Introduction

Safety information you should consider before commencing your trip.

All year

May to late October (winter season): Special skills and preparation are required to complete the Milford Track in winter. Facilities are greatly reduced. There is increased risk from snow, ice, avalanche terrain and sub-zero temperatures.

The track is not suitable for all walkers. It is not recommended for children under the age of 10, due to the exposed mountainous environment and often adverse weather conditions. Parts of the Milford Track are exposed, steep, slippery, rough and muddy. On the third day you will climb over 500 m to Mackinnon Pass and then descend 1000 m to Dumpling Hut. On the fourth day you must walk 18 km, reaching Sandfly Point in time to meet the early afternoon boat. 

Weather conditions can change quickly in any season. Fiordland National Park experiences very high rainfall (up to 9000 mm per year) and weather conditions can change quickly in any season. Cold temperatures, snow, strong winds and heavy rain can occur at any time of the year. Be prepared for all conditions.

The risk of avalanche can extend into December. During the Great Walks season DOC manages this risk to a low level and walkers may be flown (at their cost) over dangerous sections.

There is no cellphone coverage.

Your safety is your responsibility. Stay safe in the outdoors and follow the five essential steps of the Land Safety Code.

Weather forecast

Milford Track weather forecast – NIWA website

View current conditions on the Mackinnon Pass webcam

milford-track-november-565.jpg
Milford Track in November – cold temperatures, snow, strong winds and heavy rain can occur anytime.

May to October (winter season)

Outside the Great Walks season (1 May 2022 – 24 October 2022):

  • It can be 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 and avalanches.
  • Facilities are greatly reduced.

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

Milford Track winter tramping safety information (PDF, 753K)

Expect challenging track conditions

Many of the bridges across side streams are removed over winter to avoid damage from avalanches. These side streams can rise very quickly, so you must be competent at crossing large, swift, icy rivers.

Weather forecast

Mackinnon Pass weather forecast – NIWA website

The track over Mackinnon Pass is not marked and is often covered in deep snow. You will need to have navigation and alpine skills to traverse this section of the track. View current conditions on the Mackinnon Pass webcam.

milford-track-snow-565.jpg
Thick snow blankets Mackinnon Pass

Conditions will be wet and cold with snow

During the winter months Fiordland can be very wet and cold. Daylight is limited and the high mountains let little sunlight into the valleys. Alpine areas are usually covered in snow. Dress for these conditions.

Illustration of winter clothing layers

Flood risk

The Milford Track is not an all-weather track. Both the Clinton and Arthur Valleys become impassable due to flooding, during heavy rain. 

Heavy rain increases the risk of landslides. In spring (September – November) the snowmelt makes the rivers and side streams come up even faster. Heavy rain also triggers avalanches, increasing avalanche risk.

There is no monitoring of weather forecasts and river levels outside of the Great Walk season. Trampers should monitor the severe weather on MetService for heavy rain in the Fiordland area.

If there is a heavy rain warning for Fiordland during your scheduled tramp dates, then you should make alternative plans, as the track will become flooded/impassable during heavy rain.

If the heavy rain warning is:

  • for one day only – schedule an extra day / another night in a hut, so you are not walking on the track that day
  • for more than one day – postpone your tramp until the weather improves.
Avalanches can be frequent

The Milford Track is mainly complex avalanche terrain. Avalanches are frequent. There are over 57 avalanche paths, which may bring avalanche debris to the valley floor. Some of these 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:

Maps of avalanche paths: Clinton Valley avalanche paths (JPG, 1,742K) | Arthur Valley avalanche paths (JPG, 1,703K)

Expect reduced hut facilities

  • 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 rangers based at the huts.

Expect reduced transport services

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.

Contact a transport operator for information:

Be totally self-sufficient

You need to be totally self-sufficient. In addition to what to take in the Great Walks season, you also need:

  • food for at least two extra days
  • stove and gas for cooking
  • lighter or matches
  • alpine equipment: ice axe and crampons
  • avalanche equipment: beacon, snow shovel, avalanche probe
  • personal locator beacon
  • mountain radio or satellite messenger (optional).
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