Bookings for Fiordland’s Milford and Routeburn Great Walks will open on August 18 and 19 respectively.
The Department of Conservation (DOC) also announced opening dates for the two tracks. The Milford opens on November 30 and the Routeburn will be open from December 7. The usual Great Walk season runs from Labour Weekend through to the end of April.
DOC southern South Island operations director, Aaron Fleming, said this summer is a good opportunity for New Zealanders to explore the two tracks.
“The Milford and Routeburn tracks are internationally regarded as some of the best hiking experiences in the world, bookings typically fill up very quickly – particularly over the peak summer weeks,” Fleming said.
“This summer looks to be a perfect opportunity for Kiwis to get out and explore our own backyards on these and the many other fantastic tracks we have around the country – and the communities that support them.”
The Milford and Routeburn tracks were extensively damaged by an extreme weather event in February 2020 when a three-day storm dumped one-tenth of the region’s average annual rainfall on northern Fiordland. This sparked a major search and rescue operation, damaged 440km of tracks and wiped out key infrastructure, including parts of the Milford Road.
Both tracks sustained heavy damage. Lake Howden Hut was almost destroyed and 32 bridges were damaged, along with other huts, campsites, and facilities.
The government has allocated $13.7 million from Budget 2020 to go towards repair work across the region.
“While we have full confidence the tracks will be open this summer, we are still undertaking critical repairs, and minor repairs may continue into the walking season,” Fleming said.
“Every effort is being made to restore the tracks entirely, but there will be some changes. Howden Hut on the Routeburn will not be open this summer and won’t be available to book – walkers will need to plan to tramp all the way out to The Divide near the Milford Road (or vice versa to Lake Mackenzie heading towards Glenorchy).”
DOC is still confident walkers will have as close to a traditional Great Walk experience as possible.
“If the booking figures for the other Great Walks – which had a record opening week – are anything to go by, we’re expecting to again see huge demand for these tracks heading into the summer season,” Fleming said.
Both Great Walks can be booked at the DOC website.