Backpack the Routeburn Track

Routeburn Shelter

Hike through two national parks and get jaw-dropping alpine scenery on one of New Zealand’s nine Great Walks. Get hut accommodation to make this a great overnight.

If you're looking for the best the Routeburn Track has to offer but only have one night to spend - hike from the Glenorchy side Routeburn Shelter to Lake Mackenzie in 12.5 miles (approx. 3,500 feet of elevation gain) and stay at this stunning hut location before backtracking over Harris Saddle the following day. There are plenty of other hut options that allow shorter hiking days if you have the time to spare but either way Lake Mackenzie is not to be missed!

The trail from the Routeburn Shelter begins a gradual ascent through moss-covered beech forest to the Routeburn Flats Hut (6.5 km or 4 miles) before climbing more steeply to the Routeburn Falls Hut (2.3 km or 1.5 miles). Once the trail begins to climb you'll be rewarded with sweeping glacial valley views and waterfalls upon arrival at the Routeburn Falls Hut. The steepest section of the hike follows from Routeburn Falls to Harris Saddle and is above treeline the entire way providing some of the best views of the journey. You'll pass Lake Harris on your way and be treated to a look into the mystically named "Valley of the Trolls" in the background. The Harris Shelter makes a great lunch stop or shelter from the elements if the weather changes. From the shelter you can opt for a climb up Conical Hill to achieve even more stunning views.

The walk from Harris Saddle to Lake Mackenzie is a tour of alpine splendor that will afford many photo opportunities on a clear day. As you round Ocean Peak corner you'll see the lake from above before dropping into the valley. The best view of the lake is only minutes before arriving at the hut and can be seen from the trail. Depending on the lake level (which fluctuates substantially) it may be best to travel up the valley toward the campsites to attain an uninterrupted view of the lake and peaks. The large Lake Mackenzie Hut accommodates 50 and the nearby camp holds 9 tents. You'll find relative solitude if you visit in the shoulder season and snow on the peaks - both of which make for a superb experience.

Pack List

  • Sleeping bag
  • Cookware (although stoves are provided)
  • Warm layers for changing weather
  • Camera
  • Tripod
  • Booking confirmation (pre-book in Great Walks Season October – April and grab a ticket from the local visitor center)
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RT Distance 12.5 Miles
Activities Camping, Photography, Backpacking, Hiking
Skill Level Beginner
Season Spring, Summer, Autumn
Trail Type Point-to-Point
Features
Easy Parking
Forest
Lake
River
Scenic
Waterfall
Wildflowers

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

Outdone-d

Great Walks are called Great Walks, for a reason. This was one of the most interesting, most beautiful backpacking trips I have done. The trails are fantastic, the climbs are perfect, the waterfalls, the mountains, everything. Even the huts are perfect. Each one has it's own personal feel and made the experience wonderful.

Great Great Walk

Best great walk in New Zealand, with so much helpful information here and on DOC websites!

Amazing!

This definitely is on top of my to-do list while in NZ! I couldn't find a decent guidebook but I am thankful you have so much great information posted!


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Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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