The Routeburn Track

Surrounded by towering mountains, fresh high country lakes and streams, vividly green ferns and wild-flowers dotted all around, the Routeburn Tracks landscapes are astounding.

Hiking through ancient native beech and podocarp forest, above the tree line and among beautiful mountains the native birdlife is abundant and fantails, robins, parakeet, yellowhead, bellbird and the worlds only alpine parrot the ‘cheeky’ kea can be both seen and heard in these dense forests on the way.

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On the afternoon prior to your departure you are required to attend a Pre-Track Briefing. This happens in Queenstown at 3:45pm. Here you receive a briefing on what to expect on the track and you be provided with some essential equipment. You have the opportunity to buy last minute items you may need for your pending adventure. Various documents are checked and/or completed - like a medical forms.  We then have a Q&A session and a portion of time is allocated so you may meet your fellow walkers.

The Divide to Lake Mackenzie 13km (8Mi) / 5-6 Hours

Your adventure begins with a coach ride from Queenstown to the Divide on the scenic Milford Road, stopping at Te Anau for morning tea.

You will climb the wide and well formed track from the Divide to the optional ascent to Key Summit. Here you can sit among the alpine plants and gaze down three valleys from which water flows to three different coasts.You then descend to Lake Howden hut for a hot drink and picnic lunch, before gradually climbing through lush silver beech forest to the base of Earland Falls, quite a sight in wet weather! You will look over the Hollyford Valley to the ice capped Darran Mountains before descending to the splendid lodge at Lake Mackenzie where refreshments, a hot shower, three course meal and comfortable beds are waiting.

Meals: Lunch, dinner

Lake Mackenzie to Routeburn Falls 15km (9mi) / 5-7 hours

Today is divided into three distinct sections: the climb out of the Mackenzie Basin to Ocean Peak Corner, the traverse across the Hollyford Face to the Harris Saddle and the descent to Routeburn Falls.

From the lodge you skirt Lake Mackenzie and follow the track into the forest. As the track starts to climb you leave the trees and enter the alpine world of daisies, buttercups, gentians and edelweiss. From the the first daisies in November to the last gentians in April the track winds through one of the greatest natural gardens on earth.

The traverse along the Hollyford Face is for many people the most spectacular scenery of the whole track. With the Darran Mountains in front of you and the Hollyford Valley far below, you are in big country. After lunch at the Harris Saddle the views get even better if you climb Conical Hill with a 360 degree panorama, it seems like you are on top of the world.

Return to the shelter, pick up your pack and begin your descent into the Routeburn Valley. After walking around Lake Harris you come into more intimate terms with the mountains towering above the upper reaches of the Routeburn River. Just before your arrival at the lodge you are greeted by the Routeburn Falls and stunning views of the lower valley.

Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner


Routeburn Falls to Routeburn Road 10km ( 6Mi ) / 3-4 hours

Your last day is the least strenuous, a nice way to wind down and take time to enjoy the environment.

The descent from Routeburn Falls to Routeburn Flats takes you through a rich mixed Beech forest as you slowly lose altitude and reach the valley floor. Morning tea is at Routeburn Flats Hut, set in natural grasslands surrounded by mountains rising straight up from the flat valley floor.

Below the flats the Routeburn River enters its gorge, surging among boulders in frothing white torrents at one turn and resting in the clear jade pools at the next before finally disappearing underground at the Sump. Lunch is right by the river at Forge Flat, you may even be inspired to take a plunge; your guides will encourage you with this!

From here it's a gentle downhill stroll to the end of the track, but not before you pass through the Red Beech section with it's huge gnarled ancient forest giants.  A coach will be waiting at the road end to take you back to Queenstown stopping at Glenorchy for a group photo. 

Meals: Breakfast, lunch


First Light Travel Blog_0.pngBut what are the options if don’t have the time but still want the experience. Read our blog and see what Brent and Andrew think of the One Day Routeburn Track Option.