This is a challenging but rewarding tramping route that links stunning Lake Hankinson, Lake Thomson and Lake Katherine with Lake Te Anau on the inland side, and George Sound on the coast.
The route traverses two major valley systems and crosses one mountain range (rising up to 900 metres). The area is rich in history and offers great kayaking and fishing opportunities.
The George Sound Route requires transport across Lake Te Anau and is only recommended for experienced, well equipped groups (see 'Know before you go' below).
Route times are given as a guide only and may vary depending on fitness and weather conditions.
Middle Fiord to Hankinson Hut
The track from the Middle Fiord of Lake Te Anau to Lake Hankinson is signposted from the beach and takes 15 minutes.
It is not possible to walk around Lake Hankinson so boat travel (20 minutes) across the lake is required. Kayaks can be carried along the track to the lake or boat transport may be arranged with a local operator.
The lake is 4.5 km long and can be affected by strong winds. Take care as there are few beaches on which to land. Hankinson Hut (11 bunks) is a five minute walk from the head of the lake.
Lake Hankinson Hut
Hankinson Hut to Thomson Hut, 2 hr 30 min
It is five minutes from the hut to the first three-wire crossing; then one hour to the second three-wire crossing. Watch for the sign pointing to the crossing.
From the second crossing the route follows around the north side of Lake Thomson to its head, taking about one hour. Tramping from the head of the lake to the
Wapiti River flats and to the Thomson Hut (8 bunks) takes half an hour.
Lake Hankinson and the Wapiti River provide opportunities for trout fishing.
Lake Thomson Hut
Thomson Hut to George Sound Hut, 10.5 hrs
Times will vary on this section of the route depending on fitness, weather conditions and route-finding abilities. We recommend you carry a tent – there are suitable tent sites on the east side of Henry Pass.
From Thomson Hut the route continues up the valley, past the markers showing the route to the mica mine, to Henry Pass (830 m), taking around 4 and a half hours.
The route around Deadwood Lagoon is very boggy and can be flooded after heavy rain. From Henry Pass the route drops steeply to the valley floor, then follows Katherine Creek to Lake Katherine, taking around four hours. Katherine Creek is un-bridged and can be impassable after rain.
It is necessary to wade into the lake in one place. Safety chains are provided in some areas around Lake Katherine.
The route from Lake Katherine to George Sound Hut (6 bunks) takes between 1 and 2 hours. There are a lot of creek crossings. George Sound offers good fishing from the rocks at various places. Mussels can be also gathered at low tide.
A boat operator takes groups to or from the track end on the Middle Fiord of Lake Te Anau and also provide boat transport on Lake Hankinson. George Sound is accessible by boat, float plane and helicopter.
Topo50 CC 07 Northwest Arm covers this area and is available for purchase from the Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre.
This track is certainly an adventure - note the following in your trip planning:
- This is a challenging tramping route so you will need above average fitness and high level backcountry (remote areas) skills and experience, including navigation and survival skills. You also need river crossing skills and experience.
- Although the route is reasonably well marked, you can expect to encounter tree falls, knee-deep mud, river crossings, tree roots and some rough terrain. The track is not well defined in places. It is consistently muddy and wet. Some sections become impassable due to flooding after heavy rain - this is not uncommon and will cause delays.
- You need to be well equipped - taking topo maps and a Personal Locator Beacon and/or mountain radio is essential.
- Take extra days of food in case you are delayed due to weather or flooding.
- Portable stoves for cooking must be carried, as there are no cooking facilities supplied in any of the huts on this route.
- A tent is also required due to the long distance between the George Sound Hut and Thomson Hut.
- Rivers and lakes both prone to rapid rising. Lakes can get very windy and there are few places to land
- You can portage kayak between lakes but single plastic boats are recommended as opposed to fibreglass and/or doubles.
- The route to Mt.Elwood mica mine is not maintained but has old markers still in place. Takes about 4 and a half hours from Thomson hut to the mica mine
- Any kayaks, packrafts, paddleboards or other vessels that will be used in the area need to be cleaned before being portaged or flown across Lake Te Anau. This is to prevent the spread of didymo to Lake Hankinson and tributaries from Lake Te Anau.
Safety is your responsibility
Before you go into the outdoors, tell someone your plans and leave a date to raise the alarm if you haven't returned. To do this, use the New Zealand Outdoors Intentions process on the AdventureSmart website.
|Te Rua-o-te-moko / Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre
|+64 3 249 7924
|+64 4 471 1117
Fiordland National Park
Te Anau 9600
PO Box 29
Te Anau 9640
|Full office details