One of the best hikes in the world
You can tramp the famed Milford Track in two ways:
Confident hikers oft enjoy the cheaper independent experience better. But it is easier to get a spot on a guided tour.
- book months in advance to get a reservation
- one-way track Lake Te Anau to Milford Sound
- crystal clear waters, rainforest, waterfalls and a stunning mountain pass
- max. elevation Mackinnon Pass 1154m (3786ft)
- GPS measured 57km (35.5mi) plus sidetrips
- 4-days, 3-nights independently
- boat transport at both ends of the track
- easy hiking, with steep sections
- Dec – Mar best months
- 1070m (3468ft) elevation gain
Why We Like This Hike
- Fiordland National Park is part of the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage site, one of the great, unique wilderness areas of the world
- sidetrip to Sutherland Falls, 580m (1903ft) over 3 leaps, one of highest Falls in the world
- the astonishing history of this area
- the reward of arrival at Milford Sound, an impressive fjord dominated by Mitre Peak
- fishermen love the Clinton River. Get a licence, bring a light fishing rod & you are almost guaranteed to be eating trout the first night.
- spotting the rare Whio (Blue Duck)
- strict regulations & quota keeps the hike from being over-run. It does not feel crowded.
- flush toilets at huts, pit toilets every hour or so along the Track
- option to hike the Routeburn Track immediately before or after the Milford Track
- the awkward New Zealand Wood Pigeon, energetic Paradise ducks, Weka & other interesting bird life
- watching comic alpine parrots try to open your pack
The Milford Track is inevitably listed as one of the top 10 hikes in the world — by journalists who have never been there. 🙂
Experienced Kiwi trampers know that there are a number of Tracks just as good or better, but not so famous. The Tongariro Northern Circuit, for example.
- Yessica Asmin drowned hiking the Milford in 2014
- Milford is the most expensive hike in the country
- broke hikers can walk to the Kepler Track trailhead from Te Anau. Do the cheaper tramp instead.
- 10,000+ hikers / year means little solitude
- Milford Sound gets 7m (23ft) of rain a year
- expect snow on the pass, high winds and rain any day of the year
- summer highs average around 14C (57F)
- biting sandflies can be a nuisance (though we only saw them the last day). The best strategy is to cover all exposed flesh possible.
- no bikes, no dogs, no tents allowed
- huts have gas stoves & cold running water but are basic, full and noisy. Bring earplugs.
- no mobile phone coverage, but huts have radios
- scenic tourist flights over the Pass can be distracting
- sturdy shoes for rocky, muddy, snowy and uneven tracks advised
- early season hikers (Oct-Nov) may be stranded due to avalanche. If helicopter rescue is needed, the DOC tries to charge you for the cost.
- consider buying travel insurance to guard against costs of injury or evacuation. Check carefully to see if your policy covers these problems.
Cost & reservations
There are only 2 itineraries allowed:
- Guided = Glade House, Pompolona, & Quintin huts (cost)
- Independent = Clinton, Mintaro & Dumpling huts (cost)
Guided hikers have a much more luxurious experience but still must carry a backpack for 4-8hrs / day.
Ultimate Hikes New Zealand has a monopoly on the Guided Tramp. Take it or try for a spot on the independent itinerary.
Logistics for Independent Hikers
In the summer season you need to book all three huts on the track. You must start from the Lake Te Anau end and stay in each hut consecutively.
NZtracker is a site that can help you book Milford | Kepler | Routeburn.
Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.
In the winter season you don’t need to book huts. However, you must buy (backcountry) hut tickets before your walk. You can buy these via any DOC visitor centre (but not online).
DOC provides a step-by-step guide to booking the Milford Track.
We were looking to hike one of the other wonderful Tracks nearby, doing research at the Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre in Te Anau, when spaces became available for Milford due to cancellation. A notice was posted on a whiteboard. Instantly we bought those spots.
If you are travelling solo or two hikers together, it’s worth inquiring at the DOC.
Transport to the trail
You must get from Te Anau to the boat on your designated day. There are a number of transportation options both at the start and end of the Milford Track.
The Milford Track finishes at Sandfly Point. The name gives you fair warning. Cover up when you get there.
- DOC Abel Tasman Coast Track official webpage
- Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre in Te Anau, Ph: +64 3 249 8514
Best Trekking Guidebooks
Be sure to get the most up-to-date editions. Many guidebooks, including LP, are available in electronic format.
- Lonely Planet Hiking & Tramping in New Zealand, Slater, Bennett & DuFresne, 2014
- Trailblazer New Zealand the Great Walks – Alexander Stewart, 2009
- The Milford Track Adventure, Philip Holden, 2003
- Kiwi Footpaths Milford Track Guide – Hosking & Kemp, 2001
Best Travel Guidebooks
Other Recommended Books
- Classic Walks of New Zealand – Craig Potton, 2000
- Straying from the Flock – Alexander Elder, 2005
- The Whale Rider – Witi Ihimaera
- A Land Of Two Halves – Joe Bennet, 2005, travelogue
- Kiwi Tracks: A New Zealand Journey – Andrew Stevenson
- Walking the Milford Track, Rosalind Harker, 1997
You don’t need one. Nobody gets lost on the Milford. 🙂
Best Web Pages
- DOC Milford Track brochure (PDF)
- DOC Plan and Prepare
- wikipedia – Milford Track
- wikipedia – Milford Sound
- Walking the Milford Track, photographer Ian Rolfe – January 2014
- Milford Track in 30 photos – Young Adventuress 2015
- Milford Track: A Great Walk – Nisa 2015
- Milford Track: Delight for the senses, NZ Herald – Venetia Sherson 2013
- Milford Track – David Briese
- Milford Track – Kevin Gong, 2002
- Milford Track – The Hiking Life 1996
- Milford Track – Burkhard Wuensche
Click PLAY or watch a good overview on YouTube.
Click PLAY or watch a DOC promo on YouTube.
Click PLAY or watch a guided trip on Vimeo.