The Routeburn Track & the Greenstone and Caples Walks
Three of Fiordland’s best walks, the Routeburn, Greenstone and Caples are found along the Milford Road. Starting at The Divide car park on the Milford Road, each walk branches off to the valleys of the same name.
Here’s all you need to know about these three great walks as well as Key Summit, a great taster for what’s on offer for hiking in Fiordland.
STAY AT MILFORD SOUND LODGE BEFORE OR AFTER YOUR HIKE
There’s nothing better than stepping into a luxurious riverside chalet after a challenging hike. The Milford Sound Lodge is a perfect base for hikers. Planning idea - Have your vehicle driven from Glenorchy end of the track round to The Divide with Easyhike then drive the short 30 mins down to Milford Sound Lodge or catch a bus. Find out more about staying in Milford Sound.
THE KEY SUMMIT TRACK: A TASTER FOR FIORDLAND’S MANY MEMORABLE WALKING AND HIKING EXPERIENCES
If you fancy a quick taster, the Key Summit track follows the Routeburn Track for about an hour before peeling off for a 30-minute climb to the summit. In the last ice age, Key Summit was buried under 500 metres of ice, but now it towers 500 metres above the valley floor.
The first Europeans to climb it were two local farmers, David McKellar and George Gunn of Lake Gunn fame, in 1861. In doing so, they were also the first to see the Hollyford Valley, scene of a colourful piece of local history and home of the wonderfully diverse walking experience that is the Hollyford Track.
We definitely recommend the climb on a clear day because you’ll feel like you’re on top of the world. You’ll discover alpine meadows, squelchy bogs and crystal clear tarns, all without having to trek for days on end. It’s a good opportunity to cheat, and soak up some stunning alpine scenery in a fraction of the time you need to allocate for Fiordland’s multi-day treks! Make sure you dress warmly though, it can get a bit nippy up there!
THREE TREKS TO RIVAL THE FAMOUS MILFORD TRACK
The car park is also the starting point for three long-distance walks, which are just as rewarding as the Milford Track. In fact, there are plenty of dedicated trampers who’ll swear that the tracks up here are even better than the Milford Track!
The Greenstone runs north, the Routeburn heads south, and the Caples Track leaves the Greenstone and goes around the other side of the mountains before rejoining it at the far end, on Lake Wakatipu, which is the longest lake in New Zealand — and the one on which Queenstown sits.
If you are interested in tackling any of these longer walks independently, you need to book with the DOC, because like the Milford Track they take several days, and have overnight accommodation in huts. You can also join a guided walk along the Routeburn.
THE ROUTEBURN TRACK
The Routeburn Track opened in the 1880s. This 3-day walk offers magical panoramas across glaciers, snow-capped peaks and tranquil mountain lakes. A particularly impressive view awaits you on Day 2 as you cast your eyes upon Fiordland’s highest mountain, mighty Mt Tutoko. Beyond Mt Tutuko, enjoy incredible views across the mountains and even out to the sea!
The track heads north and then veers east up into the Serpentine Mountains, eventually descending to the end of the track. Here, you can hop on a bus to Glenorchy or all the way to Queenstown.
THE GREENSTONE TRACK
The Greenstone Track heads south after striking out on the same route as the Routeburn around the base of Key Summit. It runs at a lower altitude, following the Greenstone River all the way to Lake Wakatipu. There aren't too many steep sections, but plenty of fast-flowing water and forest. The flatter terrain means this walk can be done in two days.
THE CAPLES TRACK
The Caples Track also takes two days. It leaves the Greenstone Valley, then cuts across to the Caples River, following that down to where it joins with the Greenstone River near its mouth. Both the Greenstone and Caples Tracks are good if you’d prefer a less demanding trek.
Looking for other Fiordland multi-day walks? Find out about the Milford Track and the Hollyford Track.