At just over 53km in length, the world-famous Milford Track is liberally endowed with some of the most spectacular natural sights of any track in the world.
Walking the track requires taking a ferry across Lake Te Anau from Te Anau Downs to Glade Wharf at the lake head and near the mouth of the Clinton River.
From the wharf, it’s a two-hour walk to the 40-bunk Clinton Hut. The track then continues up the Clinton Valley – a wild and dramatic place where the valley climbs steadily through the unfolding majesty of the Clinton Canyon – a defile of rock and precipice lorded over by 2000m summits and split by fissures where waterfalls tumble.
Sited in the forest in the upper valley at 600m, directly below MacKinnon Pass, Mintaro Hut is a full day’s walk from Clinton Hut and is the staging point for tackling the pass. Lake Mintaro is nearby.
From Mintaro, it’s a steady climb up a steep zig-zag trail to Mackinnon Pass – the hardest day of the walk for most. From the pass, the track descends into the Roaring Burn passing beneath the flanks of Mt Balloon and Mt Elliot which during winter and spring regularly send large airborne avalanches over their precipitous slopes and into the valley. A direct short-cut ‘emergency track’ is available to avoid this danger during spring.
The track continues to Quintin Lodge and day shelter at the confluence of the Roaring Burn and Arthur River. From the shelter, there is a 90-minute return trip to Sutherland Falls (580m) – one of New Zealand’s highest waterfalls and a highlight of the track.
The track then continues down the Arthur Valley to Dumpling Hut, the final hut on the walk. From the hut, the track continues down the valley to Lake Ada and the Giant Gate Falls – a memorable spectacle viewed from the swingbridge which spans the downstream flow.
The track then continues to Sandfly Point – the end of the walk. From here, access is only by boat, and yes, the sandflies are intolerable!