Key Summit Track & Lake Howden, Fiordland National Park NZ

A very high views to effort ratio on the relatively easy Key Summit Track in Fiordland, a side trip off the famous Routeburn Track.

Key Summit Track & Lake Howden, Fiordland National Park NZ

On our first walking trip to Fiordland I wanted to do a few of the well known day walks that take in some of the best scenery. The Key Summit Track can be fit easily into half a day, and has a very high views to effort ratio. It’s mainly a views walk, so one to save for a clear day, and in fact we had planned two days in Fiordland to coincide with rare cloudless skies. There’s spectacular views of the Darran, Ailsa and Serpentine mountain ranges, picturesque tarns and bogs, and views into the Lower Hollyford Valley.

It’s a popular route, and a short side trip off the Routeburn Track, so you’d have to get there very early to have any serenity, but as a quick introduction to Fiordland scenery it is hard to beat. You can continue down the hill on the Routeburn Track for a short while to Lake Howden, which is quite picturesque. There used to be a hut there but that was washed away in a landslide not long ago. Track notes at the end.

Key Summit Track & Lake Howden: The Scenery

Key Summit Track & Lake Howden, Fiordland National Park NZ
A waterfall on the way up through forest.
Key Summit Track & Lake Howden, Fiordland National Park NZ
A spectacular location for a toilet.
Key Summit Track & Lake Howden, Fiordland National Park NZ
Another scenic bog.
Key Summit Track & Lake Howden, Fiordland National Park NZ
Mossy trees.
Key Summit Track & Lake Howden, Fiordland National Park NZ
The Darran Mountains
Key Summit Track & Lake Howden, Fiordland National Park NZ
The Darran Mountains
Key Summit Track & Lake Howden, Fiordland National Park NZ
The Ailsa Mountains
Key Summit Track & Lake Howden, Fiordland National Park NZ
Ailsa Mountains
Key Summit Track & Lake Howden, Fiordland National Park NZ
A little bit of Lake Marian visible here. We visited this spectacular location later on in the day.
Key Summit Track & Lake Howden, Fiordland National Park NZ
The Ailsa Mountains and Serpentine Range.
Key Summit Track & Lake Howden, Fiordland National Park NZ
A swampy pool.
Key Summit Track & Lake Howden, Fiordland National Park NZ
Great colours.
Key Summit Track & Lake Howden, Fiordland National Park NZ
The Ailsa Mountains
Key Summit Track & Lake Howden, Fiordland National Park NZ
I think Lake Mackenzie is tucked into that valley in the distance. The Routeburn Track visits it and then goes off to the left to Harris Saddle.
Key Summit Track & Lake Howden, Fiordland National Park NZ
A classic view of the Darran Mountains.
Key Summit Track & Lake Howden, Fiordland National Park NZ
Ailsa Mountains
Key Summit Track & Lake Howden, Fiordland National Park NZ
The Lower Hollyford Valley
Key Summit Track & Lake Howden, Fiordland National Park NZ
Sophia looking into the Lower Hollyford Valley.

Key Summit Track & Lake Howden, Fiordland National Park NZ

Key Summit Track & Lake Howden, Fiordland National Park NZ
Walking down to Lake Howden.
Key Summit Track & Lake Howden, Fiordland National Park NZ
Lake Howden
Key Summit Track & Lake Howden, Fiordland National Park NZ
The landslide that destroyed Lake Howden Hut.


Track Notes

Key Summit Track & Lake Howden, Fiordland National Park NZ
On an obvious and constructed track the whole way. The alpine nature trail loop on the summit is nice, and there is a viewpoint on a short side trip.

On an obvious and constructed track the whole way, mostly through beech forest until the final short climb to the summit at 918m. The alpine nature trail loop on the tops is nice, and there is a viewpoint towards Lake Marian on a short side trip. Park at the Divide car park, which is the start or end of the multi-day Routeburn Track. More information on the DOC website.

Author: Edward Hathway

I'm a clinical psychologist and keen hiker.

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