Walking the Milford Track


Four days of tramping! Hah! I still get a kick out of that (‘tramping’); it sounds so much dirtier then just going hiking. Anyways, the Milford track is NZ’s most famous trail, and has been called the “finest walk in the world.” I would have to agree that it was spectacular. At 33.5 miles (53.5Km) it starts at the end of one of Lake Te Anau’s arms, winds up the Clinton Valley along the river’s edge, steeply climbs the Mackinnon Pass, and descends even steeper into the Aurther Valley, following the river again through the valley to an end in the Milford Sound.  The first day is super easy with a nice boat ride, and then only 5km walk through Beech Forest to the Clinton Hut.

Day 1 – Lake Te Anau to Clinton Hut


Where it all started! A 1.5hr boat ride on Lake Te Anau - a very calming way to start the journey

Clinton Valley from a side trail to a bog

Clinton Valley from a side trail to a bog

I didn’t take many pictures on the first day because I forgot to charge my camera! WHOOPS! It was like having a film camera for the whole track – flashback!

Day 2 – Clinton Hut to Mintaro Hut

Another fairly easy walk, but quite a bit longer. I woke up early and decided to get a move on because the weather report called for rain. It was a steady and slow climb up a few hundred vertical meters over the 16.5Km. It’s the start of the season, so a lot of the track is still raw from the winter’s avalanches. There were quite a few rock fall areas too. Apparently, the Fiordland area grows vertically the same amount as our fingernails in one year, but due to all the erosion from rockfalls, snow, etc the seismic action doesn’t add any height to the peaks.

I made it to the Mintaro Hut just as it started to pour! Luckily I had managed to get through day 2 and remain mostly dry!

Day 3 – Mintaro Hut to Dumpling Hut via Mackinnon Pass

pass 2

View upon reaching the Mackinnon Pass

This is the grueling day. Mintaro Hut lies right at the base of the Pass, so it’s a 1.5hr – 2hr hike up 1000m, and then straight back down on the other side. It was a foggy and rainy morning, and as we got higher up the mountain the rain turned to snow.

There were a lot of Keas, a sort of alpine parrot, as we climbed higher. They’re very beautiful with green and red feathers, but they’re also a pain in the but. They’re super smart, and like to play tricks on hikers… I got through the pass unscathed, but one guy lost his camera!

The Pass is where the really beautiful views of the Clinton and Arthur Valleys are from. I was disappointed not to get to see them because of the crappy weather, but then it all changed! It’s so true how weather can turn so quickly when you’re that high in the mountains.

pass 1

This memorial was built for Quintin Mackinnon who was one of the founders and first guides of the Milford Track... my camera has acted up since it had a bath so sometimes pictures are fuzzy. I like how old school this one looks with the sepia though. Oh - that bird on top of the memorial is a Kea.

pass 3

Wahoo! Made it to the highest point - fingers crossed the knees hold out for the way down

pass 4

I didn't have much hope that the fog was going to clear while we were on the pass, but then all of a sudden the sun and blue sky started to appear!

pass 6

And the fog lifts revealing the stunning Clinton Valley

pass 7

Ten seconds later this picture was taken - already getting socked in again!

pass 5

The view from the window in the long drop at the Pass Hut - must be the outhouse with the best view in the world


These lovely little flowers were poking out of the snowy slopes as we descended into the Arthur Valley

water fall

Cascading waterfalls along the trail

Sutherland Falls

Sutherland Falls - the highest waterfall in NZ at 580m. You may remember that I claimed this for the Browne Falls in the Doubtful Sound too. It's disputed which is higher because Browne hasn't had it's height officially recorded.

Day 3 – Dumpling Hut to Milford Sound

Last day on the track! A gentle (thank goodness!) descent from Dumpling Hut down the Arther Valley all the way to the river mouth at Milford Sound.

Te Anau gets about 2m of rain fall a year… Milford Sound gets about 8m. Every day you’re on the Milford Track increases the likelihood that you are going to get very very wet. It was a rainy morning, but actually started to lift mid morning.

It’s a funny thing down here, they tend to call streams ‘trails’ instead. I don’t know about you, but I’d just prefer if they were honest about it – you’re going to walk most of the Milford Track along stream beds. It’s hard to hold a grudge about wet feet when there is so much beauty to look at.

stream 1

Pop Quiz: Stream or trail??

stream 2

If you guessed stream for the last one, you're wrong. These are both 'trails'

stream 3

At this point, why bother putting in that green bridge?

water fal 2

Water falls like this make up for having wet feet

beech forest

Beautiful Beech forest dripping with moss and lichen - the lower reaches of the Clinton and Arthur Valleys


I made it! It looks like I'm about to pass out....

milford sound

Cute little boat to pick us up at the end of the track and transport us to Milford Sound "town"

Bowen falls

We passed BOWEN FALLS on the way to Milford! It was pumpin'!

milford 2

Made it to Milford - stunning once again





Filed under Travel

3 responses to “Walking the Milford Track

  1. Jerry

    Great photos! Thanks for sharing. We’re headed there in December. Any suggestions on rain gear?

    • urbanwren

      Yes – bring lots! Breathable waterproof jacket and pants are great because you get hot walking. Realistically everything you wear gets wet when it rains because you’re sweating so much from the inside underneath the waterproof stuff. If you can waterproof your boots – awesome! A big garbage bag on the inside of your pack, and a rain cover on the outside = everything stays dry. Have fun! Maybe you’ll get lucky and get some sunshine!

  2. yogini

    how much winter clothes do you need long johns and mid weight jacket or full winter coat? Will also be going in November.

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