Hike of the Week: Milford Track, New Zealand

Hike of the Week: Milford Track, New Zealand

This weekly series aims to inspire you to go out there and experience amazing backpacking locations in person. Simply looking at them on your phone or monitor is not enough. Feel the wind, breathe the air and bask in the sun.

It is time to let out your inner Hobbit (or Elf) because we're going to explore the Milford Track, in enchanting New Zealand.

Featured Photo: MacKinnon Pass (photo by Geoffrey Marquie)

Why this Hike?

This 4-day hike will take you from the lake, through forests and up mountains where you will see gorgeous snow-capped mountains, clear flowing rivers and streams, enchanting trees and plants. You'll feel like you have stepped into a Tolkien book.

  • Total distance is 53.5 kilometers
  • 4 days are recommended to complete this hike
  • It is considered as one of the “Great Walks” in the world
  • Recommended season for hikes are from late October to late April
  • Department of Conservation huts provide beds, cooking stoves, and potable water

Take note of these factors before starting your adventure:

  • Parts of the trail are prone to avalanches during the winter and spring
  • Expect sudden rains with cold weather
  • You may need to cross rivers or streams, especially after rains
  • Camping is not allowed on the trail - there are designated huts to stay overnight
  • Pets are not allowed on the trail

How do I get there?

Independent hikers may drive to Te Anau Downs then take the ferry up to the Northern shore of Te Anau Lake. Guided packages will provide bus pickups to Te Anau Downs.


Here’s a map of our recommended route:

  • Day 1: Clinton Hut ( 5 km )
  • Day 2: Mintaro Hut ( 16.5 km )
  • Day 3: Dumpling Hut ( 14 km )
  • Day 4: Milford Sound( 18 km )

Trail Description

The trail starts at the Northern shore of Lake Te Anau. From there it will be a 2-3 hour hike up to Clinton Hut. The trail will take you across the Clinton River via a hanging bridge.  However, if you are part of a guided tour, your first stop will be Glade House. If you reach lodging early, you will have time to explore the river before dinner.

Start the next day early and follow Clinton River up to its source, Lake Mintaro. This part of the trek will be uphill so make sure that you have the right shoes for the job. You will pass by Hirere Falls and hike through Clinton Valley with its towering rock walls on both sides. After a 6 hour hike, you will reach the second stop of the journey, Mintar Hut.

Your third day starts off with a climb up Mackinnon Pass to the Quintin McKinnon memorial where you may lose your breath in awe of the view of Lake Mintaro and Clinton Canyon. This would be the best time to whip out that camera and capture the beauty that surrounds you. Take in as much scenery as you can because you will then be heading down to the valley floor for your next stop, Dumpling Hut.

Your last day takes you along Arthur River up to the Boatshed. If you have time to spare, you should check out Mackay Falls and Bell Rock. You'll see the man-made rock cuttings alongside the Arthur River and Lake Ada. Head on to Sandfly Point where you'll take a short boat ride to Milford Sound. The trail is walked in one direction so you may need to book a ride or lodging at Milford Sound ahead of time.

What will I need?

If you take a guided tour package most of your necessities will be provided, like food and lodging. All you will need are clothes, bug spray, and snacks for the trail. You may need to make accommodations pre- and post-hike depending on your guided tour. As for independent hikers, the huts provide cooking stoves, drinking water and beds. You will have to bring your own food, sleeping bag, and toiletries.

Since torrential rains are to be expected make sure that you have some waterproof rain gear and shoes. Try to pack light as you will need to reach the huts before it gets dark otherwise a search party will be sent out to look for you.

For more gear recommendations on what to bring to a multi-day hike like this, refer to our Ultimate Backpacker's Packing List.

Do I need a permit?

Only 40 people are allowed to start the trail each day, so be sure to make reservations in advance. You may register for a 4-day guided tour which cost $530 for adults, $496 for kids 10-17 years old, and free for kids 9 years and below. The packages include all track transport to the Milford Track (buses and boats), pre-walk briefing in Queenstown the day before departure, all Milford Track hut bookings and fees, NZ mountain safety council approved pack liner and a souvenir map.

If you plan on going independently, you will also need to apply for permits ahead of time. You will also need to book reservations for the huts during the hiking season (late October to late April ). Fees are $140 per night for international hikers while different charges apply for New Zealand residents.


4 Day Milford Track Independent Walk
Milford Track
Fees and bookings

Have you explored Milford Track? Do you have other outstanding hikes that you'd like us to write about? Please share your feedback in the comments.

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