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Live in the sunshine, swim in the sea, drink the wild air. —Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Routeburn Track

Location: Mt. Aspiring & Fiordland National Park, Canterbury Region, South Island, New Zealand

Elevation: 1,300m (4,300)

Difficulty level: Technically easy, but be in good shape!

Trail length: 32km (20mi)

Elevation gain: 823m (2,700ft) (if you start at the Lake Wakatipu/Queenstown side)

Camping / Huts: Yes / Yes (scroll down for more info)

Date hiked: 2011

Topographical Map

Every few hours is like walking into a completely different country, from dense rainforest to windswept tundra. The epic second day with gale-force winds made it all the more memorable. . . Read more of my Routeburn Track story + see spoiler photos

Track Description: 2-4 day hike (we did it in 3 days)

Day 1: Routeburn Shelter (a carpark/parking lot with shelter, toilets & bus stop) to Routeburn Falls Hut – Time: 2.5 – 3.5hrs / Distance: 8.8km (5.5mi)

Day 2: Routeburn Falls Hut to Mackenzie Hut – Time: 4.5 – 6hrs / Distance: 11.3km (7mi)

Day 3: Mackenzie Hut to The Divide (carpark/parking lot with shelter, toilets & bus stop) – Time: 4 – 5.5hrs / Distance: 12km (7.5mi)

Recommended: The track can be walked both ways, but from our experience, and especially if there are windy or rainy conditions, it’s much better to walk from The Routeburn Shelter to The Divide… on our second day we were hiking over the Saddle and down into the Mackenzie Valley from Routeburn Falls. The conditions were rainy, 60km wind, with 80km bursts, and we were eternally grateful that we were not the poor people hiking up from the other way – it looked like a brutal ascent, especially in those conditions, and the hikers ascending did not look too happy (note: part of their unhappiness was probably stemming from their decision to wear plastic bags around their shoes instead of forking out for proper shoes – DON’T make this mistake! your feet aren’t growing anymore – buy a good pair and they’ll last forever)


Organize before the hike:                                                                                                                    

1) Fill out an Intentions Form at the DOC (Department of Conservation) in Queenstown. This is required, and if you miss returning on your specified date, someone besides your Mom will worry about you and hopefully arrange a rescue.

2) Buy hut passes through the DOC website well ahead of time as it is often booked out – also required if you are camping – ($15-$30)

3) Track transport- there are heaps of companies that operate from both ends of the track. When organizing pick up from The Divide, get a time after 2pm so you don’t have to get up early and rush on the last day of the hike

Trail: Well-maintained. Mainly hard-packed dirt, at times rocky, loose gravel, or roots.


Pack: Please see my Trusty Gear and Pack List pages!


Helpful Links:


Source: Department of Conservation, New Zealand​

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