Milford Track

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Milford Track
New Zealand

The Milford Track is a hiking track in New Zealand’s Fjordland National Park, South Island.

One of the most popular long distance trails in New Zealand’s Great Walks, Milford Track boasts a stunning landscape that is unique to the area.

Glorious mountains covered in rich rainforest create a diverse environment for plants and wildlife to flourish, and the crystal clear rivers and waterfalls are home to many aquatic species.

Being 53 kilometres in length, Milford Track is an ideal route for keen walkers who want to up their distance, as well as experienced hikers. The terrain

Well on the tourist trail, Milford Track is a great place to meet other hikers.

Highlights
  • Stunning natural landscape
  • Glacial Valleys
  • Sutherland Falls, New Zealand’s tallest waterfall
  • Beech forests
  • Wild swimming
Walk Map
About the route

Milford Track is a 53 kilometre route that begins at Glade Wharf, Lake Te Anau and finishes in Sandfly Bay, Milford Sound.

You are only able to walk the track in one direction during the peak walking season.

Despite being a popular walk, the limited amount of accommodation along the trail means that it still has its remote charm, and you will not be in crowds of hikers.

  •  Travel

Te Anau is the nearest town to the start of the trail.

To get there, it is a one hour 45 minute drive from Invercargill. If you are coming from Queenstown it is a two hour drive, and three hours 30 minutes from Dunedin.

From Te Anau, the best way to get to the start of the Milford Track is by boat. There is a car park at Te Anau Downs, and from there you can get a boat taxi to Glade Wharf. The journey is approximately 1 hour 30 minutes.

Once you have finished your hike at Sandfly Bay, it is a 20 minute boat journey to Milford Sound Village, where there are bus services.

Milford Sound has its own small airport. Used mainly for tourist flights, it can be busy. The nearest international airport is Queenstown.

  •  Length

Milford Track is 53 kilometres in length. It is completed over 4-5 days, with each night being spend in a DOC hut.

It is possible to walk the track in stages, however it is logistically difficult. You will need to arrange boat transportation to and from your start and finish points.

  • Grade and difficulty of the walk

Milford Track is graded 3/5.  It is a fairly easy hike for those of average fitness, but there are some more challenging places.

The path is generally good underfoot, but there may be some steep places or loose surfaces, as well as rocky areas. There are also small streams and shallow water to cross, especially after rain.

The steepest incline is during the mid-point of the walk, at Mackinnon Pass, a 750 metre climb.

The trail is well marked, and no navigational experience is required.

Due to the way that hikes need to be booked, you are required to move on after each overnight stay to make room for the next groups of hikers. This means there are no opportunities for rest days.

  •  Experience

You don’t need to be an experienced hiker to enjoy this route, however you do need to have the stamina to put in a few full day hikes as it done in one trip.

Before you begin, makes sure you are fit enough to walk for several days in a row, carrying a backpack.

Most people of average fitness levels will be able to complete the track in peak season. If you want to walk outside of peak season, you do need to have more experience and skills because conditions are cold and wet.

  • Permits

You need a permit if you plan to stay in the DOC huts. 

  • Guided or Self-Guided

Milford Track can be hiked and both guided or self-guided. Each has its own benefits.

Walking as part of a guided hike means you have an expert on hand to tell you about the area, or deal with practical issues that may arise. Some people prefer walking as a group, to enjoy other people’s company along the way.

Another benefit of guided walks is that you only need to carry your supplies for the day with you, while the rest of your kit is transported to your next overnight accommodation.

Self-guided walks give you more freedom to explore at your own pace. Some hikers like to get away from it all and prefer to walk alone or with a partner.

best time to walk

Milford Track is open to hikers all year round. The peak season is from November to April, and temperatures are around 15-20°C.

In the winter months, conditions can be very cold and wet. There is often snow on the ground that can cover the signposts, and there is the possibility of avalanches. Huts are available, but with less facilities.

This area of New Zealand gets the most rainfall in the country. No matter what the season, you are likely to experience wet conditions. See it as part of the area’s charm!

When walking in peak season, reserving your place on the trail is essential. Spots for the huts fill quickly, and the track is likely to be fully booked well in advance.

If you don’t have a reservation, keep checking because there may be cancellations.

A typical itinerary would be:

Day 1:
Glade Wharf to Clinton Hut, 5 kilometres

Day 2:
Clinton Hut to Mintaro Hut, 16 kilometres

Day 3:
Mintaro Hut to Dumpling Hut, 14 kilometres

Day 4:
Dumpling Hut to Sandfly Point, 18 kilometres

Accommodation

The park huts are available as the only accommodation for self-guided hikers.

They are homely and have everything you need for an overnight stay. Booking in advance is essential.

There are no camping facilities along the trail.

The camping rules for any of New Zealand’s Great Walks, is that no camping is permitting within 500 metres of the track. Although officially, wild camping is not generally permitted.

Other accommodation includes lodges run by guiding companies.

What to do

Rudyard Kipling described Milford Sound as the ‘eighth wonder of the world’. As you walk the route, you can’t help being spellbound by the beauty of the valleys, mountains and lush rainforests.

This unspoilt landscape is home to a variety of wildlife, as well as mature trees, many plant species, mosses and lichens.

A side-trip to Sutherland Falls, New Zealand’s tallest waterfall, is well worth the effort.

Enjoy the views from Mackinnon Pass.

Bell Rock was shaped by Mackay Falls. It has been turned upside down to create a cavernous space over four metres high.

Lake Ada was created by a landslide across Arthur River.

If the weather is favourable, have a dip in one of the swimming holes near Clinton Hut.

After your hike, enjoy Te Anau’s numerous restaurants and accommodation.

There are also kayaking excursions available if you want to see more of the area and explore the fjords.

At a glance
Skills RequiredHiking
Difficulty 3/5
Starts at Milford Track, Fiordland National Park 9679, New Zealand
Finishes at Sandfly Bay, Milford Sound, NZ
Length of route 53 Km
Average time to complete 4 - 5 Days
Possible to complete sub-sectionsYes
Highest point 1140 metres
Permit requiredNo
Equipment neededfood supplies, hiking equipment, walking boots
Countries visited New Zealand