24 Walks In Milford Sound | Your Guide To Hiking On Milford Road

Milford Sound is a destination unlike any other you’ll find in New Zealand. Its unique volcanic and glacially carved landscape is filled with formidable peaks, deep glacially carved fiords and verdant rainforests littered with waterfalls. Thousands of visitors flock to the shores of Milford Sound each year, but to truly grasp the magnificence of this pocket of the Fiordland National Park, you must explore the many walks in Milford Sound.

The only problem you’ll have when you visit is deciding which walks in Milford Sound you should choose – but we’re here to help! We spent almost two weeks in Milford Sound, exploring as many of the hiking trails along Milford Road as possible, and have put together the ultimate guide to finding the best walks in Milford Sound for you!

In this post, we’ve compiled an eclectic list of walks to suit a wide range of skill levels, from short walks through magical beech forests to thrilling ascents over steep rock slabs. Plus, you’ll also find handy tips and information that are essential for your Milford Sound adventure.

Hiking to the summit of Conical Hill on the Routeburn track near Milford Sound

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Essential Information About Hiking In Milford Sound

Where Is Milford Sound?

Milford Sound is found on the southwest coast of New Zealand’s South Island, at the end of Milford Road – 117 km north of Te Anau. Milford Road is the only major road that winds through the expansive Fiordland National Park and you’ll find all of the Milford Sound walks we’ve listed along this scenic drive.

How To Get To The Walks In Milford Sound

Map of the walks in Milford Sound
Interactive map of the walks in Milford Sound

The best way to complete the walks in Milford Sound is by self-driving. Almost every hike on this list is accessible by car and doesn’t require any tours or boats. The only exception is the Great Walks – which need either a boat or a shuttle transfer.

Don’t Miss Jucy’s 50% discount on Crib hires from Queenstown

Our top recommendation for your trip to Milford Sound is to hire a campervan. You’ll find 10 campsites in Milford Sound that are scattered along Milford Road and offer the best access to the walking trails.

Best Time To Visit Milford Sound

Harris Saddle Emergency Shelter on the Routeburn Track in Milford Sound

The Fiordland National Park is subject to wild weather, with an endless amount of rain falling throughout the year and plenty of snowfall during winter. That said, there are positives and negatives to each season which we’ll summarise below.


For the easiest hiking conditions and the best chance of receiving good weather, we recommend planning your trip to Milford Sound in the summer. The only downside to hiking in summer is that this is by far the busiest time of year – so if you need to book accommodation near Milford Sound, we highly suggest doing it as far in advance as possible.


Our favourite time to visit Milford Sound is in autumn. After the Easter holidays, you’ll find far less crowded trails and you may even get to witness the tallest peaks covered in snow. However, you are more likely to find yourself hiking in bad weather and you might need to alter your plans if a snowstorm occurs.


Winter is a magical time to visit Milford Sound. You’ll witness the landscape engulfed in snow and encounter barely any crowds. But it does come with extra challenges – including the common occurrence of Milford Road being closed due to unsafe driving conditions.

Some of the more challenging hikes such as Gertrude Saddle and Conical Hill will require additional experience hiking in the snow, avalanche awareness and gear such as crampons and ice axes.


Spring can be hit or miss for hiking in Milford Sound. You can often be gifted with sensational weather, but you can also have the issue of high avalanche risk due to the warming temperatures and melting snow.

This mainly affects the more challenging trails, therefore it’s only an issue for those wishing to complete hikes such as Gertrude Saddle or Harris Saddle.

Here are a few resources to refer to if you plan to hike in Milford Sound in winter or spring.

How Many Days Should I Spend In Milford Sound?

Waterfall in Milford Sound accessed by a Milford Sound Cruise and Kayak Tour

While many visitors only plan one day for a Scenic Cruise in Milford Sound, we highly recommend allocating at least 3 – 5 days if you want to tick off some of the best walks in Milford Sound.

You can easily fit in the Milford Sound Cruise, the Milford Foreshore and Lookout tracks and The Chasm in one day. Then you’ll have 2 – 4 days left to complete the other must-do hikes in Milford Sound – the top two being Lake Marian and Gertrude Saddle.

Having said that, if you only have one or two days available to visit Milford Sound, you can take a look at our interactive map and find hikes that are nearby and short in order to cram as many as you can into your visit.

Fees and Bookings For The Great Walks And Backcountry Huts

Lake Mackenzie Hut during a snow storm
Lake Mackenzie Hut in the snow

The good news is that hiking in Milford Sound is free! The only cost that you will incur is if you plan an overnight hike to one of the backcountry huts, or you want to complete one of the Great Walks.

Outside of the Great Walks Season, which varies for each trail, you can book a single night at one of the huts. The most popular overnight hut hike is Lake Mackenzie, which runs on a first come first serve basis and payment is by purchasing a backcountry hut ticket from the DOC visitor centre in Te Anau.

Within the Great Walks Season, you must book the entire trail. These hikes often book out within the first few hours or days of the tickets being released, so you’ll need to plan ahead and keep an eye on the DOC website for the release date – which is usually around late winter.

Best Places To Stay While Hiking Along The Milford Road

Cascade Creek Campsite in Milford Sound
Cascade Creek Campsite

There is very minimal accommodation in Milford Sound or anywhere along Milford Road after Te Anau Downs. Our top recommendation is to camp at one of the many campsites in Milford Sound. However, we totally understand that this isn’t for everyone.

Below is a short list of the best places to stay near Milford Sound that are closest to the walking trails or offer the best rates.

24 Hikes and Walks In Milford Sound To Suit All Levels

Lake Marian Track

Time: 3 hrs
Distance: 7 km return
Grade: 3
Elevation Gain: 730 m
Trailhead: Lake Marian Trailhead Car Park

Standing on the banks of Lake Marian at sunset, our favourite short walk in Milford Sound

Hidden in the folds of the Darran Mountains, Lake Marian sits in a deep hanging valley surrounded by towering snow-capped peaks. The Lake Marian Track is arguably the most popular day walk in Milford Sound and it’s easy to see why.

The walk to Lake Marian ascends through an enchanting beech forest filled with green and gold moss that blankets the understory. You’ll pass by the sprawling Marian Falls which crashes between giant grey boulders before leaving the groomed trail and climbing over rocks and tree roots to reach Lake Marian.

Lake Marian on a clear sunny day with a perfect reflection of the surrounding mountains

We were blown away by the beauty of Lake Marian, framed by enormous mountains that plunge almost vertically to the emerald-coloured water. The best part is that the Lake Marian Track is only mildly challenging, making it enjoyable for intermediate to advanced hikers, while remaining attainable for enthusiastic beginners.

For more information on one of our favourite hikes in Milford Sound, take a look at our detailed guide for the Lake Marian Track.

The Chasm Walk

Time: 15 – 20 minutes
Distance: 800 m return
Grade: 1
Elevation Gain: Minimal
Trailhead: The Chasm Car Park

The Chasm flowing violently on a rainy day in Milford Sound

The Chasm is a collection of unique boulders and rock walls that create a whirling obstacle for the surging river to pass through. Mist shoots from the smoothly curved rocks, and the sound emanating from the cavernous gorge is thunderous.

The walk to The Chasm wanders through a vivid forest filled with ferns and giant beech trees draped in moss. Along the wide gravel path, you’ll cross over three flowing streams before arriving at the wild Chasm.

The Chasm Walk was closed for some time after the destruction of the bridge in a monstrous storm in 2020. It has recently re-opened partially and allows access to The Chasm – but you still can’t cross over the turbulent river.

Even though you can’t cross over the bridge, it’s well worth the quick 15 – 20-minute return walk to The Chasm on your way to Milford Sound.

Gertrude Saddle Route

Time: 4 – 6 hours
Distance: 8.2 km
Grade: 4 (Grade 5 in winter conditions)
Elevation Gain: 645 m
Trailhead: Gertrude Valley Car Park

Hiking along Gertrude Saddle in the snow at sunrise

Wedged between Mt Talbot and Barrier Knob, Gertrude Saddle offers incomparable panoramas of folded mountains plunging into deep glacially carved valleys. It is our absolute favourite hike in Milford Sound, with arguably the best view and the most exciting ascent – but it’s certainly not for the faint of heart!

The hike to Gertrude Saddle weaves through a sprawling boulder-strewn valley with enormous granite mountains soaring vertically on either side. You’ll reach a waterfall after 3 km and from there, the trail gets tricky. You’ll encounter steep rock slabs and exposed traverses on your way to Gertrude Saddle, including some chains to assist in the hairiest sections.

Gertrude Saddle covered in snow, the best walk in Milford Sound

Gertrude Saddle is most definitely one for the adventurous, offering a healthy dose of challenge even in good weather. But if you’re an intermediate to advanced hiker looking for a fun ascent followed by mind-blowing views, then this is the hike for you!

Note: It’s not advised to hike to Gertrude Saddle in snow, rain or wind as it becomes increasingly difficult and dangerous. Avalanches can be a hazard after a snowstorm and icy rocks can be treacherous. We suggest only attempting to walk further than the waterfall in these conditions if you have the correct gear and experience.

Humboldt Falls

Time: 20 – 30 minutes
Distance: 1.2 km return
Grade: 2
Elevation Gain: 42 m
Trailhead: Hollyford Track Car Park

Humboldt Falls plumeting down the massive rock face

Found at the end of Hollyford Road, Humboldt Falls is a three-tiered waterfall that plummets 275 m from the steep slopes of the Serpentine Mountain Range. It’s one of the most easily accessible waterfalls in Milford Sound and offers a perfect addition to a day exploring Lake Marian, which is located 15 km south on the same road.

The Humboldt Falls walk follows a wide gravel path through the vibrant forested foothills of the Serpentine Range, arriving at a viewing platform roughly 10 – 20 minutes later. The viewing platform looks out across the deep gully to the plunging waterfall on the far slopes.

Key Summit Track

Time: 3 hours
Distance: 8 km return
Grade: 2
Elevation Gain: 422 m
Trailhead: The Divide Shelter

Sunrise at Key Summit on an overcast day in Milford Sound, New Zealand

The Key Summit Track is our favourite hike in Milford Sound for an easy sunrise mission. From the vast peak, you’re afforded sensational panoramic views of the mighty snow-dusted peaks that rise from the Darran and Humboldt Mountain Ranges.

You’ll begin the walk to Key Summit via the Routeburn Track, turning off to the Key Summit Track after roughly 45 – 60 minutes. The entire walk consists of a wide gravel path, with long switchbacks to assist in the steepest sections.

Once you reach the expansive summit, you can continue on the Nature Loop. The short unruly figure eight circuit takes you past a picturesque tarn, through alpine fields and allows you to look down upon Lake Marian from the southernmost point of the track.

Find out everything you need to know about this stunning and accessible Milford Sound walk in our ultimate guide for the Key Summit Track.

Lake Mackenzie – Routeburn Track Day Hike

Time: 8 – 10 hours (or 2 days)
Distance: 22.9 km return
Grade: 3
Elevation Gain: 645 m
Trailhead: The Divide Shelter

Hiking the Routeburn Track to Lake Mackenzie, a great walk in Milford Sound

Hiking the full Routeburn Track may not be feasible for every traveller, but a day hike out to Lake Mackenzie and back is an incredible way to get a taste of what the Great Walk has to offer – without the logistics or the hefty price!

There’s no denying this is a big day, you’ll walk a total of 22.9 km over roughly 8 – 10 hours. But the vistas along the way and a chance to swim in Lake Mackenzie – or at least admire the magnificence of the jade-coloured alpine lake – is a thousand times worth the effort.

The walk itself covers 645 m in elevation on a mostly well-formed track. You’ll traverse through vibrant moss-stained beech forests, pass the thundering Earland Falls, witness the monstrous snow-capped peaks of the mighty Darran Mountain Range, and finally arrive at the banks of the magical jade-coloured Lake Mackenzie roughly 4 hours later.

Lake Mackenzie on a beautiful sunny day surrounded by snow capped mountains

We highly recommend beginning your hike early in the morning to allow yourself enough time to enjoy Lake Mackenzie. There are plenty of pristine locations for a picnic lunch and a swim – our favourite swimming spot is near Split Rock, 800 m from Lake Mackenzie Hut.

Alternatively, if you’re planning to visit Milford Sound between the 1st of May and the 31st of October, you can book one night at Lake Mackenzie Hut for a heavily discounted off-season price.

Mirror Lakes Walk

Time: 5 -10 minutes
Distance: 300 m return
Grade: 1
Elevation Gain: Minimal
Trailhead: Mirror Lakes Car Park

Mirror Lakes on Milford Road perfect reflection on a moody day

A drive along Milford Road isn’t complete without a quick stop off at the iconic Mirror Lakes. On a calm and clear day, these perfectly positioned lakes provide a mesmerising reflection of the towering Earl Mountains beyond.

This easy 5-minute loop is part of most of the tour buses’ itineraries, but they don’t often stay for very long. We suggest waiting for them to leave before making your way to the lakes so that you can enjoy the view in peace.

Pro Tip: While there’s no denying that the Mirror Lakes are beautiful, a better view – in our opinion – can be found a little further along the road at a small gravel pull-out overlooking Gunn Lake.

Harris Saddle and Conical Hill Via The Deadmans Track – Routeburn Track Day Hike

Time: 7 – 9 hours
Distance: 14 km return
Grade: 4 (route finding using markers)
Elevation Gain: 1,404 m
Trailhead: Deadmans Track Trailhead

Lake Harris from Harris Saddle along the Routeburn Track in New Zealand

Get ready for a full day of adventure with this epic day hike in Milford Sound that will test your fitness and your navigation skills – but will reward you with a grand sense of achievement and some of the most incredible views in the Fiordland National Park.

After missing out on climbing Conical Hill due to avalanche risk on our overnight hike to Lake Mackenzie, we decided to tackle the alternative Deadmans Track a few days later. This seldom-walked trail climbs steeply through an overgrown forest, eventually meeting up with the Routeburn Track 4.2 km and 986 m of elevation gain later

Standing on the summit of Conical Hill overlooking Lake Harris and the Routeburn Track in Milford Sound

A further 15 minutes north on the Routeburn Track will lead you to Harris Saddle, where you can eat lunch overlooking Lake Harris before ascending the trail to Conical Hill. The 360-degree panoramic views you’ll receive once you reach the 1,515 m peak will make you instantly forget your tired legs.

Milford Sound Foreshore Walk

Time: 10 minutes
Distance: 400 m loop
Grade: 1
Elevation Gain: Minimal
Trailhead: Milford Foreshore Walk (Park for free at Deepwater Basin)

Standing at the edge of the Milford Sound Foreshore Walk in Milford Sound

While a Milford Sound Cruise is the best way to experience the magical fiord, we highly recommend taking a walk around the Milford Sound Foreshore either before or after your cruise as well. This allows you to take in the magical landscape from a new perspective and immerse yourself in the verdant forests flanking the shore. 

The best way to complete the Milford Sound Foreshore Walk is to park for free at Deepwater Basin and walk along the Forest Trail – which follows alongside Milford Rd – towards the start of the Foreshore Walk. This will add roughly 10 minutes to your walk but along with gaining extra forest time, it will save you paying $10 an hour for parking!

Famous Swing on the Milford Sound Foreshore walk, a popular short walk in Milford Sound

While you’re wandering along the boardwalks on the Milford Sound Foreshore Walk, keep an eye out for the iconic Milford Sound Swing located just after the bridge and before the loop begins. You’ll find it on the sandy beach to the right of the boardwalk. The easiest way to get there is to follow the banks of the inlet after the bridge.

Milford Sound Lookout Track

Time: 20 minutes
Distance: 400 m return
Grade: 2
Elevation Gain: 40 m
Trailhead: Milford Sound Information Centre and Cafe

Sunset over Milford SOund from the Milford Sound Lookout Track

For a birds-eye view of the deep glacially carved fiord, follow the short Milford Sound Lookout Track that starts behind the Milford Sound Cafe. You’ll briefly climb through the moss-stained forest to a viewpoint that offers sensational vistas over Milford Sound.

The Milford Sound Lookout Track is the perfect place to watch the sunset over Mitre Peak and chances are, you’ll have this spot all to yourself at this time of night!

When we did the Milford Sound Lookout Track, we found it a little confusing to find the trailhead. You will need to walk through the staff car park behind the Milford Sound Information Centre and Cafe and follow the signs to Donald Sutherland’s Grave. You’ll pass two brown buildings to the south before reaching a path that leads into the forest flanking the village. 

You can use Alltrails to ensure you’re going the right way – or ask the staff in the cafe to point you in the right direction.

Tutoko Valley Route

Time: 4 – 5 hrs
Distance: 10 km return
Grade: 4 (route finding using markers)
Elevation Gain: 220 m
Trailhead: Tutoko River Bridge

Tutoko Valley Route, a lesser known walk in Milford Sound

If you want to leave the crowds behind and immerse yourself in the rugged rainforests of Milford Sound, then this is the walk for you!

The Tutoko Valley Route begins beside the Tutoko River and weaves through the vibrantly wild rainforest the Fiordland is famous for. Along a rough track, you’ll hop across several streams and creeks, navigate over fallen trees and squeeze through unruly ferns threatening to take over.

This is certainly not a well-tracked hike, yet you’ll find plenty of orange markers that keep you on the right course. But we do highly recommend wearing waterproof boots and rain pants as you’re practically guaranteed to get wet.

When we did the Tutoko Valley Route, we only had time to complete half of it. We walked 2.5 km into the rainforest and then returned without any clear views of the surrounding peaks. However, if you continue for another 2.5 km, you’ll arrive at a clearing on the banks of the Tutoko River that allows you to gaze up at the monstrous mountains – including Mt Tutoko, the tallest mountain in Fiordland National Park.

Falls Creek Route

Time: 6.5 – 8 hours
Distance: 10 km return
Grade: 4/5 (no track or markers after 4.5 km mark)
Elevation Gain: 500 m
Trailhead: Christie Falls Car Park

Admiring the massive snow capped mountains at the end of the Falls Creek Route in Milford Sound

The Falls Creek Route is a rough and rugged tramp that will make you crawl through fallen trees, trudge through streams and mud, and fight with the tangled mess of ferns and branches infiltrating the barely existent trail. 

But once you finally pop out of the forest and make your way to the banks of Falls Creek, you’ll find yourself in an enormous glacially carved valley enclosed by towering snow-capped mountains. And we can almost guarantee you’ll be the only one in the monstrous valley.

We have mixed feelings about the Falls Creek Route, as there’s no denying it’s a slog to reach the valley. But even so, it deserves a place on this list – if only for the incredible Falls Creek Falls which is without a doubt the best waterfall we’ve seen in Milford Sound.

Falls Creek Falls, an impressive waterfall along Milford Rd

If you’re seeking an uncrowded and off-track challenge, the Fall Creek Route is the hike for you! But at the very least, we highly recommend walking 500 m of the trail to the base of the Falls Creek Waterfall – which only takes roughly 30 minutes return.

Lake Mistletoe Track

Time: 30 – 40 minutes
Distance: 1.6 km loop
Grade: 2
Elevation Gain: Minimal
Trailhead: Lake Mistletoe Car Park

Lake Mistletoe, a short walk near Milford Sound and Te Anau

The Lake Mistletoe Circuit takes you to a peaceful lake before leading you along a forest trail hidden beneath beech trees and celery top pines. The thriving understory is full of fungi and moss, providing a fun nature walk for kids or fungi lovers.

You can simply walk to the viewpoint of Lake Mistletoe and return within 15 minutes, however, the trail after the lake offers the most beauty and will only add an extra 15-minutes to your walk.

Eglinton River Walkwire

Time: 30 – 45 minutes
Distance: 1.2 km return
Grade: 2/3 – some exposed tree roots to navigate
Elevation Gain: Minimal
Trailhead: Earl Mountains Tracks Car Park

Crossing the Eglinton River Walkwire

If you’ve got time for one last short walk in Milford Sound, we recommend wandering along the spongy forest trail that leads from the Earl Mountains Tracks Car Park to the banks of the Eglinton River. Here, you’ll find a v-shaped bridge constructed of three thick wires – one for your feet and two for your hands – that crosses the ice-blue water.

We had an entertaining time walking across the wobbly walkwire, which makes you feel as if you’re attempting a tightrope! Two hikes lead from this point – the Mistake Creek Track and the Hut Creek Track – which offer an uncrowded and rugged adventure for experienced hikers. You’ll find more information on these two hikes below.

Other Hikes In Milford Sound On Our Bucket List

Even though we’ve spent over a week exploring the many hiking trails found along Milford Road, there are still a few on our bucket list that we didn’t get time to tick off. Some are well-known but others we only discovered after some lengthy investigation.

So to save you the trouble of conducting your own extensive research, here is the list of the remaining hikes in Milford Sound we have yet to complete.

Dore Pass Route

Time: 6 – 8 hours
Distance: 10.3 km one-way to Glade House on the Milford Track
Grade: 5
Elevation Gain: 1,135 m
Trailhead: Dore Pass Trailhead

The Dore Pass Route was at the top of our list of hikes in Milford Sound we wanted to complete. But unfortunately, the spring snow conditions we experienced made it too dangerous.

This route is for highly experienced hikers, with a majority of it being off-track and extremely steep and exposed. But on a calm and clear day, you’re afforded sensation views into the Clinton Valley and a grand sense of achievement.

You can either hike up to the pass and return, or you can walk down to the Milford Track in the Clinton Valley. This hike is a great alternative to catching a boat across Lake Te Anau to start the Milford Track, but you can also camp at Clinton Hut outside of the Great Walk season and return the way you came.

Moraine Creek Route

Time: 2 days (8 – 10 hrs one way)
Distance: 5.5 km to Tent Flat – unknown from there
Grade: 5
Elevation Gain: Unknown
Trailhead: Moraine Creek Swing Bridge

Hiking accross the swing bridge at the beginning of the Moraine Creek Route in Milford Sound
Swing bridge at the start of the Moraine Creek Route

The Moraine Creek Route was another that was high on our bucket list, but again, the avalanche risk was too high in the valley to complete it on our last trip to Milford Sound.

Beginning from Hollyford Road, the Moraine Creek Route loosely follows the banks of Moraine Creek into a deep glacial basin where you’ll find Lake Adelaide. There is a marked route until Tent Flat – roughly 5 km in – but after that, you will have to rely on off-track navigation.

Most hikers complete the Moraine Creek Route in either 2 – 3 days, camping near Lake Adelaide. You can expect to encounter lots of mud, overgrown unruly forests, giant boulders and steep rugged ascents on this challenging hike in Milford Sound.

Hidden Falls Track

Time: 4 – 6 hours
Distance: 18 km return
Grade: 3
Elevation Gain: 247 m
Trailhead: Hollyford Track Car Park

Humboldt Falls Track car park at the end of Hollyford Road

If you’re a lover of waterfalls and dense rainforests – and don’t mind covering a decent amount of km’s in a day – you may be interested in the Hidden Falls Track. Hidden Falls is found along the Hollyford Track, near the first backcountry hut of the 4 – 5 day walk.

This easy walk keeps to the valley floor, making it a good choice if the mountains are cloaked in a sea of white mist.

Grave Talbot Route

Time: 4 – 5 hours for Esperance Valley return, 8 – 10 hours (or 2 days) for De Lambert Falls return
Distance: 7 km return to the head of Esperance Valley – approx. 12 km return from De Lambert Falls
Grade: 5 (grade 4 to the head of Esperance Valley)
Elevation Gain: Roughly 766 m
Trailhead: Gulliver River Bridge

The Grave Talbot Route only entered our minds after driving past the Gulliver River Bridge and finding a sign and a skinny track leading into the bush. I can find very little information about this track, but from what I can gather – it is one that we will thoroughly enjoy.

My basic understanding is that you’ll wander through dense rainforests on a boggy and overgrown trail – much like that of the Tutoko Valley Route – until reaching the head of the Esperance Valley. From here, off-track navigation is necessary to follow dried-up river beds to the head of Esperance Valley, where you’ll find De Lambert Falls which cascades beneath Mt Isolation.

It seems there is plenty of prime real estate to pitch a tent in the Esperance Valley if you want to make this trek an overnighter. 

Milford Track

Time: 4 days
Distance: 53.5 km one-way
Grade: 3
Elevation Gain: 1,960 m
Trailhead: Te Anau Downs Boat Launch

The Milford Track is arguably the most famous Great Walk in New Zealand and it’s easy to see why once you begin to wander through the monstrous mountain ranges that rise between Lake Te Anau and Milford Sound.

We aren’t very big fans of large crowds on our hiking trips so we are planning to do this trek outside of the Great Walks season – when it is much more affordable. However, this does require a little extra gear, planning and skills for hiking in extreme weather conditions.

The Milford Track also requires a boat transfer at the start and the end, and a shuttle back to your car in Te Anau Downs.

Routeburn Track

Time: 2 – 4 days
Distance: 33 km one-way
Grade: 3
Elevation Gain: 1,487 m
Trailhead: The Divide Shelter – or – Routeburn Shelter

Hiking in the snow from Lake Mackenzie Hut to Harris Saddle on the Routeburn Track

We had the pleasure of completing parts of the Routeburn Track on our recent trip to Milford Sound and let me just tell you – the hype is real!

The Routeburn Track can be walked in either direction, starting or ending at The Divide Shelter on Milford Road and The Routeburn Shelter in Glenorchy. The logistics for this hike require you to catch a shuttle or do a car-shuffle for the 4.5 hr drive between to two locations.

Difficult logistics aside, this walk crosses majestic mountain passes and skirts around stunning alpine lakes, with breathtaking vistas of the surrounding rugged peaks. If you don’t want to deal with the logistics, you can hike to Lake Mackenzie as a day trip – or stay overnight outside of the Great Walk season. You can also take on the day hike to Harris Saddle and Conical Hill via the Deadmans Track.

Hollyford Track

Time: 4 – 5 days
Distance: 56 km one-way
Grade: 3
Elevation Gain: 1,352 m
Trailhead: Hollyford Track Car Park

The Hollyford Track is a fantastic alternative to the Great Walks in summer, but it’s also a good option for winter as there are no alpine sections. This track begins on the Hollyford River and wanders through lush rainforests with views of the mighty Darran Mountains that flank the river.

You’ll end your journey at Martins Bay and the easiest way to return is by helicopter or a fixed-wing plane. You can find packages that include a shuttle from Te Anau with Track Net.

Hut Creek Track

Time: 4 – 6 hours
Distance: 6 km return
Grade: 4
Elevation Gain: 290 m
Trailhead: Earl Mountains Tracks Car Park

Beginning of the Hut Creek Track in Milford Sound

The Hut Creek Track begins by crossing the Eglinton Flats before heading into the densely forested Earl Mountains along the Hut Creek Valley. You’ll mostly be wandering through an overgrown and boggy forest for the majority of the walk, but once you reach the open river flats, you’re afforded stunning views of the imposing mountain peaks.

Mistake Creek Track

Time: 5 – 7 hrs
Distance: 10 km return
Grade: 4
Elevation Gain: 297 m
Trailhead: Earl Mountains Tracks Car Park

Hiking at the start of the Mistake Creek Track in Milford Sound

The Mistake Creek Track begins in the same location as Hut Creek. But after crossing the walkwire that offers a dry passage over the Eglinton River, you’ll take the right track and follow Mistake Creek into the open flats beneath Triangle Peak.

This track is very similar to Hut Creek and will lead you through overgrown forests with plenty of roots, rocks, streams and mud. We are assuming that these two trails will be very similar to the Falls Creek Route and expect that you’ll be relying on following markers rather than a well-trodden path.

U Pass Route

Time: 10 – 13 hrs (or 2 days)
Distance: 17.3 km circuit
Grade: 5
Elevation Gain: Unknown
Trailhead: Earl Mountains Tracks Car Park

For the highly experienced hikers, you can join the Hut Creek Track and Mistake Creek Track together by summiting U Pass. This scree-filled pass sits between Triangle Peak and another unnamed peak along the bony Earl Mountains ridgeline.

Again, there is very little information about the U Pass Route. But you can expect to be route-finding without markers between the Mistake Creek and Hut Creek Tracks – which both end once you enter the flats.

Final Thoughts

Wow, this ended up being a much larger list of walks in Milford Sound than we anticipated! It’s crazy what a little digging can do, and how many incredible trails there are to explore when you leave the beaten path!

We will leave you with one last word of advice – some of the hikes listed here require a high level of experience in off-track navigation, snow and avalanche terrain, and steep mountain passes. Make sure you choose trails to suit your level of experience and please feel free to reach out if you are unsure about any hikes listed in this guide.

Happy Hiking 🙂