Best South Island Multi-day Hikes: Milford Track

Milford Track is known to be one of the finest hikes in the world. Whether you are a beginner or an advanced hiker, this hiking spot is perfect for you. With its valley carved by glaciers, ancient rainforests, and cascading waterfalls, this place is known for its beauty and grace.

 Of course, with it’s beauty comes some form of effort. You will have to hike for 4 long days in Milford Track. So prepare for the adventure and journey ahead of you!

 Its 53-kilometre journey begins at Lake Te Anau and leads you across many interesting pathways and pitstops. The Milford Track will show you pristine lakes, sky-scraping mountain peaks and enormous valley views; and it will take you to feel the misty breath of Sutherland Falls, the tallest waterfall in New Zealand.

 It is highly encouraged to take a tour across the 3 main huts in Milford Track to get all the ins and outs of this trail itself. Not to worry, you will have time to rest afterwards. Make sure to get the best out of your time here by exploring all aspects of this trail. You will not regret any second of this journey!

 Remember to take note that booking might be required for some huts - first come first serve policy. Keep in mind the little details such as packing for the trip and other seemingly insignificant details. It will help you have a more fruitful hiking experience overall. Most importantly, research and have fun!

 

About this track

  •  What to expect

 So what can you expect from this track? Yes, many claim that this is one of the best trails for its scenic landscape, but how does it differ from other trails?

 Well, this Milford Track is a Great Walk - which means that it is of a higher standard than most other tracks. Besides having nice landscapes, the trails are easy to follow and well formed. Hence, it is perfect for individuals of different levels. Despite being a beginner or an advanced hiker, this place gives you the best of both. So if this is one of your concerns, do not worry!

 The tracks are also usually quite wide depending on terrain - some even fit two people walking side by side in flat areas. So not to worry, if you are afraid of trails that are too narrow, this will do its job perfectly by giving you space! Despite its wide trails though, this trail is similar to others in a sense where it is made out of gravel, rock, or dirt. This means that the track can accumulate water in wet seasons. As a result, the track can get slippery. You should keep in mind proper footwear and clothing as safety measures. Besides, you should also be careful when you hike in general!

 Besides, most rivers and waterways on these tracks are sturdy bridges. Occasionally there may be small streams that cross the track, but they are usually relatively easy to cross and do not require a lot of effort or safety concerns. Despite the rather simple nature of this walk, do not take advantage as you should still be highly aware of its consequences, especially in wet climates.

 There are some parts in the track where it becomes much steeper, causing a more uphill walkway, but as a result, you can get a better view. It is all worth it after all.

 Despite this track being family-friendly, this track is not recommended for children under 10. For children under 15 years of age, they should be accompanied with an adult. There are many safety precautions to keep in mind when hiking on this trail.

Photography by: Department of Conservation


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Detailed description

The Milford Track which spans over 53.5 km in total starts at Glade Wharf and finishes at Sanfly Point in Miford Sound. The track can only be walked from one direction - from the start to end - and usually spans for around 4 days in total. Yes, it is certainly possible to finish the hike in less than 4 days, but you might not be able to do a pitstop in all the huts in this multi-day hike. Each night is spent at a different pre-booked hut for the finest experience.

 

●    Places to stay

In terms of its designated huts, there are three main huts on Milford Track. It is highly encouraged to pre-book your hiking sites especially during the Great Walk season as it is in high demand.

 As opposed to some places which allows you to stay on campsites, camping is not permitted on the Milford Track (just to be sure!).

 In terms of the hut facilities, here are some of them:

  • 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 limited to:

  • 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.

Photogprahy by: Milford Sound Lodge

So let’s take you through a brief itinerary of what to expect on this four-day long hike:

Day 1 – Glade Wharf to Clinton Hut

Time: 1–1 hr 30 min

Distance: 5 km

 After a boat cruise from Te Anau Downs which takes around 1 hour 15 minutes, take a walk through beautiful beech forest along the banks of the Clinton River to Clinton Hut, where all the hikers spend their first night. In a way, this is a mandatory spot that you will come across. Once you arrive, take some time to check out the swimming holes near the hut or simply take a short walk around the wetland boardwalk.

 You should aim to just explore on the first day (and the next few days, of course!). But spend some time looking around and exploring the ins and outs of this place - for you won’t be here for a prolonged period of time.

 When you arrive at Clinton Hut where you will stay on your first day, there are plenty of facilities you can find here. There are around 40 bunk beds located here. Keep in mind that Clinton Hut only has communal spaces - for instance, the cooking and washing up facilities require you to share your space. In any case if you do not prefer communal spaces, maybe this hike might not be the best fit for you. Make sure to place your bookings beforehand as it is very high in demand.

Day 2 – Clinton Hut to Mintaro Hut

Time: 6 hr

Distance: 16.5 km

 After the steady uphill inclination after you reside in Clinton Hut on the first night, you will be led to Hirere Falls. Here, you can get your first view of Mackinnon Pass and the impressive Pompolona icefield.

 Besides, you will be dwarfed by the magnitude of the rock walls when you walk through the Clinton valley.

 Once you make your way through the rocky areas of this pathway, you will pass through changing vegetation as you climb higher towards Mintaro Hut.

 In Mintaro Hut, this is similar to the first hut.

 There are around 40 bunk beds located here. Keep in mind that Clinton Hut only has communal spaces - for instance, the cooking and washing up facilities require you to share your space. In any case if you do not prefer communal spaces, maybe this hike might not be the best fit for you. Make sure to place your bookings beforehand as it is very high in demand.

Photography by: Anna Evening

Day 3 – Mintaro Hut to Dumpling Hut

Time: 6–7 hr

Distance: 14 km

Along the way, you will be treated to some of the most exceptional views of Lake Mintaro and Clinton Canyon. This memorial is a great spot to take your Instagram photos so you can take awe-inspiring panoramas, before reaching the highest point of the track.

 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.

Similarly to the other dumpling huts, you are required to share spaces communally - for instance, the cooking and washing up facilities - hence, you are required to share your space with others in the community.

 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.

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 beautiful rock cuttings along this pathway before you have to hike tirelessly again.

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.

 

 

Photography by: First Light Travel

Fees and bookings

Huts:

In the Great Walks season (27 October 2020 – 30 April 2021):
New Zealand citizens, those ordinarily resident in New Zealand*:

  • Adult (18+ years): $70 per person, per night
  • Child (17 years and under): free but booking still required

International visitors:

  • Adult (18+ years): $70 per person, per night
  • Child (17 years and under): $35 per person, per night

Outside the Great Walks season (1 May 2020 - 26 October 2020):

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
  • Description

 ●    Getting there

Travel to and from the Milford Track usually requires road transport and boat access at both ends of the track.

 You can only walk the Milford Track in one direction, and the below transport options are for the summer Great Walks season only.

 The track starts at Glade Wharf at the head of Lake Te Anau. There are three scheduled daily boat services (10.30 am, 1 pm and 2 pm) and on-demand water taxi services from Te Anau Downs. Boat transport takes one hour from Te Anau Downs to the start of the track.

Te Anau Downs is 27 km from Te Anau on the road to Milford Sound. It has a car parking area if you wish to leave your vehicle. Bus services run daily scheduled services from Te Anau to meet the boat at Te Anau Downs.

 

Photography by: Flying and Travel

Final Thoughts

 There are many incredible multi-day hikes in New Zealand’s South Island. Depending on your proficiency and experience as a hiker, there are spots that may be better for you than others.

 Despite the uncertain climate and seasons for hikers, these spots are beautiful regardless. Make sure to prepare yourself before going on any hike! The best way to enjoy your hiking experience is to pack well. Besides, remember to book your desired circuits beforehand to get the best deal and secure your hiking spots. During the popular seasons, these places may be completely booked.

 Overall, Milford Track is known to be one of the finest hikes in the world. Whether you are a beginner or an advanced hiker, this hiking spot is perfect for you. With its valley carved by glaciers, ancient rainforests, and cascading waterfalls, this place is known for its beauty and grace. Take time in enjoying the scenic view and for all its nooks and crannies.

 


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