Routeburn North Branch Track, Mt Aspiring National Park NZ

The Routeburn North Branch Track is a spectacular valley walk with beautiful vegetation and mountains towering overhead the whole way.

Routeburn North Branch Track, Mt Aspiring National Park

The Routeburn 2-3 day walk is one of New Zealand’s most famous Great Walks, and the whole area is truly spectacular. I’d done day walks on this route as far as Harris Saddle and Conical Hill in the past, but had never considered the Routeburn North Branch because valley walks aren’t really my thing. To anticipate a longer than average introduction, I’m now a convert, or at least for the very best valley walks like this one.

I came to do it when my wife Sophia decided to finally walk the whole Routeburn, but could only get bookings for the night I was due to start back at work. I could work remotely that week, so I joined her as far as Routeburn Flats, and then continued up the Routeburn North Branch for a long but flattish day walk.

The weather was cloudy and wet, but the walk ended up being so good that I took Sophia back the next week in clear blue skies, and I enjoyed it just as much the second time. There’s varied and attractive vegetation the whole way, and of course the river, but the highlights were the towering Humboldt and Serpentine Ranges lining both sides of the valley: a highly recommended walk. Track notes at the end.  

Routeburn North Branch Track: The Scenery

Shots from both occasions intermixed here…

Routeburn North Branch Track, Mt Aspiring National Park
Leaving Routeburn Flats. You can see the hut on the left.

Routeburn North Branch Track, Mt Aspiring National Park

Routeburn North Branch Track, Mt Aspiring National Park
Very lush vegetation.
Routeburn North Branch Track, Mt Aspiring National Park
A stand of very ferny beech forest.
Routeburn North Branch Track, Mt Aspiring National Park
There’s just the one tarn along the way.
Routeburn North Branch Track, Mt Aspiring National Park
Very lush.
Routeburn North Branch Track, Mt Aspiring National Park
I loved how these ferns just spread out like an alluvial fan.
Routeburn North Branch Track, Mt Aspiring National Park
The Humbolt Range.
Routeburn North Branch Track, Mt Aspiring National Park
Nereus Peak at the end of the valley.
Routeburn North Branch Track, Mt Aspiring National Park
Just fabulous mountain scenery near our turnaround point. The Humboldt Range.
Routeburn North Branch Track, Mt Aspiring National Park
Perhaps my best representation of scale from this walk.
Routeburn North Branch Track, Mt Aspiring National Park
Clouds added some atmosphere (figuratively and literally) on my first visit.
Routeburn North Branch Track, Mt Aspiring National Park
The view back down the valley from where I turned around on my first visit. 

A couple of shots on our way back…

Routeburn North Branch Track, Mt Aspiring National Park
Emily Pass up there in the middle.
Routeburn North Branch Track, Mt Aspiring National Park
Returning back to Routeburn Flats.

Track Notes

Routeburn North Branch Track, Mt Aspiring National Park
You follow the Routeburn Track as far as Routeburn Flats Hut, then it’s off track over grassy flats up the valley, picking up a sporadically marked route on the ‘true right’ of the Routeburn North Branch. Then… enjoy!

 Follow the Routeburn Track as far as Routeburn Flats Hut. From there you cross the grassy flats, picking up a sporadically marked route on the ‘true right’ of the Routeburn North Branch where the valley narrows a bit. The route markings are sometimes hard to find, and the track disappears sometimes, (it’s been washed out in places), but essentially you keep heading up the valley, so you can’t get that lost. 

I continued right up until where the valley narrows considerably, but that requires some route finding and a river crossing (just a stream by this stage though). On my second visit we stopped in the last grassy flats a few hundred metres before this, which is where the best views are anyway.  

The Routeburn Track to the flats is well graded. From there it’s more rugged but mostly flat and gaiters will be handy to keep dry feet on stream crossings. I’ve rated it moderate but it is quite long and some parts require a bit of scrambling. It will take maybe 8-9 hours. Obviously staying at Routeburn Flats Hut is an option, as is camping in the valley itself.   

 

 

Author: Edward Hathway

I'm a clinical psychologist and keen hiker.

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