Lake Harris

Image: Keri Moyle | ©

Introduction

This is the ultimate alpine adventure, weaving through meadows, reflective tarns and alpine gardens. You'll be rewarded with spectacular vistas over vast mountain ranges and valleys.

Highlights


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  • Wind through the Routeburn gorge along the crystal-clear Route Burn (river).

  • Follow the cascade of Routeburn Falls.

  • Take in spectacular views of the Hollyford valley and Darren Mountains.

  • Walk right past Earland Falls (174 m).

Explore on 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

33 km one way

Seasonal restrictions

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

  • Bookings are required for huts and campsites
  • 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 and campsites 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.

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 Routeburn Track outside the Great Walks season.

Walking options

Walk the full track. Most walkers take 3 days/2 nights usually staying at Lake Mackenzie and Routeburn Falls huts. The trip can be extended by also staying at the other huts and made into a circuit by linking with the Greenstone and Caples Tracks, which starts and finishes near the Routeburn Shelter.

Enjoy a day walk. Earland Falls Track | Key Summit Track Lake Howden Track | Routeburn Nature Walk

Places to stay

There are 4 huts and 2 campsites along the Routeburn Track, which must be booked in advance during the Great Walks season.

Be aware that huts and campsites can book out many months is advance. Bookings for the coming summer season usually open in February - exact opening dates will be advised on our website closer to the time. 

Camping outside the designated campsites or staying overnight in the shelters, even when huts and campsites are fully booked, is not permitted. The track is patrolled by DOC rangers.

Hut facilities

In the Great Walks season these 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 can tell you about the environment and weather, or help out should an emergency arise.

Outside the Great Walks season these 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
Campsite facilities

Great Walk campsites are in scenic locations, and usually near huts. You can't use the hut facilities, but at each campsite you'll find:

  • An open cooking shelter.
  • Water supply tap.
  • Clean toilet.
  • A friendly hut warden (from the nearby hut during summer season) who may visit to chat and check campsite tickets.

Detailed description

The Routeburn Track has two starting and finishing points and may be walked in either direction. One track end is at the Routeburn Shelter (near Glenorchy and 68 km from Queenstown). The other is at The Divide (on the Milford Road, 85 km from Te Anau).

Routeburn Shelter to Routeburn Flats Hut

Time: 1 hr 30 min – 2 hr 30 min
Distance: 7.5 km

The track begins at Routeburn Shelter, gently winding alongside the crystal-clear Route Burn (river). After passing Sugarloaf Stream, you’ll climb to Bridal Veil Waterfall and continue above the gorge. A swing bridge leads to open grassed flats, and the Routeburn Flats Hut and Campsite.

Route Burn on Google Street View

Routeburn Flats Hut to Routeburn Falls Hut

Time: 1 – 1 hr 30 min
Distance: 2.3 km

The track climbs steadily through stunning beech forest, providing views of the Humboldt Mountains. End the day at Routeburn Falls Hut, on the edge of the bushline and close to the impressive Routeburn Falls cascade.

Routeburn Falls Hut to Lake Mackenzie Hut

Time: 4 hr 30 min – 6 hr
Distance: 11.3 km

Climb steadily up the valley, through wetlands and tussock-covered flats, before sidling along the bluffs above Lake Harris to reach the highest point on the track at Harris Saddle/TarahakaWhakatipu (1,255 m).

The track then descends and traverses along the exposed Hollyford Face, with expansive views over the Darran Mountains. This section of the track is well-known for its impressive array of alpine plants. A steady descent leads to Lake Mackenzie Hut, set beside the enchanting Lake Mackenzie.

Darren Mountains on Google Street View

Side trip: Conical Hill

Time: 1 hr 30 min – 2 hr return

A short, steep climb from the Harris Saddle up Conical Hill gives superb views of the Hollyford Valley through to Lake McKerrow and beyond to Martins Bay and the Tasman Sea. Be aware that snow and ice can sometimes make this trip hazardous early and late into the Great Walks season.

Mackenzie Hut to Howden Hut

Time: 3 – 4 hr
Distance: 8.6 km

Leaving Lake Mackenzie Hut the track crosses a small flat before climbing to the bush line. A gradual descent then leads past the ‘Orchard’, an open grassyarea dotted with ribbonwood trees, to the impressive Earland Falls (174 m). The track continues its descent through beech forest to Lake Howden Hut.

Earland Falls on Google Street View

Lake Howden Hut to The Divide

Time: 1 –1 hr 30 min
Distance: 3.4 km

The well graded track climbs steadily for about 15 minutes to the Key Summit Track turn-off. From the Key Summit turn-off, the gradual downhill walk is through silver beech forest to The Divide on the Milford Highway. At 532 m, The Divide is the lowest crossing of the Southern Alps in New Zealand.

Side trip: Key Summit

Time: 1 – 1 hr 30 min return

This popular walk climbs above the bushline to an alpine wetland and, in good weather, offers magnificent views of the Darran Mountains and the Hollyford valley. A self-guided alpine nature walk passes a range of native vegetation: beech forest, subalpine shrublands and alpine tarnsand bogs. Birdlife is prolific and tomtits, robins, New Zealand pigeons/kererū and bellbirds/korimako are commonly seen.

Fees and bookings

Find out about fees for the huts and campsites on the Routeburn Track and how to make reservations during the summer season.

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): $65 per person, per night
  • Child (17 years and under): free but booking still required

International visitors:

  • Adult (18+ years): $130 per person, per night
  • Child (17 years and under): $130 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).
Campsites

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

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

  • Adult (18+ years): $20 per person, per night
  • Child (17 years and under): free but booking still required

International visitors:

  • Adult (18+ years): $40 per person, per night
  • Child (17 years and under): $40 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): $5 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 months 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 and apply to the summer season rates only. To receive the discount we need to sight your membership card and Backcountry Hut Pass, so visit a DOC visitor centre in person. If you get a discount you won't be charged a booking fee.

Bookings

Huts and campsites can book out many months in advance. Exact dates when booking will open are advised on our website closer to the time.

Note: Camping outside the designated campsites or staying overnight in the shelters, even when huts and campsites are fully booked, is not permitted. The track is patrolled by DOC rangers.

If the Routeburn Track is fully booked, other options to consider in the surrounding area are: Greenstone Caples Track, Hump Ridge Track, and Hollyford Track.

What to book

In the Great Walks season you need to book huts and/or campsites on the track.

Outside the Great Walks season you don't need to book 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 can choose to book transport to and from entry/exit points for the track - the walk is one-way with the track ends approximately 350 km apart. See Getting there - Routeburn 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 Routeburn Track:

    1. Decide what direction you want to walk the track in - from Routeburn Shelter near Queenstown or the Divide Shelter near Te Anau. Note, shuttles and vehicle relocations are available between both ends.

 

    1. For the direction you want to walk in, decide what huts or campsites you want to stay at. Consider:
    2. Decide the date you want to stay at each hut/campsite.
        • Summer season: maximum stay is 2 consecutive nights at huts and campsites
        • Winter season: maximum stay is 3 consecutive nights in huts, 5 consecutive nights at campsites
    3. Check availability of huts and campsites for space in each hut/campsite on the date you want to stay. If there is no space in one of the huts/campsites you want to stay at, consider:
    4. Check the availability of transport services on your desired date.

 

  1. Book huts/campsites. If you're booking campsites you'll need to know the number of people in your group as well as the number of tent sites required. Booking is required in the summer season for all ages. 
  2. Optional: Book transport to/from the start/end of the track with a transport operator.

Terms and conditions

Read the booking terms and conditions (scroll to the bottom to find the Terms and Conditions link) for general information, age ranges, prices, discounts, penalty rates and the alterations and cancellations policy. 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

Routeburn Track location map.
Routeburn Track location map

One track end is at the Routeburn Shelter (near Glenorchy and 68 km from Queenstown). The other is at The Divide Shelter (on the Milford Road, 85 km from Te Anau).

Transport operators

It's also possible to make a circuit by combining the Routeburn Track with either the Greenstone and Caples tracks.

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 Routeburn 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).

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 only use the designated areas. No open fires are permitted in Fiordland National Park.

Flooding
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 Routeburn 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 Routeburn Track outside 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, high energy 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
If you're camping
  • Tent
  • Sleeping mat
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
  • Tramping/hiking 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 water proof)
  • 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, honeyor 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 Routeburn Track doesn't operate as a Great Walk/Easier tramping track during May to October. If attempting the RouteburnTrack at that time, you'll need additional equipment. See Walking the Routeburn Track outside the Great Walks season.

Guided options and other services

Walking the Routeburn Track outside the Great Walks season

Routeburn Track above Lake Harris.
Crossing the snow on the terrace above Lake Harris

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 Routeburn Track has a lot of challenging and complex avalanche terrain. Avalanches are frequent. There are over 32 avalanche paths, some of which may bring avalanche debris to the valley floor and have the potential to cross the Routeburn 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 | Be avalanche alert in the Wakatipu & Wanaka

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.

Outside the Great Walks 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 Routeburn 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
Whakatipu-wai-Māori / Queenstown Visitor Centre
Phone:   +64 3 442 7935
Fax:   +64 4 471 1117
Email:   queenstownvc@doc.govt.nz
Address:   50 Stanley Street
Queenstown
9300
Postal Address:   PO Box 811
Queenstown 9348
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