Footbridge on Routeburn Track. © davidwallphoto.com

The Routeburn Track: the ultimate alpine adventure


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As one of the country’s most famous walks, let’s get the house – (or hut) – keeping out of the way first: you’ll need to book in the heavy season.

There are four huts along the track: Routeburn Flats Hut, Routeburn Falls Hut, Mackenzie Hut and Howden Hut, and there is an emergency shelter at Harris Saddle. Will you need it? Not if you’re sensible. But it’s a three- to four-day walk that straddles two national parks: Mount Aspiring and Fiordland. You’re in an unpredictable world that can change in minutes. So yep, knowing where those huts are is a prerequisite.

Stick to the (pretty easily negotiable) track and you’ll have a stunning time. You’ll need to organise your transport – yak, camel or the more conventional bus, or a mate with your rental, because once you’ve walked in, whether from the Glenorchy end or The Divide egress, you’ll not be walking back.

There is a seriously massive variety of landscapes on this unprecedentedly stunning trek: unparalleled views, surrounded by alpine splendour or looking back where you’ve been at turquoise tarns be-stilled beneath the tussock and barren vegetation.

Most breathtaking are the views from the Harris Saddle and the top of Conical Hill, where you can see even waves breaking on the West Coast.

You reach the confluence of three river valleys – Hollyford, Eglinton and Greenstone – and you’ll have to pinch yourself. Not just to stay warm. It all seems slightly surreal. And when you can see the lake below you through the clouds, you know you’ve got yourself some serious air. You won’t whoop though: it’s a still, eerie place. Take a moment, and move on.

OK, so this is one of the country’s most famous walks, which of course means you won’t have it to yourself. But it passes through staggering places that’ll wow anyone into silence and will stick long in your memory.

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