In a nation which offers some of the world’s best trekking, the case could be made that the Hollyford Track is New Zealand’s most underrated hike. What’s better, given its relatively flat terrain and easily accessible route, you can hike the Hollyford during most times of the year and still find comfortable conditions.
Located two hours north of Te Anau on the road towards Milford Sound, the Hollyford Track is often overlooked in lieu of the Routeburn, Kepler, or Milford tracks. Whereas these more popular hikes weave their way through the mountains of the Southern Alps, the Hollyford meanders along the length of a valley which winds towards the Tasman Sea. It’s an area that Maori once used as a trade route for harvesting and selling pounamu (jade), and much of the wilderness remains entirely unchanged since the Maori once wandered this valley.
Following the length of the Hollyford Valley, the trail makes its way over multiple bridges which span the Hollyford River. It’s a corner of New Zealand which is much less frequented than many of the surrounding hikes, and it’s the perfect escape for outdoor enthusiasts who are looking to avoid the crowds.
Given its length, however, anyone planning to hike on the Hollyford Track should be sure to arrive prepared. This 34-mile trek from the trailhead to the sea is often completed in four nights, but nearly all trekkers must turn back around and hike back the way they came. Along the way are six different huts which offer primitive backcountry bunks, and camping is allowed outside of the huts for those who have packed their own gear. Whereas the majority of hikers return along the same route, the truly intrepid can return to the trailhead along the rugged Pyke-Big Bay Track. There are also huts along this route to accommodate visiting trekkers, although the trail itself is best reserved for the most accomplished of backcountry navigators.
Even though hiking the Hollyford can be a logistical challenge, however, rewards for the effort can literally be found around every bend in the trail. Watch the sunrise over the waters of Lake Mckerrow, and walk in the shadow of glacially-formed mountains which pierce upwards towards the sky. Trek to a beach which is inaccessible by road, and scan the shoreline for Fiordland crested penguins or even the occasional seal. The Hollyford Track offers long-distance trekking away from all the crowds, and it’s the lone conduit through a segment of the South Island which has rarely been touched by man.