Routeburn Track, Mt Aspiring & Fiordland National Parks NZ

One of New Zealand’s most spectacular multi-day Great Walks, there’s spectacular alpine and forest scenery the whole way.

Routeburn Track NZ: Routeburn Flats to Harris Saddle and Conical Hill

The Routeburn Track is one of New Zealand’s most spectacular multi-day walks, and one of its so called Great Walks. It passes through two of NZ’s most beautiful national parks, Mt Aspiring National Park and Fiordland National Park. There’s quintessential NZ scenery the whole way, including sparkling alpine lakes, lush beech forest and towering rocky peaks. And at roughly 33km one-way it is short enough for less experienced trampers to take on.

The walk is usually done over two or three days with accommodation at serviced huts. We had previously done sections of it as day-walks, (to Routeburn Flats, to Harris Saddle & Conical Hill, and to Key Summit & Lake Howden), but my wife Sophia had a window of opportunity to do the whole thing in January 2022, hence this new post. Track notes at the end.

Routeburn Track: The Scenery

I’ve mixed in photos here from multiple occasions, so don’t be confused by the changing weather conditions. (Although the weather can be all over the place, so it’s not that unrealistic!) Sophia didn’t have the best weather so there are just a few pics from Harris Saddle to Lake Mackenzie, and just one (of Earland Falls) from there to Lake Howden, which she thought was a less interesting section than the rest anyway. (The shots from Key Summit will give you an idea of the scenery in the surrounding area).

There’s still an overwhelming amount of beautiful scenery, so enjoy this vicarious trip along the Routeburn…

Routeburn Shelter to Routeburn Falls

Routeburn Track to Routeburn Flats, Mt Aspiring National Park NZ
The car park at the start.

Routeburn Track to Routeburn Flats, Mt Aspiring National Park NZ

Routeburn Track to Routeburn Flats, Mt Aspiring National Park NZ

Routeburn Track to Routeburn Flats, Mt Aspiring National Park NZ
A few of these bridges to cross.
Routeburn Track to Routeburn Flats, Mt Aspiring National Park
Very hard to capture the height of the cliffs lining the Route Burn, but I had a go here.
Routeburn Track to Routeburn Flats, Mt Aspiring National Park NZ
Look at the colour of that water.
Routeburn Track to Routeburn Flats, Mt Aspiring National Park NZ
The Routeburn. This was taken on an overcast day: it’s even more aqua on a sunny day.

 

Routeburn Track to Routeburn Flats, Mt Aspiring National Park NZ
New Zealand’s national symbol is the silver fern, and there were quite a few ferns on this stretch of the walk.
Routeburn Track to Routeburn Flats, Mt Aspiring National Park NZ
I liked this shot.

Routeburn Track to Routeburn Flats, Mt Aspiring National Park

Routeburn Track to Routeburn Flats, Mt Aspiring National Park

Routeburn Track to Routeburn Flats, Mt Aspiring National Park NZ
Some grand mountains rising above Routeburn Flats. 
Routeburn Track NZ: Routeburn Flats to Harris Saddle and Conical Hill
A grand view of Routeburn Flat and Humbolt Mountains from an open section formed by a landslide.
Routeburn Track NZ: Routeburn Flats to Harris Saddle and Conical Hill
Looking up the Routeburn North Branch, which makes a very nice day walk. 

Routeburn Falls to Harris Saddle & Conical Hill

Routeburn Track NZ: Routeburn Flats to Harris Saddle and Conical Hill
A waterfall just above Falls Hut.
Routeburn Track NZ: Routeburn Flats to Harris Saddle and Conical Hill
The scene above the tree line.
Routeburn Track NZ: Routeburn Flats to Harris Saddle and Conical Hill
I decided this photo needs a cheesy motivational quote to complement it.
Routeburn Track NZ: Routeburn Flats to Harris Saddle and Conical Hill
Looking down the Routeburn Left Branch.

Routeburn Track NZ: Routeburn Flats to Harris Saddle and Conical Hill

Routeburn Track NZ: Routeburn Flats to Harris Saddle and Conical Hill
Spear grass and cliffs.
Routeburn Track NZ: Routeburn Flats to Harris Saddle and Conical Hill
Lake Harris
Routeburn Track NZ: Routeburn Flats to Harris Saddle and Conical Hill
I love youse all! Or so says Lake Harris. The lake is actually shaped a bit like South America, but from this particular angle, and with the right framing, you can feel the love.
Routeburn Track NZ: Routeburn Flats to Harris Saddle and Conical Hill
A grand panorama of lake Harris.
Routeburn Track NZ: Routeburn Flats to Harris Saddle and Conical Hill
Tarns and then a bit of Lake Harris.
Conical Hill Side Trip
Routeburn Track NZ: Routeburn Flats to Harris Saddle and Conical Hill
Lake Harris looking quite blue after the sun came out.
Routeburn Track NZ: Routeburn Flats to Harris Saddle and Conical Hill
Mt Xenicus (1912m).
Routeburn Track NZ: Routeburn Flats to Harris Saddle and Conical Hill
Looking south up the Hollyford Valley. The Routeburn Track continues on above the valley.

Fiordland Section including Key Summit 

Routeburn Track: Harris Saddle to Lake Mackenzie

Routeburn Track: Harris Saddle to Lake Mackenzie
Lovely forest scenes on the way down to Lake Mackenzie.
Routeburn Track: Harris Saddle to Lake Mackenzie
Lake Mackenzie

Routeburn Track: Harris Saddle to Lake Mackenzie

Routeburn Track: Harris Saddle to Lake Mackenzie
Lake Mackenzie
Routeburn Track: Harris Saddle to Lake Mackenzie
Earland Falls (174m)
Key Summit Track & Lake Howden, Fiordland National Park NZ
Lake Howden

Key Summit Track & Lake Howden, Fiordland National Park NZ

Key Summit Side Trip
Key Summit Track & Lake Howden, Fiordland National Park NZ
A scenic bog.
Key Summit Track & Lake Howden, Fiordland National Park NZ
Mossy trees.
Key Summit Track & Lake Howden, Fiordland National Park NZ
The Lower Hollyford Valley
Key Summit Track & Lake Howden, Fiordland National Park NZ
Ailsa Mountains
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
A swampy pool.
Key Summit Track & Lake Howden, Fiordland National Park NZ
Lake Mackenzie is tucked into that valley in the distance.

Track Notes

Routeburn Track to Harris Saddle and Conical Hill

The route from Routeburn Shelter to Harris Saddle and side trip to Conical Hill depicted here. The track continues south from Harris Saddle.

Routeburn Track: Harris Saddle to Lake Mackenzie
The track from Harris Saddle to Lake Mackenzie.
Routeburn Track - Lake Mackenzie to The Divide
The final leg from Lake Mackenzie to the Divide Shelter, with an optional but worthwhile side trip to Key Summit.

Like most people, Sophia walked the route from the Routeburn Shelter near Glenorchy to The Divide Shelter in Fiordland, although you can start at either end. She walked it comfortably in two days with an overnight stay at Lake Mackenzie Hut. Some people might stay another night at Routeburn Falls Hut. You can also stay at Routeburn Flats Hut. (Lake Howden Hut was destroyed in a landslide.) I recommend both side trips, to Key Summit (easy) and Conical Hill (harder). 

There’s plenty more information all over the internet, but the DOC brochure is a good start. 

 

Author: Edward Hathway

I'm a clinical psychologist and keen hiker.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.