Guide to the Milford Track Great Walk in New Zealand

Guide to Hiking the Milford Track in New Zealand

Considered one of the finest walks in the world, the Milford Track is a perfect way to immerse yourself in New Zealand’s nature. Walking through glaciated valleys, beach forests, and alpine tussocks, stunning beauty surrounds the Milford Track at every step. Hundreds of waterfalls plummet from misty mountain tops to valley floors.

Among them is one of New Zealand’s tallest waterfalls, Sutherland Falls as well as the smaller, but picturesque Mackay and Giant Gate Falls. The Milford Track is New Zealand’s premier walk and albeit with the high costs in season, it is still one of the most popular walks in the country.

Milford Track: Mackay Falls
Mackay Falls

Content and photographs provided by Yana Kogan and Timon.

Guide to the Milford Track in New Zealand

Getting There

Located in the Fiordlands, this is a one-way track during the season, starting from the Glade House (Te Anau Downs boat transfer) and ending at Sandfly Point, next to Milford Sound.

Best Season to Visit

The Great Walk season is from October 24 to May 4. During the season, the huts and campsites require prior bookings and are booked out months in advance. In season, huts have cooking stoves and a resident hut warden. Out of season, huts are first come first serve with discounted rates (see How to Book for costs).

The hike can be done out of season within a few weeks of in-season dates depending on the weather. Aside from these few weeks out of season, several bridges are removed for the winter, and experience in alpine and snow/ice conditions is required.

How Many Days to Stay

Milford Track Hike: McKinnon Pass
McKinnon Pass

Unless the hike is done out of season, the hike has a mandated four days on the trail, staying at each of the three huts. Out of season, we recommend skipping the first hut (Clinton Hut) and staying at Mintaro Hut and Dumpling Hut. For more details on hut locations, distances and maps, check out the DOC website for the Milford Track.

How to Book

Huts must be booked for the Great Walk season. Huts typically book out for the entire season by the time the season starts, so advanced planning is crucial to hiking during the season.

There are no campsites on the Milford Track. Huts cost $70 pp in season.  Out-of-season huts cost $15, paid by Hut Tickets or with a Backcountry Hut Pass. Both are obtainable from any DOC office or visitor center. Book online for in-season at the DOC’s website.

Booking Transportation

Milford Track New Zealand
Walking the famous Milford Track

Transportation is required to start and end this track. There are three companies that provide boat transfers, starting in Te Anau. TracknetFiordland Watertaxi, and Cruise Te Anau are the three companies, each offering slightly different times and costs. Expect to pay between $180 and $210 for round trip transportation.

Our Experience Hiking the Milford Track

Distance and Elevation Gain

Milford Track Walk: Rain Forest
Hiking through dense rain forest

Distance: 38.3 miles / 61.6 kilometers
Elevation: 4,734 feet (1,443m) ascent, 5,376 feet (1,639m) descent
Time: 3 Days (14 hours 45 minutes)

Day 1: From Te Anau Downs to the Milford Track start at the Glade House to Mintaro Hut

Milford Track: McKinnon Pass
At the top of McKinnon Pass

The walk starts with a two-hour boat ride on Lake Te Anau, leaving from Te Anau Downs. Once starting the walk from the Glade House, it is a short one-hour walk to Clinton Hut. In season, this would be the end of the first day. Out of season, it is best to continue to Mintaro Hut, another four hours through beech forest.

Distance: 14.4 miles / 23.2 kilometers
Elevation: 1,700 feet (518m) ascent, 410 feet (125m) descent
Time: 4 hours 45 minutes

Day 2: Mintaro Hut over McKinnon’s Pass to Dumpling Hut

Milford Track Hike: Giant Gate Falls
Giant Gate Falls

From Mintaro Hut, the trail ascends up to the McKinnon Pass. Views of the pass when clear are one of the highlights of the track. From here, there is a long descent down to Dumpling Hut. On the way down, there is a one-hour detour to Sutherland Falls.

Distance: 11.6 miles / 18.7 kilometers
Elevation: 2,552 feet (778m) ascent, 4,236 feet (1,292m) descent
Time: 5 hours 45 minutes

Day 3: Dumpling Hut to Sandfly Point

Milford Track New Zealand: Milford Sound
Walking to Milford Sound

The third day is a wonderful hike through the lush rainforest with two incredible waterfalls, the Mackay Falls and Giant Gate Falls. The track ends at Sandfly Point. A boat transfer to Milford Sound and van transportation back to Te Anau completes the hike.

Distance: 12.3 miles / 19.8 kilometers
Elevation: 482 feet (147m) ascent, 730 feet (222m) descent
Time: 4 hours 15 minutes

Day Hike Alternative

Milford Track: Walk
Finishing the track near the Milford Sound

There are limited day hike options on the Milford Track. Rosco’s offers transfers to Sandfly Point and guided walks to Giant Gate Falls (three-hour return). However, we do not recommend this option. It would be better to explore the Milford Sound area.

Important Things to Know

  • Bookings must be done very far in advance, at times up to six months in advance.
  • The Milford Sound is one of the wettest places on earth. Flooding occurs regularly. In season, there is the possibility of severe floods and flash floods. If the track is inaccessible, helicopters shuttle walkers over the flooded sections for free.
  • Water is available at each hut. Water is not filtered and you can filter/boil it for your own precaution; however, hut water is almost always drinkable in New Zealand.
  • Huts have gas stoves for use. There are no cooking utensils or cookware for use.
  • Out of season, beacon devices are required, one device per group. They are available for rentals for $30 from the Te Anau DOC office.

That’s it – have a wonderful walk around the Milford Track!

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  • Yana and Timon

    Yana & Timon met at college in Boston, Massachusetts. After graduating, they started their professional careers. They moved to San Francisco in 2010, a city they loved living in for nearly six years.

    After working and saving up money for several years, they quit their jobs and set off on an adventure of a lifetime. They started living a nomadic lifestyle in December 2015 and have not looked back since.

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1 thought on “Guide to Hiking the Milford Track in New Zealand”

  1. Great information! This looks absolutely incredible. We visited Milford Sound a few years ago and I would’ve loved to have time to hike.

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