Milford Track

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Published: April 10, 2015

Milford Track

Description

View a description of the Milford Track during the Great Walks season, including distances, estimated walking times, and optional side trips.

What to expect

Great Walks tracks are well formed, with bridges and viewpoints. Photo copyright: Neil Hunt. DOC USE ONLY.
Great Walks tracks are well formed, with bridges and viewpoints

Great Walk tracks are of a higher standard than most other tracks so are well formed and easy to follow. The tracks are usually quite wide depending on the terrain – some fit two people walking side by side in flat areas.

The surface is usually gravel, rock or dirt, and like any track can get slippery in wet weather.

Most rivers and waterways on these tracks have sturdy bridges. Occasionally there are also small streams that cross the track but are usually easy enough to step across safely. Be aware that in wet weather rivers can rise very quickly and flood the tracks – especially on the Milford Track.

There are hill climbs where the track becomes steeper, which is all the better for views.

What to expect outside of the Great Walks season

Detailed description

The Milford Track (53.5 km) starts at Glade Wharf (at the head of Lake Te Anau, access from Te Anau Downs, 27 km from Te Anau). It finishes at Sandfly Point in Milford Sound. The track may only be walked in one direction and takes 4 days to complete, with each night spent at a pre-booked hut.

Track profile

This map shows the Milford Track from where it starts at the head of Lake Te Anau, to the end at Sandfly Point in Milford Sound. The hill profile image below gives you an idea of the steepness of the track at each stage.

map

View a larger version of the Milford Track profile map (PDF, 90K) (opens in new window)

Places to stay

You can stay in three comfortable, well-equipped DOC huts on the Milford Track – Clinton Hut, Mintaro Hut and Dumpling Hut. Eat a hot meal and enjoy a chat with your friends, family and the friendly hut warden.

Sorry, but there is no camping allowed on the Milford Track.

During the summer season (November to April) the hut facilities include:
  • Plenty of bunks with mattresses (40) in a communal sleeping layout.
  • Water supply, flushing toilets, wash basins with cold running water (but no showers).
  • Heating with fuel available, and usually solar lighting in the main area.
  • Cooking facilities with fuel, tables and seating (but no cooking utensils).
  • A friendly conservation ranger – they like to chat, they know the area well and can tell you about the environment and weather, or help out should an emergency arise.
During the winter season (May to October) the hut facilities are reduced:
  • Gas is not provided – you will need to bring your own cooking stove.
  • Flush toilets are replaced with pit toilets.
  • Running water is turned off inside the huts. Water can be obtained from the outside water tank, if this is frozen, then from the nearest water course or by melting snow.
  • There are no conservation rangers based at the huts.
  • Beds are on a first come basis only

Day 1 – Glade Wharf to Clinton Hut

Great Walker on the 'finest walk in the world'. Photo copyright: Valerie & Jocelyn Corniche. DOC USE ONLY.
Great Walker on the ‘finest walk in the world’

1–1 hr 30 min, 5 km

Make your way to the wharf at Te Anau Downs (25 km from Te Anau), where the boat to the start of the track departs. After a 1 hour 15 minutes cruise across the lake, there is an easy 1 km walk to Glade House, the first overnight stop for guided walkers.

Just past Glade House is the first and largest of several suspension bridges encountered on your walk. The well graded track continues for approximately an hour, through attractive beech forest along the banks of the beautiful Clinton River.

Clinton Hut is reached just before the 3 mile marker. There are good swimming holes near the hut.

To fish the Clinton River, you require a full fishing license and clean gear certificate. These are available prior to departure at the Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre.

Clinton Hut, Milford Track. Photo copyright: Daniel Pietzsc. DOC USE ONLY.

Clinton Hut

Category: Great Walk
Facilities: 40 bunk beds, cooking, heating, lighting, mattresses
Bookings required
Side trip – Wetland Walkway

15 min return

A short side track to the wetland area is signposted 10 minutes before Clinton Hut. Guided walks with the DOC ranger may be available during the late afternoon.

Day 2 – Clinton Hut to Mintaro Hut

Wonderful water on the Milford Track. Photo copyright: Archit Patel. DOC USE ONLY.
Wonderful water on the Milford Track

6 hr, 16.5 km

It’s a gradual climb from Clinton Hut as the track follows the Clinton River to its source, Lake Mintaro, at the base of Mackinnon Pass. After an hour you arrive at Clinton Forks where there is a view of the north branch of the Clinton River. A toilet is also located here.

Between the 5 and 6 mile markers you cross a large open area formed by a landslide, which occurred in 1982. This created a small lake, known as ‘Dead Lake’ because of the dead beech trees seen here. Between here and Hirere Falls (about 20 minutes) the track can be prone to flooding during heavy rain. There is a toilet just before the Hirere Falls guided walk shelter.

Soon you’ll get your first view of the Mackinnon Pass and the impressive Pompolona ice field. Cross the open ‘prairie’ area and climb a small hill to the Bus Stop shelter just before Marlene’s Creek. This shelter can be used during heavy rain if the bridge over Marlene’s Creek is impassable. There is a toilet located after the creek.

After passing the turnoff to the Pompolona guided walks hut, there is a short climb before descending to a swingbridge. It is approximately 1 hour 30 minutes from here to Mintaro Hut. You will notice the vegetation starting to change, reflecting the higher altitude and heavier rainfall.

Mintaro Hut kitchen, Milford Track.

Mintaro Hut

Category: Great Walk
Facilities: 40 bunk beds, cooking, heating, lighting, mattresses
Bookings required

Day 3 – Mintaro Hut to Dumpling Hut

Milford Track weaving under a fuchsia tree. Photo copyright: Louis Vest. DOC USE ONLY.
Milford Track weaving under a fuchsia tree

6–7 hr, 14 km

From Mintaro Hut there is a well-graded, zigzag climb of about 2 hours to the Mackinnon Memorial. On the way there are excellent views of Lake Mintaro and the Clinton Valley. A takes a further 20 minutes to reach the Pass Day Shelter from the memorial, crossing the highest point on the track at 1,154 m. The shelter is supplied with a gas-cooker during summer and has the toilet with the best view in Fiordland!

The 8 km walk from the Mackinnon Pass to Dumpling Hut provides spectacular views, dropping 970 m steadily over rocky, uneven terrain. The track crosses beneath Mt Balloon and the Jervois Glacier to the Moraine Creek Bridge. During times of extreme weather conditions, walkers may be directed down a steep emergency track, which will require extra care and time.

Shortly after the Moraine Creek Bridge, the track passes the 18 mile marker. It then follows a boardwalk and staircase beside the Roaring Burn River, with its numerous waterfalls. The Robert Allen Shelter and a toilet are located near Dudleigh Falls and the 19 mile marker.

A set of zigzags leads to the bottom of the pass and Quintin Shelter, where there is also a toilet. Here a side track leads to the magnificent Sutherland Falls. There is an excellent view of Sutherland Falls about 20 minutes past the junction, along the main track to Dumpling Hut. Just before reaching the hut, there is a raised boardwalk – a great place to see glow worms after dark.

Dumpling Hut, Milford Track.

Dumpling Hut

Category: Great Walk
Facilities: 40 bunk beds, cooking, heating, lighting, mattresses
Bookings required
Side trip – Sutherland Falls

1 hr 30 min return

The side trip to Sutherland Falls is a definite highlight that is highly recommended and well worth the effort. Leave your pack at the shelter (but take your raincoat as the power of the falls generates a lot of spray) and follow the track to the falls. The impressive falls drop 580 m (904 feet) in three leaps from Lake Quill.

Day 4 – Dumpling Hut to Sandfly Point

5 hr 30 min – 6 hr, 18 km

You should aim to leave Dumpling Hut between 8 am and 9 am, to connect with the boats departing at either 2 pm or 3 pm from Sandfly Point for Milford Sound/Piopiotahi.

From Dumpling Hut the track follows the Arthur River to the historic Boatshed, where there is a toilet. After crossing the swingbridge (a good place to see trout and eels) it is about 20 minutes to beautiful MacKay Falls and Bell Rock.

There are two more swingbridges further on at Poseidon Creek, near the 28 mile post. Admire the rock cuttings alongside the Arthur River and Lake Ada, which were blasted and hand cut by labourers when the track was first constructed.

Just after the 30 mile marker, are Giant Gate Falls, with a shelter and toilet located here. From the falls, the final 1 hour 30 minutes walk leads to Sandfly Point and the end of the Milford Track. There can be flooding through this section of track during heavy rain, which may cause delays. The final 2 miles of smooth, wide track was built by a prison labour gang in the late 19th century.

Highlights

The Milford Track offers spectacular, awe-inspiring views and more. Enjoy video sneak previews, hear of other visitors’ amazing experiences and read more about the track’s features.

Made it! MacKinnon Pass, Milford Track. Photo copyright: Valerie and Jocelyn Corniche. DOC USE ONLY.
Made it! MacKinnon Pass, Milford Track

Spectacular scenery and wild waterfalls

The Milford Track is nestled in amongst some of the most impressive of Fiordland National Park’s landscapes, the kind you normally only get to see on your TV screen. Even in wet weather (which happens often!) the scenery is superb – with entire valley walls turning into waterfalls.

You might meet a cheeky kea on MacKinnon Pass! Photo copyright: Daniel Pietzsch. DOC USE ONLY.
You might meet a cheeky kea on MacKinnon Pass!

A sense of achievement

Imagine the exhilaration of the moment as you step onto famous MacKinnon Pass and absorb the view you’ve earned.

Great for sharing with others

This is an experience you will definitely want to share, whether with friends or family along the way, or in photos and stories later.

Enjoy stories of early human explorers in this area

The track was not always here, nor was it always so easy to walk. Read the hut information about the early explorers and as you walk, imagine their experience of this environment, without huts, tracks or light waterproof coats!

Milford Track waterfall. Photo copyright: Alex Komarovsky. DOC USE ONLY.
Milford Track waterfall

Catch a glimpse of the endangered whio/blue duck

This elegant and hardy duck is one of only a few in the world that can handle rugged mountain streams like those here in Fiordland. Listen out for the ‘pheeeeio’ sound at dawn and dusk. Read more about thewhio/blue duck and its conservation.

Activities

There are many activities you can enjoy on the Milford Track as well as day walking or tramping. These include fishing, guided walks and hunting (access only).

The only way to access the Milford Track is by boat. If you don’t have your own boat you can contact a DOC-approved operator to transport you, or book a scheduled boat service or packaged walking tour.

Guided Walks

In additon to three DOC huts on the Milford Track there are also three private huts operated by Ultimate Hikes who run guided multi-day trips. A number of companies also provide guided days walks on the track.

Fishing

The Clinton river at the start of the Milford Track offers superb fly fishing for trout in its gin clear waters. Currently didymo is not found in this river, but it is in Lake Te Anau, so the didymo controls are high. You will need a clean gear certificate, cleaning kit and fishing licence.

See: Fishing in Fiordland

Hunting

Hunting areas in the Clinton and Arthur Valleys can be accessed via the Milford Track.

Remember: No firearm is to be discharged in the vicinity of huts, tracks, campsites, roadends or any other public place in a manner that endangers property or endangers, frightens or annoys members of the public. No firearm shall be discharged or loaded within 500 m of a Great Walk hut.

This is the estimated cost of travelling during the OFF PEAK season (winter). The assumption is that you have your own car to get around the South Island.

Fees and Booking

Travel and accomodation:
– Drive to Te Anau: $120 each (petrol average)
– Accommodation in Te Anau: $30 each
– Ferry from Te Anau downs: $90 each
– Ferry from Sandfly Point to Milford sound: $50
– Bus from Milford Sounds to Te Anau Downs: $50
– Huts: $15×3 = $45
– Last night accomodation in Te Anau: $30

Total:
$415

Variations:

For experienced trampers, there is tramping access to the start of the track from the Eglinton Valley via the Dore Pass Route.
This means that you can knock off $90 for the initial ferry ride and maybe even an extra $25 for the ride from Te Anau to Te Anau Downs.
The Dore Pass:
– takes around 8 hours, so you will need to add an extra day to the tramp.
– It is also rated ‘Expert Level’; a challenging tramping route that requires tramping and alpine experience and gear..
– It is 10.5 km one way
– This route begins from the Milford Road, Fiordland, about 66 km north from Te Anau.
– There is a small carpark area on the western side of the road, with a DOC track sign saying ‘Glade House’.

Dore PassWaterfall on the Dore Pass Route.
Waterfall on the Dore Pass Route

Transport

There are more steps in getting to and from this track than any other track. Here they are:
1. Get to Te Anau (bus from Queenstown, or by car). NOTE that you will not be able to leave your car with one of the Ferry providers. So you will need to organise where to park your car in Te Anau. A good idea is negotiating with your backpackers to see if you can leave it there.
2. Get to Te Anau downs (bus or car)
3. Get to start of the Milford Track (ferry)
4. Get from Sandfly Point to Milford Sounds (ferry)
5. Get from the Milford sounds back to Te Anau (bus)

*See “Variations” under Fees and Booking for more details about the Dore Pass Route.

Winter

There are only a few operators in Winter. You need these operators to get you from Te Anau Downs to the start of the track. They don’t go if the weather is bad or if the place is frozen up. You might get lucky.

Unfortunately/fortunately, the transport providers have some requirements that need to be met, otherwise they wont take you on the track. You must have:

  •  a personal locator beacon each
  •  snow shovel
  •  matts for sleeping on and emergency blankets
  •  maps
  •  GPS and batteries
  •  First Aid box

Finally, you should read these articles (below) before attempting the crossing:

Published: February 25, 2014 | Comments: 0