Fiordland is not surprisingly an absolutely stunning place to go hiking. We’ve been really lucky to explore this place at it’s quietest time of year. There are numerous DOC (Department of Conservation) tracks around as well as the “local only” trails which are great fun.
The Biggy – Milford Track
In the summer months over 30,000 people walk this trail, sticking to a strict “one way” system and stopping overnight in designated huts. In the winter it is quite the opposite. It is pretty much closed to visitors; the only way to reach the track is via kayak and the only way to hire a kayak is by being a local. The Milford track has become our own private “NZ Great Walk”. It is an incredible feeling to be walking on one of the most famous tracks in New Zealand, knowing that you don’t have to share it with a single person. The out and back walks to Giants Gate at 10km and Poseidon Creek at 20km (return) have become regular Te Araroa training walks for us on afternoons off.
The Rainforest Duo – Tutoko and Grave Talbot
These two tracks are a mixture of wading through streams, whacking through bush and climbing over fallen trees, aka you always end up covered in mud and it’s marvellous. In Fiordland there is barely any top soil, so the trees are just growing on top of the moss covered rocks. This means tree slides are a common occurrence on steeper slopes but also that you can walk through a forest that is blanketed in green and quite magical. In fact if a dinosaur came wandering out of the forest on either of these tracks I wouldn’t be surprised.
The Other Side of the Tunnel – Key Summit, Routeburn, Greenstone and Lake Marian
Living in Milford can feel quite cut off from the rest of the world at times. When the road closes it is not possible to drive in or out of the Homer tunnel so we are limited to the walks on our side of the tunnel. But when the road opens again it’s just a short drive to some superb day hikes on the other side.
Key Summit is by far the easiest walk, with a well maintained gravel track which climbs up from The Divide car park to the top of the hill offering stunning views of the valley on a clear day. It is possible to take a left turn on this track and follow the path down to Lake Howden hut and along the famous Routeburn trail. Again this Great Walk is unbelievably quiet this time of year with the only living things we bumped into being a pair of wild deer (who startled us more than we did them!) The alternative and trickier route up to Lake Howden is via Creek Pass which can be accessed from the Hollyford road. A much steeper climb and challenging terrain but more fun in our opinion! This connects on to the Greenstone track at the hut which we need to explore some more but is a very pretty trail following the contours of the Livingstone range of mountains.
Lake Marian is another popular day walk off the Hollyford road. It’s a 3hr out and back track up relatively steep rainforest terrain. The path has a great mix of board walks by gushing streams, rocky paths and scrambling up tree roots. The lake at the top is definitely worth the trek.
We’ve only managed to explore parts of each trail so far as the Avalanche danger over Winter in Fiordland is all too real. We’ll just have to wait until October to tell you more!