Milford Sound - New Zealand, Grade 4, 53.5km

From February 21, 2021 6:00 am until February 24, 2021 12:00 pm
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Milford Sound Track 20-23rd Nov


20th Nov 2020 – Get bus/Ferry to start Milford Track from Queenstown

53.5 km one way

Walking and tramping

4 days Intermediate: Great Walk/Easier tramping track

Seasonal restrictions

In the Great Walks season

Bookings are required for huts

  • Huts have gas cooking stoves and resident wardens

About this track

What to expect

Great Walk tracks are of a higher standard than most other tracks so are well formed and easy to follow. The tracks are usually quite wide depending on the terrain – some fit two people walking side by side in flat areas.

The surface is usually gravel, rock or dirt, and like any track can get slippery in wet weather.

Most rivers and waterways on these tracks have sturdy bridges. Occasionally there are also small streams that cross the track but are usually easy enough to step across safely. Be aware that in wet weather rivers can rise very quickly and flood the tracks – especially on the Milford Track.

There are hill climbs where the track becomes steeper, which is all the better for views.

Detailed description

The Milford Track (53.5 km) starts at Glade Wharf (at the head of Lake Te Anau, access from Te Anau Downs, 27 km from Te Anau). It finishes at Sandfly Point in Milford Sound. The track may only be walked in one direction and takes 4 days to complete, with each night spent at a pre-booked hut.

Places to stay

There are 3 huts on the Milford Track, which must be booked in advance during the Great Walks season.

Camping is not permitted on the Milford Track.

During the Great Walks season the hut facilities include:

  • Bunks with mattresses in a communal sleeping layout.
  • Water supply, flushing toilets, wash basins with cold running water (but no showers).
  • Heating with fuel available, and usually solar lighting in the main area.
  • Cooking facilities with fuel, tables and seating (but no cooking utensils).
  • A resident DOC ranger - they can tell you about the environment and weather, or help out should an emergency arise.

Day 1 – Glade Wharf to Clinton Hut

Time: 1–1 hr 30 min
Distance: 5 km

After a boat cruise fromTe Anau Downs (1 hour 15 minutes), take a leisurely walk through beautiful beech forest along the banks of the Clinton River to Clinton Hut, where all walkers spend the firstnight. Once you arrive, take some time to checkout the great swimming holes near the hut, or take a short walk around the wetland boardwalk. 

Clinton Hut

Category: Great Walk

Facilities: 40 bunk beds, cooking, heating, lighting, mattresses

Bookings required

Side trip: Wetland Walkway

Time: 15 min return

Guided walks with the DOC ranger maybe available during the late afternoon.

Day 2 – Clinton Hut to Mintaro Hut

Time: 6 hr
Distance: 16.5 km

A gradual climb follows the Clinton River to its source, Lake Mintaro, at the base of the renowned Mackinnon Pass. Past Hirere Falls you will get your first view of Mackinnon Pass and the impressive Pompolona icefield. You’ll be dwarfed by the sheer scale of the rock walls towering above on either side as you walk up the Clinton Valley, and will pass through changing vegetation as you climb higher towards Mintaro Hut. 

Mintaro Hut

Category: Great Walk

Facilities: 40 bunk beds, cooking, heating, lighting, mattresses

Bookings required

 Day 3 – Mintaro Hut to Dumpling Hut

Time: 6–7 hr
Distance: 14 km

Climb to Mackinnon Pass and the memorial to explorer Quintin McKinnon, with exceptional views of Lake Mintaro and the Clinton Canyon along the way. The memorial is a great place to take in the awe-inspiring panoramas, before reaching the highest point of the track and Mackinnon Pass Shelter (1154 m).

From here, you’ll drop steadily through an attractive alpine garden to the valley floor, passing several waterfalls along the Roaring Burn River before arriving at Quintin Shelter. On the way to Dumpling Hut take a moment to admire Sutherland Falls in the distance. 

Dumpling Hut

Category: Great Walk

Facilities: 40 bunk beds, cooking, heating, lighting, mattresses

Bookings required 

Side trip – Sutherland Falls

Time: 1 hr 30 min return

The side trip to Sutherland Falls is a definite highlight that is highly recommended and well worth the effort. The impressive falls drop 580 m in 3 leaps from Lake Quill.

Sutherland Falls on Google Street View

Day 4 – Dumpling Hut to Sandfly Point

Time: 5 hr 30 min – 6 hr
Distance: 18 km

From Dumpling Hut, follow Arthur River to the historic Boatshed. Further along the track, you will reach the dramatic Mackay Falls and intriguing Bell Rock. Admire the man-made rock cuttings alongside the Arthur River and Lake Ada, before spending the last 3 km on a smooth, wide track constructed by a prison labour gang between 1890 and 1892.

A short boat ride from Sandfly Point will take you to your journey’s end, with world-famous views of Milford Sound/Piopiotahi along the way.

Fees and bookings

Find out about fees for staying at huts on the Milford Track and how to make reservations in the summer season. The track takes 4 days to walk. Camping is not permitted.


In the Great Walks season

New Zealand citizens and those ordinarily resident in New Zealand*:

  • Adult (18+ years): $70 per person, per night
    Child (17 years and under): free but booking still required
    International visitors:
  • Adult (18+ years): $140 per person, per night
    Child (17 years and under): $140 per person, per night

What to book

In the Great Walks season you need to book all three huts on the track. You must start from the Lake Te Anau end and stay in each hut consecutively.

Outside the Great Walks season you don't need to book huts, but you need to take a Backcountry Hut Pass/Tickets. During the winter season there are reduced facilities and additional safety hazards to consider – see Outside the Great Walks season.

You also need to book transport services to/from the track.

How to book

Follow this step-by-step process to guide you through booking the Milford Track.

Decide the date you want to start walking.

Check time options for transport services between Te Anau and the start/end of the track. You can choose to:
Book transport at the same time as booking huts.
Add transport to your hut booking at a later date – contact the Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre.
Book buses directly with an operator. Find transport operators for the Milford Track (external site) (Destination Fiordland website)
Note: You can't book the boat from Sandfly Point to Milford Sound through an operator – it must be booked through DOC, either at the same time as making your hut bookings or later through the Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre.
Check availability of huts. If there is no space in each of the huts from the date you want to start, consider:
Starting your walk on a different date.
Doing a guided walk. Find guided walk options
Book huts (and transport).
Book online, or
Contact a DOC visitor centre for personal assistance
Note: Bookings are required for children and/or youth even though it's free for them to stay.
Book transport between Te Anau and the start/end of the track if you haven't already done this at the same time as booking huts.

Getting there

Travel to and from the Milford Track usually requires road transport and boat access at both ends of the track.

You can only walk the Milford Track in one direction, and the below transport options are for the summer Great Walks season only.

The track starts at Glade Wharf at the head of Lake Te Anau. There are three scheduled daily boat services (10.30 am, 1 pm and 2 pm) and on-demand water taxi services from Te Anau Downs. Boat transport takes one hour from Te Anau Downs to the start of the track.

Te Anau Downs is 27 km from Te Anau on the road to Milford Sound. It has a car parking area if you wish to leave your vehicle. Bus services run daily scheduled services from Te Anau to meet the boat at Te Anau Downs.

For experienced trampers, there is tramping access to the start of the track from the Eglinton Valley via the Dore Pass Route.

The Milford Track finishes at Sandfly Point (a 15min boat trip from Milford Sound village).
At the end of your adventure, there are daily bus services from Milford Sound to:

The Divide - start of Routeburn Track (38 km - 45 min) 
Te Anau Downs (93 km - 2 hr) 
Te Anau (120 km - 2.5 hr)
Queenstown - (297 km - 5 hr)

Know before you go

Be prepared – take the right gear

As with any outdoor experience, the decisions you make and your safety are your responsibility.

Check conditions – check with the DOC Visitor Centre for track conditions and weather before your trip.
Take the right gear for all conditions and enough food. All walkers should take a first aid kit. 

Get a list of what to take.
If walking outside the Great Walks season we recommend you also take a mountain radio and/or personal locator beacon. Also see Walking the Milford Track outside the Great Walks season.
Your mobile is not useful as there is no coverage for the Milford and Routeburn Tracks and very little on the Kepler Track (limited to high areas).

Hazards to look out for on Great Walks

Being lost
The tracks are very well marked but if you become lost you should stop, find shelter and stay calm. Put on extra clothing and assist rescuers should you hear them searching for you.

Being injured or ill
If you are injured or become ill, use your first aid kit immediately and contact DOC staff if needed. In case of emergency an evacuation may be possible.

Hypothermia (too cold)
During cold, wet and windy conditions, hypothermia (drop in core body temperature) can become a serious problem. From initial stages to unconsciousness can take as little as 30 minutes.

Wear warm and weatherproof gear and eat regularly during your walk.
These symptoms may indicate initial stages of hypothermia: shivering, clumsy, confused, have slurred speech, may deny they have a problem.
To treat: immediately make or find shelter, get the person into dry, warm clothing, put into sleeping bag, give warm, sweet drinks, monitor and seek immediate medical help.

Heat exhaustion
Heat exhaustion is usually caused by warm temperatures and not drinking enough water. 

Carry and drink water regularly throughout your walk.
A person in the early stages of heat exhaustion may show weakness, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, loss of appetite and sweating. 
To help, give them water and find a cool place to rest.

Take care to put ashes from hut fire places in the metal drums to avoid huts burning down. At campsites please only use the designated areas. No open fires are permitted in Fiordland National Park.

Flooding on tracks
During and after heavy rain, flooding of tracks is common on all Great Walks. Stream and river levels will drop rapidly once rain stops. If you are caught between flooded streams seek higher ground and wait for water levels to drop.

Risk areas may include:

Kepler Track – Iris Burn Valley.
Milford Track –- between Hirere and Bus Stop in the Clinton Valley; and between Boat Shed and Poseidon Creek in the Arthur Valley.
Routeburn Track – Routeburn Valley.

Strong winds
Whenever you are walking in alpine areas or exposed areas on any of the tracks, such as over passes, saddles and along mountain ridges, you could be caught in strong and/or gusty winds (eg over 80km/hour winds). Take care to dress warmly as wind-chill danger is worse at these times.

Snow avalanches are common on all tracks, especially between late August and early November. Danger is higher during or directly after snow and rain. Avalanche and snow hazard can change rapidly from low to high within a 24 hour period.

Risk areas may include:

Kepler Track – Iris Burn Valley.
Milford Track –- between Hirere and Bus Stop in the Clinton Valley; and between Boat Shed and Poseidon Creek in the Arthur Valley.
Routeburn Track – Routeburn Valley.

Follow all advice given by staff.
Start zones of avalanche paths often cannot be seen from the track.
In danger areas, do not walk below other walkers.

Routeburn Track – the area halfway between Routeburn Flats and Routeburn Falls Huts is prone to slips after heavy rain. Care is required when traversing this area. If in doubt, do not proceed.

All drone use must be authorised by DOC

A concession is required to fly a drone on any public conservation land - see Recreational drone use and Commercial drone use for more information.

What to take

Personal equipment

Backpack (40–60 litre size for multi-day hiking)
Waterproof/plastic pack liner
Sleeping bag (3–4 season)
First aid kit (including insect repellent, sunscreen, blisterkit, personal medication e.g. antihistamine for allergy to wasp stings)
Survival kit (survival blanket, whistle, paper, pencil, highenergy snack food)
Safety equipment relevant to the track and time of year (e.g. map, compass)
Drink bottle (1-2 litre capacity)
Eating and cooking utensils (knife, fork, spoon, plate, cup, pot/pan/billy, cleaning kit, tea towel)
Matches or lighter in waterproof container
Torch/flashlight and spare batteries
Rubbish bag
Tickets and ID
Portable stove and fuel
Toilet paper
Visit the Kiwi way – never miss an opportunity to use a loo and be prepared with a back-up toilet option



Ear plugs for communal bunkrooms


For multi-day walking you'll need at least one set of clothes to walk in and another dry set to change into at night
Walking boots or firm footwear (should be comfortable and well broken in)
Socks (wool or polypropylene)
Shorts (quick dry material)
Shirt (wool or polypropylene)
Under layers, top and bottom (wool or polypropylene)
Mid-layers (wool or polar fleece)
Raincoat (waterproof, windproof with hood)
Overtrousers (wind and waterproof)
Warm hat and gloves
Sunhat and sunglasses
Extra socks, underwear, shirt/lightweight jersey



Lightweight shoes for inside the huts


You can't buy food on the track.

Bring food that is lightweight, fast cooking and high in energy value. For example:

Breakfast: cereal/porridge/oats, firm bread, honey or other spreads
Lunch: cracker biscuits, cheese, salami, jam/jelly, fruit
Dinner: instant soup, pasta or rice, dried vegetables or fruit, cheese or dehydrated (freeze-dried) meals

You'll also need water, snacks, biscuits, muesli bars, tea or coffee, powdered fruit drinks and emergency food in case of any delays on the track.

Download a checklist 

What to take on a Great Walk: English (PDF, 125K) (opens in new window) 

Equipment rental

Prepare for your trip to Fiordland.

Fees are charged per person per night, and hut beds are on a first come, first served basis only. All huts require a Serviced Backcountry Hut Ticket, which must be purchased in advance. Alternatively, a Backcountry Hut Pass (valid for 6 or 12 months) may be used. See Fees and bookings.Take responsibility for your own safety - be prepared

Before you go, know the The Outdoor Safety Code – 5 simple rules to help you stay safe:

Plan your trip
Tell someone
Be aware of the weather
Know your limits
Take sufficient supplies