Explore the most popular backpacking trails in Otago with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

Beautiful track. Easy walk along the valley that follows the Greenstone River.

Great views along the valleys. The saddle was rainy so I didn't see the view from the top. Easy track. Just one long 22k day.

Un sentier très accessible et joli que nous avons fait en 2h aller, sans marcher trop vite. A walk day fun!

Nous avons fait juste sur une journée, 6kms jusqu’au pont donc très facile au niveau du sentier, un peu boueux mais magnifique !

Great circuit, beautiful views of snowy mountain tops, clear rivers and nice forests. The gillespie pass has patches of snow at this time of year (end of December) no special gear is needed although consider it to be a good 1000 meter up and down in the second day. The start and the end of the track involves some river crossing. searching for good spots will lead you to find waist-deep water at most.

Great way to day hike the Routeburn trail.

26 days ago

This is a very detailed trip report of my 1-day Routeburn hike. I'm including all details as personally I found it very challenging to find this info online and I was nervous before attempting to complete this 3-day hike in a single day.

First things first: I'm a 47 year old man, have had 2 back surgeries so no running for me. I'm a fast walker and am in decent shape but by no means a fitness freak. I completed the entire hike including Conical Hill in 8:45 hours. Without Conical Hill it would have been 7:45 hours, and this includes plenty of stops for rest, pics and eating. The point? This is not a multiday hike, as long as you are reasonably fit. Having said that, I did have spectacular weather (hiked it in late December), and I'm sure that had I had to brave the elements I'd be singing a different tune....

The hike is amazing and beautiful, highly recommended!

The hike (all times below include the stops mentioned above and can be easily shortened) :
- Routeburn Shelter - Flats Hut: 1.15 hours. The hike starts off very mellow in a beautiful and shaded forest. There are plenty of flat areas to get you up to speed and overall this segment is extremely easy. It's more of a stroll than anything else.
- Flats Hut - Falls Hut: 45 minutes. Slightly steeper but still very manageable. This section starts to get your legs working but is by no means strenuous. It's gorgeous and the trail is not technical at all.
- Falls Hut - Harris: 1.10 hours. This section is the most physically demanding. It gets steeper and the trail becomes more technical. Having said that, it's still very manageable. Personally I take a 1 minute break every couple of miles to rest my pathetically weak calves and then continue on. All good.
- Conical Hill side-trip: 1 hour. This section is technical, steep and involves a lot of loose rock and some snow. It's by far and away the toughest part of the hike, if you decide to do it. Since this is a side-trip you don't have to do it, but the views from the top are probably worth it. You can leave your backpack at Harris and pick it up when you're done.
- Harris - MacKenzie: 1.5 hours. There is nothing hard physically in this section, but if you're not prepared it can be mentally challenging. Why? Because when you look at the trail map you feel that from Harris "it's all downhill", but that's simply not the case. There is a pretty long uphill segment that, as noted, isn't tough at all but can be demoralizing if you aren't expecting it. But then you find yourself above the amazing Lake MacKenzie and you forget about everything.
- MacKenzie - Howden: 2.5 hours. OK... this segment took way longer than expected. The main reason was that it was very demoralizing as the trail just kept going uphill and I just wasn't read for it. Yes I saw some uphill on the trail map, but in reality it seemed to be much more significant than on the map. This segment was mentally tough and it showed in my times. Having said that, I also stopped for a 30 minute lunch at Mackenzie which made this segment longer. Again - there is nothing that's too physically demanding here, as long as you're mentally prepared for the uphill.
- Howden - Divide: 30 minutes. Having suffered through the hike to Howden, I was expecting the last uphill to be brutal as it appeared to be pretty steep on the map. However, that wasn't the case at all. The uphill is maybe 1km long if that and was over in a breeze. From that point on it was just a matter of cruing down to the parking lot.

All in all an amazing trail. If you're considering doing it in 1 day, go for it. Of course you should come prepared for weather but in terms of physical effort there's no reason not to do it. An 8 hour trek when there are about 15 hours of daylight is a no brainer.

A note about water: There is water EVERYWHERE. It's fresh, clean and potable. There is really no reason to bring water as you can fill up wherever and whenever you feel like it.


nice not very hard , did it for two days , great views, alot of sandfly tho :)

trail running
1 month ago

left from Glenorchy ... 40km total to Mackenzie hut and back to parking area ; did the conical peak and rested there for a while ! great views all the way! very nice

1 month ago

Cannot put into words how amazing this hike was. Completed last week of November. Really lucky and had almost no rain and 3 mostly sunny days. Although more incline we started at Routeburn shelter side. Noticed tours and guided hikes go the opposite direction so glad we started where we did. Took 11:30 shuttle from Queenstown to Shelter and were to “The flats” campsite within a couple of hours. Set up camp at the flats and did a late afternoon and evening side hike across the river which was amazing. Referred to as North Branch Track. Highly recommend not missing the “flats area”.

2nd night was spent at Mackenzie Hut area but we camped. Did evening little hike to “cracked rock” which is just a bit further up from the camping area.

3rd day we took the side route up to “key summit” and still had time to make 3:30 shuttle at the divide (note- we move pretty quickly). The summit was worth it but crowded. This area is close to “the divide” where as mentioned before the tourists and single day hikers get dropped.

You can drink the water straight from the river or the lakes. Both camp sites had toilets and eating area with sinks with running water. You have to hike your trash out.

A group of us did the track in a day, finished at the divide car park. Weather was good to us and we had a fantastic day, great track

3 months ago

One of my favorite hikes. I did this back in April and it was great! The huts and path are all well maintained and it was a nice little challenge. Not too difficult but challenging at times due to ice and snow

3 months ago

My first multi-day hike! I wasnt sure which of the great walks to do, I only had time for one and my friend who hiked New Zealand for 3 months highly recommended Routeburn. It was absolutely stunning and a definite highlight of my time in New Zealand. I did it right at the end of the season and really enjoyed it. I was lucky to find spots available in the huts, I booked it a month ahead of time and if I wasn't going alone there wouldn't have been enough free beds.

Well graded, some nice views, particularly from McKellar saddle.

Absolutely stunning vistas, we were incredibly lucky with the weather - 3 bluebird days to enjoy incredible scenery. A good challenging hike

Ran this track with dad in 1 day it was awesome :) Gotta love enjoying gods creation and the freshest air every

8 months ago

Magnificent. Beautiful rain forest, bridge crossings, waterfalls. Unfortunately snow closed the pass the night before so we couldn't complete the full track but we hope to come back and finish it off next year.

9 months ago

Great views. Fair bit of exposure after Harris Saddle. Faced unusually heavy rain fall, hail and snow while camping in mid April 2018. Otherwise enjoyable.

9 months ago

My favorite hiking memory. So gorgeous!

9 months ago

Absolutely love the Routeburn... I’ve done it twice with my two daughters (11 & 13) so many highlights.

Most amazing hike I've ever done. The views are spectacular but be prepared for LOTS of rain and very technical/rough terrain. This is definitely not a hike for beginners and day 2 is rough. That being said, it's the most amazing trek I've ever done in my life and I can't wait to do another Great Walk in New Zealand.

10 months ago

I was fortunate to hike this trail on a semester abroad to NZ. Amazing trail, some of the best views I’ve ever had.

10 months ago

A fantastic, but challenging one day 25km hike from Routeburn to Harris Saddle and back. Conical Hill is a must, the views were incredible. Even got to see Milford Sound.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

should be on every hikers must do list.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Love hiking Greenstone Caples with the Routeburn. Different scenery...Less people before getting to the Routeburn.

Monday, September 25, 2017

I spent 10 years of my life guiding people on the Routeburn. If there is a 3 day trail that covers more beautiful and varied terrain anywhere in the world, I've yet to find it, and I've looked. Put the Routeburn on your bucket list. If you can only do two things on your visit to New Zealand, make this one of them.

Monday, September 11, 2017

My fav hike!! The huts are great and the scenery is to die for. Will def back to do this one. I started in reverse- Key summit to QT and really enjoyed it in this direction. I recommend poles. Very Rocky in some parts. Did in three days.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

What an incredible backpacking experience! We got lucky - didn't rain the entire time we were there! No need to spend more money on the huts; campsites were great and well-maintained. The hike seems to go through a ton of different ecosystems, from rainforest to alpine, which is awesome. The views are breathtaking. Would definitely recommend this hike to anyone looking to backpack in New Zealand.

A beautiful trail, with great views and great swimming holes in summer.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

The trail is well marked and more mentally than physically challenging. My brother and I weren't able to get accommodations at any of the earlier huts so we did it in two days, split into 28km and 5km with the added summit. It was surprisingly less miserable than I expected. We departed the parking lot at 8:00 and reached Howden hut by 17:30, then left the next morning at 7:00 to see Key Summit before reaching the Divide at 9:00. Plenty of time to spare (and get eaten by sandflies) before catching the 10:10 bus into Te Anau. Despite rain, sleet, fog and wind, the views were incredible. I was also impressed with the hut system. Ours was warm with a wood burning stove, had nice facilities about 3m from the hut, and the mattress was surprisingly comfortable!

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