Routeburn Track, New Zealand

November 2008  |  New Zealand

The Routeburn is one of New Zealand’s renowned “Great Walks”, and as such it has wide trails, huge huts, lots of people, and lots of signs telling the people where to go.

Since it is a one way hike with vast distances between the start and end points, I turned in my rental car, shipped one bag to Te Anau from Queenstown, and got a shuttle to the start. The trail itself is certainly spectacular, but it wasn’t necessarily THAT much better than all the other hikes I’ve been doing here. In fact some of my previous hikes were perhaps more amazing to me. Regardless, it was indeed a great walk, and I scored great weather yet again. I purposely booked two nights at the first hut (Routeburn Falls Hut), with the intent of doing some dayhiking exploring the second day, and that turned out to be a big advantage since the second day was pouring rain for the first half of the day. Worked out perfectly.

The gorgeous turquoise Route Burn river.

Routeburn Emerald River

The gorgeous turquoise Route Burn river.

Lake along the Routeburn Track

Lake along the Routeburn Track

Mt. Xenicus reflected in a small tarn on Harris Saddle, along the Routeburn Track.

Xenicus Reflection

Mt. Xenicus reflected in a small tarn on Harris Saddle, along the Routeburn Track.

Harris Saddle, the highpoint of the walk, is definitely the highlight of the track, with big views of the rugged Darran Mountains to the west. I hiked up there for sunset and also for sunrise the following morning.

Mt. Gifford's summit in the clouds

Harris Saddle Reflection

Mt. Gifford's summit in the clouds

Sunrise light shines on Mt. Gifford in the Darren Mountains, as a sea of clouds breaks up.

Mt. Gifford in the Clouds

Sunrise light shines on Mt. Gifford in the Darren Mountains, as a sea of clouds breaks up.

Keas checking to see if they can mess with me somehow.

Keas checking to see if they can mess with me somehow.

Mt. Tutoko (2656 m) is the tallest mountain in the rugged Darran Mountains. Tutoko rises abruptly almost 9,000 vertical feet...

Tutoko B/W

Mt. Tutoko (2656 m) is the tallest mountain in the rugged Darran Mountains. Tutoko rises abruptly almost 9,000 vertical feet from the Hollyford river valley, which is just about at sea level.

Cheesy self portrait on Harris Saddle

Cheesy self portrait on Harris Saddle

With the lack of sleep from my sunset and sunrise jaunts, the Lake Mackenzie Hut was a perfect resting place for the third day. The hut is situated next to a beautiful green lake with pointy peaks behind, and I could have fun photographing nearby without having to venture too far. I slept like a log that night – even sleeping through all the snoring in the hut.

Lake Mackenzie, along the Routeburn Track. 

Lake Mackenzie

Lake Mackenzie, along the Routeburn Track. 

New Zealand, Routeburn Track

Now I’m safe in Te Anau, a small town on the shores of a large lake on the east side of the mountains. If Wanaka is the place to escape the bustle of Queenstown, then Te Anau would be the place to escape the bustle of Wanaka, if that makes any sense.