Lake Harris

Image: Keri Moyle | ©

Introduction

From November to April, weave through meadows, reflective tarns and alpine gardens, and be rewarded with spectacular vistas over vast mountain ranges and valleys. From May to October, it can be cold and wet, with ice, snow and short daylight hours - only attempt if you have alpine, navigation and river crossing skills.

Highlights


2020/2021 bookings

Bookings are open for trips from 2 November 2020 to 6 December 2020 on the partially open track, and from 7 December 2020 to 30 April 2021 on the fully open track.


Video

Track overview

33 km one way

Seasonal restrictions

In the Great Walks season (2 November 2020 – 30 April 2021):

Best time to walk the track - there are more facilities and fewer hazards. Bookings are required for huts and campsites.

Outside the Great Walks season (1 May 2020 – 1 November 2020):

Only walk at this time if you are fit, experienced and well equipped - facilities are greatly reduced and there are additional hazards.

Dog access

No dogs

Brochures

  • Routeburn Track brochure (PDF, 3,438K) – includes map and profile
  • Routeburn Track walking guide – pick one up when you collect your tickets at the Queenstown or Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre

About this track

Walking in May to early November

Outside the Great Walks season (1 May 2020 - 1 November 2020):

  • it can 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 you are fit, experienced and well equipped.

Routeburn Track is partially open

Until 7 December 2020, the section from Lake Mackenzie Hut to The Divide is closed due to significant storm damage.

While the track is repaired, you can only do a return walk from Routeburn Shelter and go as far as Lake Mackenzie Hut.

Expect challenging conditions

Bridges between Lake Mackenzie and Harris Saddle may be removed over winter to avoid damage from avalanches, so you must be competent at crossing swift, icy rivers.

Snow and ice conditions on the Hollyford face and at the Harris Saddle can be extremely dangerous.

Lake Mackenzie is not safe to walk on when frozen.

routeburn-winter-565.jpg
Climbing up to Harris Saddle in spring
Image: DOC

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

Avalanches will be frequent

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 can't be seen from the track.

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

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.
  • Bookings are not required:
    • Bunks are first come, first served.
    • Payment is with Backcountry Hut Tickets or a Backcountry Hut Pass - buy these from a DOC visitor centre before you go.
Hut fees

For all visitors: 

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

For all visitors: 

  • Adult (18+ years): $5 per person, per night
  • Child (17 years and under): free

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.

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)

osc-winter-565.jpg

Walking from 2 November 2020 to 6 December 2020

Routeburn Track is partially open

From 2 November 2020 to 6 December 2020, the section from Lake Mackenzie Hut to The Divide is closed due to significant storm damage.

While the track is repaired, you can only do a return walk from Routeburn Shelter and go as far as Lake Mackenzie Hut. You can stay in any huts/campsites between Routeburn Shelter and Lake Mackenzie, in any order for a maximum of 2 nights.

Bookings are required and will open on Wednesday 16 September 2020 at 9:30 am. The booking system for this period (huts/campsites booking system) will be different to the booking system for the period when the track is fully open (Great Walks booking system). You’ll need to create an account on the huts/campsites system, even if you already have an account on the Great Walks system. It's best to do this before making a booking.

  • Track is well marked and signposted, but some sections are steep and rough.
  • Cold temperatures, snow, strong winds and heavy rain can occur.
  • DOC manages avalanche risk and sections of the track may be closed if there is avalanche risk.
  • Track is not recommended for children under the age of 10, due to the exposed  mountainous environment and often adverse weather conditions.

On this page:

Highlights

  • 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

routeburn-river-565.jpg
Routeburn River
Image: Keri Moyle ©

Walking options

From 2 November 2020 to 6 December 2020, you can only walk from Routeburn Shelter as far as Lake Mackenzie Hut.

Places to stay

There are 3 huts and 2 campsites between Routeburn Shelter and Lake Mackenzie. These must be booked well in advance.

Hut facilities

Huts have bunks, mattresses, heating, toilets, basic cooking facilities, solar-powered lighting and cold running water. A DOC ranger is in residence. Huts do not have food, cooking utensils, showers or bedding.

Campsite facilities

Campsites have basic facilities including toilets, sinks and a water supply. Routeburn campsites have picnic tables and cooking shelters. Campers can't use hut facilities.

Fees and bookings

Huts

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): $65 per person, per night
  • Child (17 years and under): $32.50 per person, per night
Campsites

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): $20 per person, per night
  • Child (17 years and under): $10 per person, per night

* New Zealand rates:

  • "Ordinarily resident in New Zealand" means those:
    • who hold a residence class, student 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 - see acceptable eligibility proof.
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.

Backcountry Hut Passes can be used. To pay with your Backcountry Hut Pass, create/update your account on our huts/campsite booking system. Under 'Apply for a discount', select 'Backcountry Hut Pass Holder' and upload a scan of your pass. Once we've verified your pass, it will automatically be applied when you make a booking.

Bookings

Huts and campsites must be booked in advance. Book online.

Getting there

From 2 November 2020 to 6 December 2020, Routeburn Track can only be accessed from the Routeburn Shelter end, 25 km from Glenorchy along a partially unsealed road. There is no access from The Divide end, near Te Anau.

Destination Fiordland and Destination Queenstown have information about transport operators.

What to take

To have a safe and enjoyable trip, it's essential you have the appropriate clothing and equipment. Find out what to take.

Know before you go

There are steep drop-off along sections of the whole track.

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. Check the Fiordland National Park weather forecast (MetService website).

The risk of avalanche can extend into December. During the Great Walk season, DOC manages avalanche risk and sections of the track maybe closed if there is avalanche hazard.

There is no cellphone coverage.

Your safety is your responsibility. Know the Outdoor Safety Code - 5 simple rules to ensure you have a great trip and make it home.

Track description

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:

  • Snow and ice can sometimes make this trip hazardous early and late into the Great Walks season.
  • Due to rock fall danger, observe the no stopping zones along this track.
Mackenzie Hut to The Divide

From 2 November 2020 to 6 December 2020, this section is closed. Return to Routeburn Shelter via the same track.


osc-summer-565.jpg

Walking from 7 December 2020 to 30 April 2021

Routeburn Track is fully open

From 7 December 2020 to 30 April 2021, the full Routeburn Track from Routeburn Shelter to The Divide, is open.

  • Track is well marked and signposted, but some sections are steep and rough.
  • Cold temperatures, snow, strong winds and heavy rain can occur.
  • DOC manages avalanche risk and walkers may be flown (at their cost) over dangerous sections.
  • Track is not recommended for children under the age of 10, due to the exposed  mountainous environment and often adverse weather conditions.

On this page:

Highlights

  • 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

routeburn-river-565.jpg
Routeburn River
Image: Keri Moyle ©

Walking options

The Routeburn Track can be walked in either direction.

Walk the full track. Most walkers take 3 days/2 nights usually staying at Routeburn Falls and Lake Mackenzie Huts. The trip can be extended by also staying at other huts, or 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 3 huts and 2 campsites, which must be booked well in advance during the Great Walks season.

Hut facilities

Huts have bunks, mattresses, heating, toilets, basic cooking facilities, solar-powered lighting and cold running water. A DOC ranger is in residence. Huts do not have food, cooking utensils, showers or bedding.

Campsite facilities

Campsites have basic facilities including toilets, sinks and a water supply. Routeburn campsites have picnic tables and cooking shelters. Campers can't use hut facilities.

Fees and bookings

Huts

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): $65 per person, per night
  • Child (17 years and under): $32.50 per person, per night
Campsites

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): $20 per person, per night
  • Child (17 years and under): $10 per person, per night

* New Zealand rates:

  • "Ordinarily resident in New Zealand" means those:
    • who hold a residence class, student 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 - see acceptable eligibility proof.
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.

Bookings

Huts and campsites must be booked well in advance. We'll provide two weeks' notice of the date bookings will open. Book online

Getting there

Routeburn Track can be accessed from both ends: Routeburn Shelter, 25 km from Glenorchy along a partially unsealed road, and The Divide Shelter, 85 km from Te Anau.

The road distance between each end of the track is 325 km - transport is needed at each end.

Destination Fiordland and Destination Queenstown have information about transport operators.

What to take

To have a safe and enjoyable trip, it's essential you have the appropriate clothing and equipment. Find out what to take.

Know before you go

There are steep drop-off along sections of the whole track.

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. Check the Fiordland National Park weather forecast (MetService website).

The risk of avalanche can extend into December. During the Great Walk 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. Know the Outdoor Safety Code - 5 simple rules to ensure you have a great trip and make it home.

Track description

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:

  • Snow and ice can sometimes make this trip hazardous early and late into the Great Walks season.
  • Due to rock fall danger, observe the no stopping zones along this track.
Mackenzie Hut to The Divide

Time: 4 – 5 hr 30 min
Distance: 12 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 (Lake Howden Hut was destroyed by storm damage in February 2020). 

From Lake Howden, 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.

Earland Falls on Google Street View


osc-summer-565.jpg

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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