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 2019 - 28 October 2019):
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.
Consider guided walks on the Miford Track (Destination Fiordland website)
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.
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.
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.