Routeburn Track

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. These photos were taken over Christmas, I’ve also walked much of it in June if you’re interested in a wintry contrast.


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.

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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.

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The next section over the Harris Saddle was the best part of an already spectacular walk, past the majestic Harris Lake.

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I left my pack at the shelter to head up Conical Hill to gain more height and corresponding views.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Author: jontycrane

23 thoughts on “Routeburn Track

  1. I wanna cry out of jealous. This place is amazing! You captured it very well. I love it! 🙂

  2. Absolutely amazing photos 🙂 Wowwww.
    Does it make a difference if you start at the Routeburn Shelter vs the Divide? In terms of logistics (like where you park your car and easy shuttle bus access to the trailhead), scenery, and difficulty (trail elevation)?
    Thank you! I can’t tell you how helpful your blog is!!! And how lucky you are to live in New Zealand!!!!

    1. Thanks Christine, appreciated. I think I made a good decision moving here 😉 In terms of your questions…

      Logistics – there’s plenty of shuttle buses, I got one from Queenstown to the Routeburn Shelter, and then a bus back from The Divide to Te Anau, and then back to Queenstown. If you’ve got a car you could leave it at either end and there is a car relocation service, or use shuttle buses. In terms of security though you’re best to leave it in a town and get a shuttle bus to the track ends.

      Scenery – it’s spectacular either way, just take a look over your shoulder at times to see what is behind.

      Difficulty – it’s pretty similar, you’ve got to go up then down either way, though probably a little gentler coming from The Divide end.

      1. I’m really jealous and I live in Hawaii, which is not exactly a flop place haha :-).

        Thanks so much for all the helpful information! Glad to hear there are plenty of shuttle buses; I think we’ll probably be relying on that as we want to save on our car rental so we might just return the car when we get to Queenstown before doing the hike. I’m a huge LOTR nerd too so I’m dying thinking about all the things I’ll recognize from the movies! Seems like a lot of it was filmed on the South Island! YAY!!!

        You’re awesome, thank you again! Sorry I have so many questions!

  3. Pingback: Kinloch | jontynz
    1. It is wonderful, though will be significantly busier than the Aotea Track. As a Great Walk the huts book up months in advance. It can be done in one long day but missing the two side trips which are highlights of the track

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