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There and back again

The Routeburn Return is a four day, 38km there and back journey

The Routeburn Track has been partially reopened allowing walkers to hike a there-and-back route from the Glenorchy end of the track to Lake Mackenzie Hut. 

The ‘Routeburn Return’ is a four-day three-night trip replacing the Routeburn Great Walk, which was closed for the rest of the season due to storm damage.

The Routeburn Great Walk is traditionally a three-day trans-alpine trek between Glenorchy and The Divide near Milford Sound.

DOC Southern South Island Operations Director Aaron Fleming said since the February 3 storms, DOC staff had worked hard, drawing on expert geotechnical advice to get tracks reopened as soon as possible.

“We know people are really keen to get back into nature as quickly as possible, but for us, safety has to come first,” he said. “We knew really early on that the track as a traditional cross-alpine Great Walk adventure could not be safely reopened in its entirety this season.

“Now we’ve completed assessments, made some necessary repairs, and are pleased to announce access from the Glenorchy end, through to Lake Mackenzie Hut is safe for people to return. Repairs have included flying in a replacement temporary bridge, fixing damaged bridges and track clearance.”

There is still no access from The Divide end of the track for the foreseeable future and the track will not reopen as a full walkthrough experience this season.

“The Milford side of the Routeburn track, between The Divide and Howden Hut has sustained significant damage,” Flemming said. “Lake Howden Hut in particular has been damaged beyond repair, and there are significant landslides that have made the track unsafe.”

The Routeburn Return experience is longer and more challenging than the traditional Great Walk, as walkers will now trek about two-thirds of the original track before turning back to head out the same way, staying at either Routeburn Falls or Routeburn Flats each way, Fleming said.

“They’ll also get to tackle Harris Saddle twice, which is a harder climb but the panoramic views between valleys make it all worth it.”

With access restored along the Glenorchy side of the track, trampers can now also gain access to the Route Burn North Branch, Sugarloaf – excluding Lake Sylvan track – and Rock Burn Valleys to backcountry adventurers and other outdoor enthusiasts.

“This is a really special part of the country, popular with experienced hikers, hunters, climbers and campers and we hope people enjoy being able to get back out there, safely. Access to these areas is available now.”

Refunds for people booked on the full Routeburn Track are still being processed. Customers who were booked to walk the Routeburn Great Walk from February 4 to April 30 have been contacted by email and offered the chance to self-cancel and book the Routeburn Return walk.

“Of the 79 tracks that were closed following the February flood, the fantastic work of our rangers has seen 51 of these tracks reopen,” Flemming said. “Fiordland and Mount Aspiring National Parks are most definitely open for business.”

The Routeburn Return
Distance: 38km
Total ascent: 2876m
Nights on track: