The Routeburn Track is a 3-day walk and is one of the 9 Great Walks of New Zealand. It has a variety of terrain, taking you through thick forest with glacier rivers weaving through, luscious meadows, reflective Alpine Lakes, and vistas overlooking the mountain ranges and valleys. It is the perfect walk to do with a family, as it is well formed and easy to follow. The track is not a loop, so we hired the car relocation service, Trackhopper, which conveniently drove our car from the head of the Routeburn Track to the other side. While we were hiking the Routeburn Track, we actually saw the woman who relocated our car running on the track back to the other side. The whole track is a full 20 miles up and down hills! VERY impressive!
We stayed the night in Glenorchy at the Kinloch Lodge before heading out to do the Routeburn Track. It unfortunately rained the whole day that we were there. I’m not talking about just a little shower – it RAINED. Hard. New Zealand definitely does not lack in water, especially in the surrounding Fiordland area. We used the rainy day to pack and hoped that the weather would be clear for the next three days. Luckily, we caught a gorgeous sunset.
We woke up the next morning with PERFECT weather. It was a nice temperature and sunny. My favorite part of the drive from Kinloch to the trailhead was seeing the sheep in the crisp, morning lighting.
The first day of the hike was just gorgeous. The forest we walked through was moss-covered with a glacier-fed, blue river running through it. We later found out that it was actually the same forest that Lord of the Ring’s Fanghorne Forest was filmed in.
The first three hours was on flat terrain and was highly enjoyable. Luca and I had fun taking pictures and videos, especially of the little Rock Wren birds, in which we re-named the “fatties.”
We took a nice break in a gorgeous meadow with a view of the mountains before heading up to our first hut.
We spent the first night at the Routeburn Falls Hut, which was very nice and cozy (well, for a DOC hut). The only thing that irked us and our other fellow hikers was that the hut warden seemed to take pleasure in watching all of us freeze our butts off. We arrived at the hut to find him in the typical New Zealand Men’s choice of fashion: Wellies (aka rain boots) and short shorts, and a fleece jacket. I, on the other hand, was bundled in my winter jacket with my cozy “Judy-scarf”, hat, gloves, and wool socks. We asked him if we could light the fire to warm up the place and he responded by saying, “It’s not that cold. I can tell you a nice walk you can go on to warm yourself up if you would like.” In my head, I was thinking, “I just got back from a walk! You think I want to go out on another one!?!” He eventually put together a fire for us.
The next day started with a beautiful sunrise over the mountains.
We made our way up to Lake Harris, which was my favorite part of the whole hike. I remember at one point looking up at the mountains with my mouth dropped open in awe. Then, looking down through the valley and still being in awe. Up, down, and all around – everywhere you looked had another spectacular view to offer.
The second day led us mostly through Alpine terrain with many interesting flowers and tiny lakes.
Before reaching the second hut, we descended through another moss-covered fairytale forest. I kept thinking that every fairytale author must have visited New Zealand at one point in his or her life.
That evening we listened to the Lake Mackenzie Hut Warden, Evan Smith, talk about his very successful bird protection project. Evan had noticed a decline in the number of birds along the track, due to the increase in the inhabitation of stoats, a rodent that was introduced to New Zealand by humans, and decided to do something about it. He put out a few stoat traps and began educating trampers on the danger stoats pose to New Zealand’s native wildlife. Donations from trampers on the Routeburn Track have enabled the set up of over 180 stoat trap boxes in the area to help protect native species.
On the last day, we got a very early start because we heard that there was supposed to be rain coming in about midday and we wanted to try to finish the track before it came. There was a mist covering the trail while walking through the thick forest that added another element to the experience. Rain is not necessarily a bad thing, as long as you are prepared for it.
We were happy to get to a warm bed with a shower and a big meal after our long walk. Luca and I have made it a tradition to celebrate the completion of a track by indulging in Fish and Chips.
In conclusion, we were all blown away with the Routeburn Track experience. I have decided that it was my favorite multi-day hike in New Zealand (so far), closely followed by our Lake Angelus experience. It was like nothing I’ve ever seen, with its fairytale forest and Alpine views.
It was also nice to share it in great company!