the Milford Track from where it starts at the head of Lake Te Anau, to the end at Sandfly Point in Milford Sound. The hill profile image below gives you an idea of the steepness of the track at each stage.

Profile map of the Milford Track.

View a larger version of the Milford Track profile map (PDF, 90K)

Places to stay

There are 3 huts on the Milford Track, which must be booked in advance during the Great Walks season.

Camping is not permitted on the Milford Track.

During the Great Walks season the hut facilities include:

  • Bunks with mattresses in a communal sleeping layout.
  • Water supply, flushing toilets, wash basins with cold running water (but no showers).
  • Heating with fuel available, and usually solar lighting in the main area.
  • Cooking facilities with fuel, tables and seating (but no cooking utensils).
  • A resident DOC ranger - they can tell you about the environment and weather, or help out should an emergency arise.

Outside the Great Walks season the hut facilities are reduced:

  • Gas is not provided - you will need to bring your own cooking stove.
  • Flush toilets are replaced with pit toilets.
  • Running water is turned off inside the huts. Water can be obtained from the outside water tank, if this is frozen, then from the nearest water course or by melting snow.
  • There are no DOC rangers based at the huts.
  • Beds are on a first come, first served basis only

Day 1 – Glade Wharf to Clinton Hut

Time: 1–1 hr 30 min
Distance: 5 km

After a boat cruise fromTe Anau Downs (1 hour 15 minutes), take a leisurely walk through beautiful beech forest along the banks of the Clinton River to Clinton Hut, where all walkers spend the firstnight. Once you arrive, take some time to checkout the great swimming holes near the hut, or take a short walk around the wetland boardwalk.

Side trip: Wetland Walkway

Time: 15 min return

Guided walks with the DOC ranger maybe available during the late afternoon.

Day 2 – Clinton Hut to Mintaro Hut

Time: 6 hr
Distance: 16.5 km

A gradual climb follows the Clinton River to its source, Lake Mintaro, at the base of the renowned Mackinnon Pass. Past Hirere Falls you will get your first view of Mackinnon Pass and the impressive Pompolona icefield. You’ll be dwarfed by the sheer scale of the rock walls towering above on either side as you walk up the Clinton Valley, and will pass through changing vegetation as you climb higher towards Mintaro Hut.

Day 3 – Mintaro Hut to Dumpling Hut

Time: 6–7 hr
Distance: 14 km

Climb to Mackinnon Pass and the memorial to explorer Quintin McKinnon, with exceptional views of Lake Mintaro and the Clinton Canyon along the way. The memorial is a great place to take in the awe-inspiring panoramas, before reaching the highest point of the track and Mackinnon Pass Shelter (1154 m).

From here, you’ll drop steadily through an attractive alpine garden to the valley floor, passing several waterfalls along the Roaring Burn River before arriving at Quintin Shelter. On the way to Dumpling Hut take a moment to admire Sutherland Falls in the distance.

Side trip – Sutherland Falls

Time: 1 hr 30 min return

The side trip to Sutherland Falls is a definite highlight that is highly recommended and well worth the effort. The impressive falls drop 580 m in 3 leaps from Lake Quill.

Sutherland Falls on Google Street View

Day 4 – Dumpling Hut to Sandfly Point

Time: 5 hr 30 min – 6 hr
Distance: 18 km

From Dumpling Hut, follow Arthur River to the historic Boatshed. Further along the track, you will reach the dramatic Mackay Falls and intriguing Bell Rock. Admire the man-made rock cuttings alongside the Arthur River and Lake Ada, before spending the last 3 km on a smooth, wide track constructed by a prison labour gang between 1890 and 1892.

A short boat ride from Sandfly Point will take you to your journey’s end, with world-famous views of Milford Sound/Piopiotahi along the way.

Fees and bookings

Find out about fees for staying at huts on the Milford Track and how to make reservations in the summer season. The track takes 4 days to walk. Camping is not permitted.

Huts

In the Great Walks season (23 October 2018 - 30 April 2019):

New Zealand citizens and those ordinarily resident in New Zealand*:

  • Adult (18+ years): $70 per person, per night
  • Child (17 years and under): free but booking still required

International visitors:

  • Adult (18+ years): $140 per person, per night
  • Child (17 years and under): $140 per person, per night

Outside the Great Walks season (1 May 2018 - 22 October 2018):

Walking the track outside the Great Walk season should only be attempted by fit, experienced and well equipped trampers.

For all visitors: 

  • Adult (18+ years): $15 per person, per night
  • Child (17 years and under): free

* New Zealand rates:

  • "Ordinarily resident in New Zealand" means those:
    • who hold a residence class or work visa; and
    • who have lived in New Zealand for six of the previous 12 months; and
    • for whom New Zealand is their primary place of established residence.
  • Proof of eligibility will be required for the New Zealand rate (such as a New Zealand drivers licence, utility bill or a copy of a passport).
Discounts

A 10% discount is available to members, staff and instructors of the following organisations, who also hold a valid 12 month Backcountry Hut Pass: NZ Mountain Safety Council; NZ Federated Mountain Clubs; NZ Deer Stalkers Association; NZ Land Search and Rescue (LandSAR); Scouts New Zealand; GirlGuiding NZ.

Discounts are not available online. To receive the discount we need to sight your membership card and Backcountry Hut Pass, so please visit a DOC visitor centre in person. If you get a discount you won't be charged a booking fee.

What to book

In the Great Walks season you need to book all three huts on the track. You must start from the Lake Te Anau end and stay in each hut consecutively.

Outside the Great Walks season you don't need to book huts, but you need to take a Backcountry Hut Pass/Tickets. During the winter season there are reduced facilities and additional safety hazards to consider – see Outside the Great Walks season.

You also need to book transport services to/from the track.

How to book


2018/2019 bookings

Bookings are open for trips from 23 October 2018 - 30 April 2019.

International visitors - check new prices.

Follow this step-by-step process to guide you through booking the Milford Track.

  1. Decide the date you want to start walking.

  2. Check time options for transport services between Te Anau and the start/end of the track. You can choose to:
    • Book transport at the same time as booking huts.
    • Add transport to your hut booking at a later date – contact the Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre.
    • Book buses directly with an operator. Find transport operators for the Milford Track (Destination Fiordland website)
      Note: You can't book the boat from Sandfly Point to Milford Sound through an operator – it must be booked through DOC, either at the same time as making your hut bookings or later through the Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre.

  3. Check availability of huts. If there is no space in each of the huts from the date you want to start, consider:

  4. Book huts (and transport).
  5. Book transport between Te Anau and the start/end of the track if you haven’t already done this at the same time as booking huts. 

Terms and conditions

Read the Booking Terms and Conditions for general information, age ranges, prices, discounts, penalty rates and the alterations and cancellations policies. Bookings not meeting the terms and conditions will be treated as invalid and cancelled.

Booking on behalf of others

Guided groups

To operate a commercial activity in an area managed by the Department of Conservation, you will need to apply for a concession (an official permit), in addition to any bookings you would need to make. Read more about concessions 

Booking on behalf of others

To make multiple bookings for facilities/services on behalf of customers, you must obtain permission or an agent agreement from the Department of Conservation. To do this, email: agents@doc.govt.nz 

Getting there

Travel to and from the Milford Track usually requires road transport and boat access at both ends of the track.

You can only walk the Milford Track in one direction, and the below transport options are for the summer Great Walks season only.

The track starts at Glade Wharf at the head of Lake Te Anau. There are three scheduled daily boat services (10.30 am, 1 pm and 2 pm) and on-demand water taxi services from Te Anau Downs. Boat transport takes one hour from Te Anau Downs to the start of the track.

Te Anau Downs is 27 km from Te Anau on the road to Milford Sound. It has a car parking area if you wish to leave your vehicle. Bus services run daily scheduled services from Te Anau to meet the boat at Te Anau Downs.

For experienced trampers, there is tramping access to the start of the track from the Eglinton Valley via the Dore Pass Route.

The Milford Track finishes at Sandfly Point (a 15min boat trip from Milford Sound village).
At the end of your adventure, there are daily bus services from Milford Sound to:

  • The Divide - start of Routeburn Track (38 km - 45 min) 
  • Te Anau Downs (93 km - 2 hr) 
  • Te Anau (120 km - 2.5 hr)
  • Queenstown - (297 km - 5 hr)

You'll be given options to book the above connecting transport online, at the same time as you book your hut tickets. You can also organise transport directly with the operators below.

Transport services

Know before you go

Be prepared – take the right gear

As with any outdoor experience, the decisions you make and your safety are your responsibility.

Take the right gear for your Great Walk tramp.
Take the right gear for your Great Walk tramp

  • Check conditions – check with the DOC Visitor Centre for track conditions and weather before your trip.
  • Take the right gear for all conditions and enough food. All walkers should take a first aid kit. Get a list of what to take.
  • If walking outside the Great Walks season we recommend you also take a mountain radio and/or personal locator beacon. Also see Walking the Milford Track outside the Great Walks season.
  • Your mobile is not useful as there is no coverage for the Milford and Routeburn Tracks and very little on the Kepler Track (limited to high areas).

Watch a timelapse video of the Milford Track showing how quickly weather conditions can change.

Tell someone your plans

We recommend you tell someone your plans and leave a date to raise the alarm if you haven't returned. For how to do this, see the Outdoors Intentions process – AdventureSmart website.

Tracks are sometimes closed for safety reasons

Sometimes the Great Walk tracks need to be closed for safety reasons (eg avalanche danger, flooding or high winds). If walkers are not able to proceed, options are available. These may include a refund (if walk not started yet), changing direction on the track or transfer across hazard areas. DOC staff will keep you informed of all issues and options.

Hazards to look out for on Great Walks

Being lost
The tracks are very well marked but if you become lost you should stop, find shelter and stay calm. Put on extra clothing and assist rescuers should you hear them searching for you.

Being injured or ill
If you are injured or become ill, use your first aid kit immediately and contact DOC staff if needed. In case of emergency an evacuation may be possible.

Hypothermia (too cold)
During cold, wet and windy conditions, hypothermia (drop in core body temperature) can become a serious problem. From initial stages to unconsciousness can take as little as 30 minutes.

  • Wear warm and weatherproof gear and eat regularly during your walk.
  • These symptoms may indicate initial stages of hypothermia: shivering, clumsy, confused, have slurred speech, may deny they have a problem.
  • To treat: immediately make or find shelter, get the person into dry, warm clothing, put into sleeping bag, give warm, sweet drinks, monitor and seek immediate medical help.

Heat exhaustion
Heat exhaustion is usually caused by warm temperatures and not drinking enough water.

  • Carry and drink water regularly throughout your walk.
  • A person in the early stages of heat exhaustion may show weakness, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, loss of appetite and sweating. 
  • To help, give them water and find a cool place to rest.

Fires
Take care to put ashes from hut fire places in the metal drums to avoid huts burning down. At campsites please only use the designated areas. No open fires are permitted in Fiordland National Park.

Flooding on tracks
During and after heavy rain, flooding of tracks is common on all Great Walks. Stream and river levels will drop rapidly once rain stops. If you are caught between flooded streams seek higher ground and wait for water levels to drop.

Risk areas may include:

  • Kepler Track – Iris Burn Valley.
  • Milford Track –- between Hirere and Bus Stop in the Clinton Valley; and between Boat Shed and Poseidon Creek in the Arthur Valley.
  • Routeburn Track – Routeburn Valley.

Strong winds
Whenever you are walking in alpine areas or exposed areas on any of the tracks, such as over passes, saddles and along mountain ridges, you could be caught in strong and/or gusty winds (eg over 80km/hour winds). Take care to dress warmly as wind-chill danger is worse at these times.

Avalanches
Snow avalanches are common on all tracks, especially between late August and early November. Danger is higher during or directly after snow and rain. Avalanche and snow hazard can change rapidly from low to high within a 24 hour period.

  • Follow all advice given by staff.
  • Start zones of avalanche paths often cannot be seen from the track.
  • In danger areas, do not walk below other walkers.

Risk areas may include:

  • Kepler Track – 9 avalanche paths cross the track between Luxmore Hut and Hanging Valley shelter.
  • Milford Track – over 57 avalanche paths cross the track between 6 Mile in the Clinton Valley and Quintin Hut in the Arthur Valley.
  • Routeburn Track – over 32 avalanche paths cross the track between Routeburn Falls hut and the Earland Falls.

Slips
Routeburn Track – the area halfway between Routeburn Flats and Routeburn Falls Huts is prone to slips after heavy rain. Care is required when traversing this area. If in doubt, do not proceed.

Walking the Milford Track outside the Great Walks season

Outside the Great Walks season (early May to late October) facilities are greatly reduced (no gas for cooking, limited water supply, no rangers or emergency radio facilities) and there are additional safety hazards to consider:

  • The winter environment in Fiordland is very cold and wet, with ice, snow and short daylight hours. Avalanche-prone bridges across some major watercourses are removed. DOC does not manage hazards such as flooding or avalanche.

Walking the track at this time should only be attempted by fit, experienced and well equipped people. For more information see Walking the Milford Track outside of the Great Walks season

Follow the Outdoor safety code - Mountain Safety Council

What to take

Equipment, clothing and food you need to take.
Take the right equipment, clothing and food with you

Personal equipment

  • Backpack (40–60 litre size for multi-day hiking)
  • Waterproof/plastic pack liner
  • Sleeping bag (3–4 season)
  • First aid kit (including insect repellent, sunscreen, blisterkit, personal medication e.g. antihistamine for allergy to wasp stings)
  • Survival kit (survival blanket, whistle, paper, pencil, highenergy snack food)
  • Safety equipment relevant to the track and time of year (e.g. map, compass)
  • Drink bottle (1-2 litre capacity)
  • Eating and cooking utensils (knife, fork, spoon, plate, cup, pot/pan/billy, cleaning kit, tea towel)
  • Matches or lighter in waterproof container
  • Toiletries
  • Torch/flashlight and spare batteries
  • Rubbish bag
  • Tickets and ID
  • Portable stove and fuel
  • Candles
  • Toilet paper
Optional
  • Camera
  • Ear plugs for communual bunkrooms

Clothing

  • For multi-day walking you'll need at least one set of clothes to walk in and another dry set to change into at night
  • Walking boots or firm footwear (should be comfortable and well broken in)
  • Socks (wool or polypropylene)
  • Shorts (quick dry material)
  • Shirt (wool or polypropylene)
  • Under layers, top and bottom (wool or polypropylene)
  • Mid-layers (wool or polar fleece)
  • Raincoat (waterproof, windproof with hood)
  • Overtrousers (wind and waterproof)
  • Warm hat and gloves
  • Sunhat and sunglasses
  • Extra socks, underwear, shirt/lightweight jersey
Optional
  • Gaiters
  • Lightweight shoes for inside the huts

Food

You can't buy food on the track.

Bring food that is lightweight, fast cooking and high in energy value. For example:

  • Breakfast: cereal/porridge/oats, firm bread, honey or other spreads
  • Lunch: cracker biscuits, cheese, salami, jam/jelly, fruit
  • Dinner: instant soup, pasta or rice, dried vegetables or fruit, cheese or dehydrated (freeze-dried) meals

You'll also need water, snacks, biscuits, muesli bars, tea or coffee, powdered fruit drinks and emergency food in case of any delays on the track.

Download a checklist 

Equipment rental

Outside the Great Walks season

For safety reasons the Milford Track doesn't operate as a Great Walk/Easier tramping track during May to October. If attempting the Milford Track at that time, you'll need additional equipment. See Walking the Milford Track outside the Great Walks season.

Guided options and other services

Walking the Milford Track outside the Great Walks season

Thick snow blankets the Mackinnon Pass, Milford Track.
Thick snow blankets the Mackinnon Pass, Milford Track

Outside the Great Walks season (1 May 2018 - 22 October 2018):

  • facilities are greatly reduced
  • there are additional safety hazards to consider.

Walking the track at this time should only be attempted by fit, experienced and well equipped people.

Conditions and risks outside the Great Walks season

  • The winter environment in Fiordland is very cold and wet, with snow and ice common in high areas. Deep snow often hides the track markers.
  • Daylight hours are short and light is low due to mountain ridges.
  • Avalanche-prone bridges across some major water courses are removed.
  • DOC does not manage hazards such as flooding or avalanches.
Avalanches

The Milford Track has a lot of complex avalanche terrain. Avalanches are frequent. There are over 57 avalanche paths, some of which may bring avalanche debris to the valley floor and have the potential to cross the Milford Track – their start zones cannot be seen from the track.

If you are going into places avalanches could occur, be sure you:

  • have checked the New Zealand Avalanche Advisory (NZAA) and the Avalanche Terrain Exposure scale system (ATES) for the area where you want to go
  • have the skills for the ATES class you are going into
  • have checked what avalanche advisory and alert information is available from the DOC visitor centre nearest the area where you want to go
  • take an avalanche transceiver, avalanche probe and a snow shovel. Know how to use these tools.

See Be avalanche alert in Fiordland

Rivers

Many of the bridges are removed over winter to avoid damage from avalanches and flooding.

Rivers can rise very rapidly. You must be able to judge when it is not safe to cross and be prepared to turn back. If you decide to cross, you must be competent at crossing large, swift, icy cold rivers.

Take all river crossings seriously. Never cross a flooded stream or river. If in doubt, stay out!

Learn about river hazards on the Mountain Safety Council website.

Huts outside the Great Walks season

Fees are charged per person per night, and hut beds are on a first come, first served basis only. All huts require a Serviced Backcountry Hut Ticket, which must be purchased in advance. Alternatively, a Backcountry Hut Pass (valid for 6 or 12 months) may be used. See Fees and bookings.

Hut facilities are reduced:

  • Gas is not provided – you will need to bring your own cooking stove.
  • Flush toilets are replaced with pit toilets.
  • Running water is turned off inside the huts. Water can be obtained from the outside water tank; if this is frozen, then from the nearest water course or by melting snow.
  • No emergency radio facilities.
  • There are no DOC rangers based at the huts although DOC staff do occasional checks on facilities (and hut tickets).

Transport outside the Great Walks season

All transport must be arranged before starting the track. During winter, transport operators require minimum numbers and do not always operate a daily service. Transport arrangements can be affected by bad weather. You must discuss an alternative option with transport operators before you begin your walk.

See Transport services in Fiordland for options.

What to take outside the Great Walks season

You need to be totally self-sufficient. It is essential to have the correct food clothing and equipment. See What to take on your Great Walk in Fiordland.

In the off-season you also need the following equipment:

  • personal locator beacon
  • mountain radio (optional)
  • avalanche beacon
  • snow shovel
  • avalanche probe

Take responsibility for your own safety - be prepared

Before you go, know the The Outdoor Safety Code – 5 simple rules to help you stay safe:

  1. Plan your trip
  2. Tell someone
  3. Be aware of the weather
  4. Know your limits
  5. Take sufficient supplies

Walking the Milford Track outside the Great Walks season should only be attempted by fit, experienced and well equipped people.  Navigation, river crossing, and alpine skills are essential for your survival. Visit or contact the Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre for conditions and weather before your trip.

Find out more at Know before you go 


Related links

Contacts

Te Rua-o-te-moko / Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre
Phone:   +64 3 249 7924
Fax:   +64 4 471 1117
Email:   fiordlandvc@doc.govt.nz
Address:   Fiordland National Park
Visitor Centre
Lakefront Drive
Te Anau 9600
Postal Address:   PO Box 29
Te Anau 9640
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