The Routeburn Track, with its hidden lakes, neck‐craning waterfalls and rugged alpine scenery, has been heralded as one of the world's best hikes in one of the world's best settings. While such lofty titles are hard to live up to, from the moment you leave your first muddy bootprint on this 19.5‐mile (32‐km) route, it's apparent this trail across the Southern Alps is truly something special. Fittingly, the three-day Routeburn Track is listed as one of New Zealand’s famous 'Great Walks,' which have better facilities and higher fees than other backcountry hikes.
While there are campground facilities in addition to huts, most hikers elect to sleep at the huts, which offer cooking facilities, beds and the chance to unwind. At its northern trailhead, the Routeburn track begins by Glenorchy and Mt Aspiring National Park before snaking over the spine of the mountains toward Fiordland National Park. Though the trail only ascends to 4,100 feet, the surrounding mountains tower 9,000 feet and are often beautifully snowcapped—which only adds to a landscape dotted by waterfalls and alpine lakes. Due to heavy snowfall in winter, the season for hiking the Routeburn Track is from the end of October to April, with reservations absolutely necessary at least a month in advance.
The Routeburn Track begins at the Routeburn Shelter, about 30 minutes north of Glenorchy. On the southern end it finishes at The Divide, which is about 90 minutes from Te Anau. Since the Routeburn Trail is a point‐to‐point track you’ll need to arrange transport before starting the trail, since the road distance between start and finish is approximately 200 miles. Hut reservations are $54/adult per night, and camping sites are $18/adult per night—with both options free to ages 17 and under.