This legendary hike is the most famous in New Zealand and has been captivating enthusiasts for more than 100 years. From fjords to mountains, this beautiful landscape will seduce even the most discerning of hikers.
In an article published nearly 100 years ago in the London Spectator, poet Blanche Baughan declared that the Milford trail was "the finest walk in the world". Since then, every year, thousands of people come to discover this magical place with their own eyes.
The hike begins at Lake Te Anau and ends 53 kilometres later at Sandfly Point in Milford Sound, taking hikers over suspended bridges along the way to crystal-clear lakes and soaring peaks with spectacular views of the valley.
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The Milford Track is a four-day, three-night affair, always hiked from north to south and in small groups so as to minimise the impact on the environment. Since camping along the trail is forbidden, there are huts for trampers to sleep in, one at the end of each of the first three days' trails. In the summer season you need to book all three huts on the track and stay in each hut consecutively.
The first day on the trail is the easiest, a gift from the Department of Conservation, if you will. After a 90-minute boat ride, a five-kilometre walk, which should take 1-1.5 hours, culminates at Clinton Hut, the rest location for the night. Swimming in the Clinton River or a short trip through the nearby wetlands is recommended.
The second day involves a six-hour, 16.5-kilometre gentle ascent, following the Clinton River toward Lake Mintaro. This section of the trail crosses through more than 50 avalanche passes, making it extremely dangerous in the off-peak season. You will also pass Hirere Falls along the way, an impressive 420-metre waterfall. After gaining about 250 metres in elevation, hikers spend the night at Mintaro Hut.
Things get tricky on day three. This 14-kilometre section of the trail should take six to seven hours to complete, starting 500 metres above sea level and ending 100 metres above. However, along the way, hikers will go over Mackinnon Pass at 1,069 metres, an elevation that takes only two hours from Mintaro Hut to reach.
From the pass to Dumpling Hut, where hikers spend the final night, is an eight-kilometre hike that descends 970 metres, and shortly before the hut, a side track leads to the magnificent Sutherland Falls, which drop 580 metres in three stages from Lake Quill.
The final day's trail is 18 kilometres long and should take between five and six hours to complete. Hikers should aim to leave Dumpling Hut between 8am and 9am to connect with the boats departing at either 2pm or 3pm from Sandfly Point for Milford Sound/Piopiotahi. As an interesting side note, the final two kilometres of smooth, wide track were built by a prison labour gang in the late 19th Century.
During the Great Walks Season (October 27, 2015 to April 27, 2016), the cost of walking the trail and staying in all three huts is $162 per adult. Guided walks, which use different housing accommodations, can be organised through independent tour operators, as well.
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Copyright AFP Relaxnews, 2015.
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