My first and favourite Great Walk, the Routeburn Track is a 32km, 2-4 day walk through some of the finest scenery in New Zealand, and therefore probably the world. It has pretty much everything – snow capped mountains, huge waterfalls, beautiful lakes, thick forests and epic valleys.
Started from the Routeburn Shelter, half an hour from Glenorchy on a perfect December day, blue skies but cool, and endless daylight. Had 20km to go to Lake Mackenzie Hut, 1,000m uphill and 500m downhill.
Headed through the bush, across bridges spanning bubbling streams, to Routeburn Flats where the sand flies encouraged me to move swiftly onto tackling the ascent to Routeburn Falls.
The effort was rewarded with classic Routeburn views while eating my lunch from the comfort of the hut balcony.
I would have been happy staying there for the rest of the day, and most people do, but it was only midday so I pushed on past rainbow enhanced waterfalls just above the hut.
The next section over the Harris Saddle was the best part of an already spectacular walk, past the majestic Harris Lake.
I left my pack at the shelter to head up Conical Hill to gain more height and corresponding views.
Crossing the Harris Saddle I was greeted by the the jaw dropping sight of Lake Mackenzie at the bottom of the valley, and my home for the night, Lake Mackenzie Hut, on the edge of the crystal clear (if freezing cold) lake.
A forty minute return warm up walk in the morning took me to the unusual Split Rock, before continuing along the track by the 174m Earland Falls.
I just about had the energy for one final push for a side trip up Key Summit for beautiful alpine vegetation and mountain views before finishing at the Divide, an hour and a half from Te Anau, lined up for my next adventure on the Kepler Track.
Highlights: Views toward Humboldt Mountains and valley heading up to Routeburn Falls Hut, walking around Lake Harris, along Hollyford Face looking toward Darran Mountains, descent to Lake Mackenzie
Lowlights: Few sand flies at Lake Mackenzie, carrying all my non-tramping gear as I went from Queenstown to Te Anau – 20kg pack not recommended!
Route taken: One night, started at Routeburn Shelter (bus from Queenstown via Glenorchy), stayed at Lake Mackenzie Hut, finished at the Divide (bus onto Te Anau) – doable but long first day (20km plus up Conical Hill)
Tips: Leave your pack at the shelter before going up Conical Hill, don’t carry too much water as you can fill up from the fast flowing streams between Routeburn Falls and Lake Mackenzie Huts, take the 40 min side trip from Lake Mackenzie Hut to Split Rock before heading on