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blueBlack Milford Track

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Trail

36.1 mile 58.1 kilometer point to point
86% Runnable
Intermediate/Difficult

Elevation

Ascent: 6,408' 1,953 m
Descent: -7,043' -2,147 m
High: 3,736' 1,139 m
Low: 0' 0 m

Grade

Avg Grade: 7% (4°)
Max Grade: 65% (33°)

Dogs

No Dogs
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Trail shared by Tilman Giese

One of the most spectacular runs in New Zealand with alpine and rain forest sections.

Tilman Giese

Features Birding · Lake · River/Creek · Swimming · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers

The track is usually accessible between November and April, but there is a quota on this track of 100 people per day. You can either run the track independently and stay at the huts operated by the Department of Conservation (40 bunks, reservations required) or join the guided walks offered by Ultimate Hikes in Queenstown (50 per day, reservations required). Camping is not permitted along the track.

Overview

Milford Track is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful runs in New Zealand and the world. The track traverses the heart of New Zealand's wild fiord country. Starting from Lake Te Anau, it leads over Mackinnon Pass and out to Milford Sound. Along the way you get to experience impressive waterfalls, roaring rivers, temperate rain forest, and alpine meadows.

Need to Know

Be prepared to get your feet wet. Chances are high that it will rain during at least one of the days that you are on the track. Being within the "Roaring Forties" (between 40 and 50 degrees latitude) and being on the west side of the South Island, Fiordland National Park gets a lot of rain every year (between 1200mm and 8000mm). During heavy or prolonged rain, parts of the track can easily flood and require wading or even become inaccessible.

Description

Milford Track is typically accessed by boat from Te Anau Downs. The boat will drop you off at Glade Wharf where the track starts as a gentle run through the temperate rain forest. Take a minute to soak in the scenery at the wharf at the mouth of Clinton River surrounded by mountains that are more than 3,000 feet taller than the lake. About 0.75 miles into the track, the forest will recede and you reach a meadow with Clinton River to the left and Glade House right in the middle—with rewarding views all around.

From Glade House, head northeast and cross the Clinton River over the suspension bridge. The track crosses through beech forest with the occasional water fern colonies. After mile marker 2, the track closely follows a river bend north revealing a great view of Dore Pass, the land route to access Milford Track. Around mile marker 5, you reach the point where the north and west branch of Clinton River merge. Right at the fork you can also get a good view into the northern part of Clinton Valley and onto Mount Mitchelson towering impressively above the valley. You continue along the west branch of Clinton River. Shortly before mile marker 7, you cross a huge landslide from 1982 that blocked the Clinton River and created Dead Lake after drowning a large number of beech trees.

Right in between mile markers 7 and 8, you reach Hirere Falls Shelter, a great viewpoint for Hirere Falls and to get access to Clinton River. Past mile marker 9, the beech forest opens up completely to the prairie and offers stunning views of the entire valley. After mile marker 10, the track starts climbing again through beech forest. Cross the wide rocky river bed and reach Pompolona Lodge.

From here, head up what is called the Pompolona staircase. The mountains on either side of Clinton Valley look very intimidating at this point. As you ascend further up the valley, St. Quintin Falls can be seen on the right shortly before mile marker 12. The ascent is still moderate, but steady. After mile marker 14, you cross Clinton River though it is much less impressive now. The bridge can only carry one person at a time.

Now the final ascent is in front of you. Over the course of more than a dozen zigzags, the track winds up the Mackinnon Pass. The treeline is roughly at 3,100 feet and the view is truly stunning. In front of you is Nicolas Cirque, a bowl shaped valley (typically with some snow left) that feeds the Clinton River. On the right side is Mount Hart. Mackinnon Pass has an incredible view of the Arthur Valley, Mount Pillans on the left, Mount Elliot on the right. If you look further to the right, you can see the Jervois Glacier and Mount Wilmur. Mount Balloon is on the far right.

Ascend a little further and reach Mackinnon Pass Shelter. From here, you can look right down Clinton Valley. After the shelter, a long descent awaits you. The trail is sometimes very steep and rocky. Once you are underneath Jervois Glacier, the trail slowly turns left and descends back below the treeline. You'll reach a number of staircases as you follow Roaring Burn on the left—a wild creek with spectacular waterfalls—before you get to Quintin Lodge.

At mile marker 26, you reach the Boatshed Shelter. Half a mile further, you get to another highlight: Mackay Falls. After mile marker 29, you reach Telegraph Point where the track was cut into the rock in 1898 using a large amount of dynamite. Just a mile further is Giants Gate, a very impressive waterfall. The track skirts Lake Ada and is pretty flat for the rest of the way. The track gets wider as you get closer to Sandfly Point. Sandfly Point has its name for a very good reason. There are typically myriads of sandflies that leave very itchy bite marks that last for a few days. Relax at the Sandfly Point Shelter and enjoy the view of Barren Peak across the Milford Sound before you hop on a boat that will bring you to the Milford Sound harbor. This is the end of the Milford Track.

History & Background

The Maori first traveled this route to get to Milford Sound to collect greenstone (pounamu). In 1880, Donald Sutherland and John Mackay surveyed the area and found Mackay and Sutherland Falls. Mackinnon Pass is named after pioneer explorer and surveyor Quintin Mackinnon. Sutherland was commissioned in 1888 to cut a track up the Arthur Valley up to Sutherland Falls while Mackinnon was tasked to cut a track up the Clinton Valley from Lake Te Anau. Both tracks together made up the Milford Track.

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Trail Ratings

  4.8 from 4 votes

#1579

Overall
  4.8 from 4 votes
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#33

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#1,579

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1,742 Since Dec 26, 2017
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