Humboldt Falls Track | A Hidden Gem Along Milford Road

Fiordland National Park is without a doubt one of the most magical and unique destinations in New Zealand, a rugged landscape filled with snow-capped peaks, plunging fiords and enchanting rainforests teeming with waterfalls. And one of the easiest waterfalls to access is the breathtaking Humboldt Falls.

Humboldt Falls is a 275 m tall waterfall that plummets from the slopes of the Serpentine Range near Milford Sound. An easy 20-minute walk leads you to a viewing platform encompassed by a verdant rainforest that looks across the deep gully to the 3-tiered waterfall.

On our recent trip to Milford Sound, we walked the Humboldt Falls Track after visiting Lake Marian and we’re entranced by the simple beauty of the plunging waterfall. It was the perfect addition to our day exploring the sights along Milford Road and in this post, we’ll provide all the information you need to add this quick waterfall walk to your Milford Sound itinerary.

Second Tier of the Humboldt Falls falling peacefully in winter

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What To Know About Walking The Humboldt Falls Track In Fiordland National Park

Quick Statistics For The Humboldt Falls Track

Distance
1.2 km return

Time
20 – 30 mins

Grade
Grade 2

Elevation Gain
42 m

Highest Elevation
129 m 

Entrance Fees
None

Facilities
Trailhead: Toilets, car park, shelter

Where Does The Humboldt Falls Track Start?

Humboldt Falls Track car park at the end of Hollyford Road

Tucked in between the Darren Mountains and the Serpentine Range, you’ll find the trailhead for the Humboldt Falls track at the end of Lower Hollyford Rd, beside the Hollyford River that snakes through the deep valley east of Milford Sound.

The trailhead is 1 hr 55 minutes north of Te Anau and 1 hr 25 minutes east of Milford Sound. The closest major town to Humboldt Falls is Queenstown, a 4-hour drive southeast.

Humboldt Falls trailhead begins beside a large car park with a drop toilet, an old shelter and a picnic table. This is also the starting point for the Hollyford Track, one of New Zealand’s Great Walks.

How To Get To The Humboldt Falls Trailhead

Humboldt Falls Walk Trailhead

Due to the lesser-known status of Humboldt Falls, it isn’t included in any of the Milford Sound tours that stop at other sights along Milford Road on their way to the main attraction. 

Furthermore, there are no public transport options to take you from Te Anau to Humboldt Falls, meaning the only way to experience the beauty of Humboldt Falls is to self-drive. If you require a hire car, we highly recommend checking out Rental Cars for the best deals. Or if you’d rather spend a few days camping in Milford Sound, then Jucy Rentals is your go-to.

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By Car

To Reach Humboldt Falls from Te Anau, simply head north out of town along Milford Sound Hwy (aka Milford Rd) and follow the stunning scenic drive for 87.5 km and roughly 1.5 – 2 hrs until you reach Marian’s Corner.

Turn right at Marian’s Corner onto Lower Hollyford Track and continue past the Lake Marian car park onto the unsealed road. You’ll follow the dirt road for 15 km until it ends at the Hollyford Track car park.

The dirt road is doable in a 2-wheel drive, however, when we drove it in May 2023, there were roadworks which made some sections quite slick. But the main concern was the passing trucks on the tight dirt road. It’s advised to take it slow and give way to the larger vehicles.

Who Is This Walk For?

The Humboldt Falls Track is an easy and short walk through lush rainforests filled with towering tree ferns, ending at a viewing platform that looks across a deep gully to one of New Zealand’s tallest waterfalls. 

It is the perfect addition to a day of exploring the many varying walks on Milford Road, especially during summer when you can cool off afterwards in the Hollyford River at the nearby Hollyford Swing Bridge.

Thanks to the wide groomed path and small elevation, the Humboldt Falls Walk is doable for most walkers and families. But due to its short duration, we do recommend including other sights or walks to make the 4-hour round trip from Te Anau worthwhile.

Walking the groomed path to Humboldt Falls in New Zealand

What To Pack For Humboldt Falls

The Humboldt Falls Track takes an average of 30 minutes to complete and keeps to a groomed path the entire time. Therefore, comfortable runners or trail runners are more than sufficient for this walk.

Best Time To Visit Humboldt Falls

While the Humboldt Falls Walk can be walked any time of the year, the best time to visit the plummeting waterfall is between December and January. These are the wettest months in Milford Sound and will provide you with the highest chance of seeing the waterfall at its grandest.

If you’re planning a trip to visit Milford Sound and the Humboldt Falls Track in winter, you may encounter ice or snow on the road and sometimes the road will be closed. Make sure you’re prepared for these conditions and check the road status before departing Te Anau during the winter months.

Humboldt Falls Lookout on the beautiful forest walk in Milford Sound

Best Time Of Day To Hike The Humboldt Falls Track

The Best time of day to visit Humboldt Falls is in the afternoon or near sunset. At this time, the sun will be behind you and will cast a beautiful light through the gully to illuminate the beautiful waterfall.

Humboldt Falls Track Notes

Ascending Through The Rainforest

Signposts will assist you in finding the beginning of the Humboldt Falls Track that leads into the dense rainforest on the eastern side of the Hollyford Track car park. From the moment you step onto the groomed path, you’re engulfed in a canopy of towering tree ferns and beech trees that accompany you the entire way.

Walking along the wide flat path on the Humboldt Falls Track surrounded by moss and tree ferns

The steepest section – which is still quite mellow – occurs within the first 100 m, allowing you to get it out of the way before enjoying the undulating trail that traverses deeper into the moss-covered rainforest.

The forest opens up slightly as you cross over a little stream that tumbles into the valley below, where a thousand shades of green blanket the slopes of the Serpentine Range and hide Humboldt Creek from view.

Humboldt Falls Lookout Platform

And finally, after 600 m and roughly 10 – 15 minutes, you’ll arrive at a small clearing with uninterrupted views across the lush rainforest to the 3-tiered Humboldt Falls.

Admiring Humboldt Falls

The three tiers of Humboldt Falls slide over moss-covered granite rock, crashing into deep plunge pools barely visible from your vantage point – save for the deeply carved basins hosting the pools.

Humboldt Falls from the Lookout near Milford Sound

The longest tier drops an impressive 134 m, with the total height of Humboldt Falls recorded at 275 m, making it New Zealand’s sixth tallest waterfall. Various faint tracks weave through the forest flanking the viewpoint, providing alternate perspectives to watch the plummeting waterfall.

Returning To The Trailhead

Unfortunately, we didn’t see any signs of a track leading down to the base of the Humboldt Falls. So once you’re finished admiring the magnificent waterfall, you’ll return the way you came and arrive back at your car approximately 10 minutes later.

Humboldt Falls Track Bridge over Humboldt Falls Creek

While this is a very short walk and a relatively long detour, if you have the time to spare and wish to explore a quieter part of Milford Sound, then we highly recommend including Humboldt Falls in your itinerary. 

We visited Humboldt Falls after hiking the Lake Marian Track and enjoyed the relaxed ending to our afternoon. If it had been warmer, we would have loved to finish off the day with a swim at the popular spot beside the Hollyford Swing Bridge – accessed by the same car park as Humboldt Falls.

Other Important Information For Visiting Humboldt Falls

Leave No Trace

Part of the Te Wāhipounamu – South West New Zealand UNESCO World Heritage Site, Fiordland National Park protects a precious part of the South Island which is home to many endemic flora and fauna species.

When you’re visiting Humboldt Falls – or any natural destination for that matter – please follow the 7 Leave No Trace Principles so that these incredible locations can continue to thrive.

It’s as simple as staying on the designated trail, using the toilets provided at the car park and keeping your rubbish with you (including food scraps and tissues) until you find a rubbish bin in Te Anau.

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Where To Stay Near Humboldt Falls

It is possible to visit Humboldt Falls on a jam-packed day trip from Queenstown but to truly immerse yourself in the beauty of Milford Sound, we suggest spending a couple of days in the area and basing yourself in Te Anau – the closest town to Humboldt Falls.

Te Anau has a wide variety of accommodation options, including hostels, caravan parks and luxury lodges overlooking the stunning lake. You also have the option to stay right in the heart of Milford Sound at the Milford Sound Lodge, however, be aware that there are no shops or facilities within the small tourist village.

Camping Near Humboldt Falls

The best way to experience Milford Sound is by staying at one of the many campsites along Milford Road. There are 10 to choose from, but the closest one to Humboldt Falls, and our favourite, is Cascade Creek Campground.

Cascade Creek Campground looking through the valley to snow capped mountains

If you’re planning to spend a few days exploring Milford Sound and other iconic destinations – such as Mt Cook – on your New Zealand road trip, we recommend purchasing a DOC campsite pass to save money on camping fees. This also allows you access to some of the best campsites in New Zealand!

Final Thoughts

While the Humboldt Falls Track is quite short and doesn’t make it into our list of the best walks in Milford Sound, it’s a great addition or alternative if you have extra time or the weather is too miserable to hike Key Summit or Lake Marian.

If possible, we suggest packing a pair of binoculars to view the falls – or a telephoto lens for your camera so you can snap that alluring compressed shot.

Have you visited Humboldt Falls? We’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below. And as always, if you have any additional questions about Humboldt Falls or Milford Sound in general, please feel free to reach out to us either via the comments, email or our Instagram account – @_trackslesstravelled.

Happy Hiking 🙂