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The Milford Track Ultimate Guide

The Milford Track is renowned for being “one of the finest walks in the world,” allowing hikers a full, immersive experience into Fiordland’s iconic landscape. Beginning in Te Anau, the hike will take you through glacier-carved valleys, past tumbling waterfalls, and weaving through ancient rainforests before finishing in the stunning Piopiotahi-Milford Sound. 

There are multiple options for experiencing the Milford Track, and below you’ll find everything you need to know for your adventure on one of New Zealand’s most famous hiking trails. 

Milford Track Overview 

Milford Track Map

The Milford Track is one of New Zealand’s most famous Great Walks, astonishing hikers for over 150 years with its spectacular mountain and fiord scenery. When you set off on this iconic trail, it will be easy to see why it's often referred to as “one of the finest walks in the world.”

You’ll witness pristine lakes, towering mountain peaks, and panoramic valley views. You’ll also encounter New Zealand’s tallest waterfall, Sutherland Falls, named after Donald Sutherland, the first European to settle in Milford Sound.

The Milford Track allows you to traverse through centuries of history, being first utilised by Māori, the indigenous people of Aotearoa, New Zealand over 1000 years ago, and later by early European settlers. In 1888, the Milford Track was officially opened for hikers after an established track was carved out to make it easier to traverse. 

Milford Track Elevation and Mountains

Location and Duration 

The Milford Track is around 54km (33.5 miles) long and is located in Fiordland National Park in the southwest of New Zealand’s South Island. The track can only be walked in one direction, beginning at Glade Wharf at the head of Lake Te Anau. The track takes hikers through the Clinton and Arthur River valleys, separated by the highest track point, the Mckinnon pass, at 1,140 m /3,740 ft, and finishes at Sandfly Point in Milford Sound

The Department of Conservation (DOC) classifies the track as an intermediate-level trail, and it takes three nights and four days to complete, with the opportunity to explore several side trails along the way, such as the must-do visit to Sutherland Falls. 

Full Track Hiking Options 

The full multi-day hike can be completed as an independent hike, staying in DOC huts, or as a guided hike staying in private lodges.

Independent Hiking

Camping is not permitted along the Milford Track, and DOC operates three huts along the track to accommodate independent hikers. 

Milford Track Huts:

  • First night: Clinton Hut with 40 bunks

  • Second night: Mintaro Hut with 40 bunks

  • Third night: Dumpling Hut with 40 bunks

During the Great Walks season (late October to late April), there is a DOC ranger in residence, and the huts have bunks, mattresses, heating, solar-powered lighting, cold running water (boil before use), and basic cooking facilities. The huts don’t have showers, and you’ll need to bring all your own food and cooking equipment. 

It’s not recommended to hike the Milford Track outside of the Great Walks season (early May to late October) unless you are a very experienced hiker. If you hike outside the season, there will be no DOC rangers at the huts and the facilities may be reduced, such as no gas for cooking.

Guided Hiking

During the Great Walks season, Ultimate Hikes offers a fully guided 5-day / 4-night hike with accommodation in private wilderness lodges for three nights along the track, and then one night’s accommodation in Milford Sound.

The package includes transport to and from the entry and exit points of the track, all snacks and food provided on the hike, a Milford Sound Cruise, rain jackets, and a 40-litre backpack if you need one.

The guided hike is only available during the Great Walks season and must be booked well in advance. Prices range from NZD$2,595 - $4,109 per person depending on room choice and time of year. 


Personal Story

Our Luxe Tours owners are no stranger to the Milford Track. Over the last decade they have transported family & friends several times, via their own boat to Glade Wharf, followed by walking to the first hut (Clinton Hut). Guest Experience Manager, Katelyn, says that this is a fantastic day walk, following the Clinton River which is so clear you can see the bottom even when metres deep. Trout fish are seen throughout this part of the river as there are large pools of protection from the rapids in the middle.

In early 2022, Katelyn dragged our other owner, Toby, along the Milford Track, covering the entire 53km in under 13 hours as part of her GodZone Adventure Race training. They did the track in reverse (from the Milford Sound end), packrafting to the starting point and then carrying the boat out, much to the astonishment of other walkers. Toby says "I wondered about two hours in why I do things like this to myself, but that is all wiped out when you get to the top of McKinnon's Pass, absolutely stunning!"

Anyone want to try it in under 13-hours?


Wildlife Highlights 

Fiordland National Park is full of unique flora and fauna species. Most of Fiordland’s wildlife species are found nowhere else on Earth, and along the Milford Track you’ll get the opportunity to spot many. 

Mischievous Kea, the world’s only alpine parrots, are very likely to make an appearance along the track. You’ll also hear their slightly smaller cousin, the Kākā, in forested areas, and may see them as well. As these two species live in different habitats, they don’t often hang out together, but in late December on the Milford Track, you may catch a rare glimpse of these two parrots near each other while feeding on mountain flax nectar.

You’ll also see and hear an array of forest birds, such as the South Island Robin, Kererū/NZ wood pigeon, and Tūī. You may also see the Whio/Blue Duck in river reaches along the track, particularly on the Arthur River near Dumpling Hut. When peering into the crystalline waters of the Clinton River, you may also see the tuna/long-fin eel, capable of growing up to 2m long. 

At night on the track, you might hear the Tokoeka/Southern Brown Kiwi, and if you are looking around very quietly, you might see one too. 

Independent Hiking - Know Before You Go

When to Go

It’s recommended to hike the Milford Track during the Great Walks season, which runs from late October to late April every year. Though Fiordland is prone to dramatic weather changes year-round, the weather is most settled during the Great Walks season and there are fewer hazards, so it is best to hike during this time.

Outside of the Great Walks season,  the weather can be extremely cold and wet with icy and snowy areas and much shorter daylight hours. You should only hike outside the season if you are an experienced hiker with sufficient alpine and river crossing skills. 

Booking and Prices

Booking the Milford Track huts is essential during the Great Walks season, and you should book them well in advance, as spaces fill up quickly. You can book huts online from the DOC Great Walks bookings page. 

Hut Prices During the Great Walks season:

Prices for NZ residents and those living long-term in NZ:

  • Adult 18+ years: NZD$78 per person, per night

  • Child 17 years and under: free, but booking the space is required

You’ll also need to provide eligibility proof for the NZ rate, such as a passport or driver's licence. Find out about what you can use as proof here.

Prices for International visitors:

  • Adult 18+ years: NZD$110 per person, per night

  • Child 17 years and under: NZD$55 per person, per night

Prices Outside the Great Walks season: 

Booking is not required outside the season, and the huts operate on a first-come, first-served basis. To use the huts outside the season, you will need to buy Back Country Hut tickets from the DOC visitor centre in Te Anau.

Off-season prices for all visitors:

  • Adult 18+ years): NZD$25 per person, per night

  • Child 17 years and under: free

Note: The full track is not recommended for children under 10 years due to the exposed alpine areas and potentially extreme weather conditions. There are also some quite steep, slippery, and muddy areas of the track that are not suitable for young children. 

No Cellphone Coverage

There is no cell phone coverage on the Milford Track, so ensure you inform someone of your hiking plans and when you expect to return. You should also check in at the DOC visitor centre in Te Anau before you leave.

Packing Essentials

For the full multi-day on-season hike you’ll need:

  • Backpack 

  • Waterproof/plastic pack liner

  • Sleeping bag 

  • First aid kit 

  • Survival kit 

  • Map and compass

  • An emergency shelter, for if you are trapped by flooded rivers or bad weather

  • A distress beacon

  • Torch and spare batteries

  • Rubbish bag

  • Booking confirmation and ID

  • Light-weight food items

  • Toiletries, including insect repellant, sunscreen, and personal medication

  • Toilet paper

  • Cooking supplies

  • Water bottle

  • A set of clothing for the day and another set for the night

  • Matches or a lighter

Hiking in the off-season will require more clothing items and a gas cooker for the huts, as no gas will be available.

Check out this gear list to ensure you are properly prepared to hike the Milford Track.

Accessing the Milford Track

There is no private or vehicle access to the start or end points of the Milford Track, and both points are only accessible by boat transport that you must book in advance. 

From Te Anau, you can drive yourself or take a bus or coach to Te Anau Downs, which takes around 30 minutes. From here, a 1-hour boat trip will take you to the track entry point, Glade Wharf, at the head of Lake Te Anau. Then once you finish the track at Sandfly Point, you can take another boat trip, around 20 minutes, to the visitor terminal in Milford Sound, and a bus service can take you back to Te Anau. 

There are several operators providing transport services for the Milford Track, including car relocation services if you’d like to use your car before and after you finish the hike. Check out this page for information on the various transport packages and prices. 

Outside the Great Walks season, transport operators require minimum numbers to operate and may not always run a daily service. Transport may also be impacted by bad weather. You’ll need to contact transport operators for information about their off-season services if you plan to hike outside of the season.

Safety Tips

  • Prepare for all weather conditions: Weather conditions on the track can change quickly in any season. Fiordland National Park is also one of the wettest parts of New Zealand, and there is a very high likelihood of rain in all seasons on the Milford Track. Year-round, you should also expect alpine conditions, such as strong winds, freezing temperatures, and possible snow. 

  • For the most up-to-date Milford Track weather forecast, check this page from NIWA.

  • Regularly check the forecast weather conditions for the MacKinnon Pass before you go, as this is the most exposed part of the Milford Track. It’s also a good idea to view the live webcam footage for the pass. 

Milford Track Day Hikes

If you can’t do the full multi-day hike, then day walks are a great option to ensure you don’t miss the opportunity to experience the peace and beauty of the Milford Track. You can do the day hikes independently or as a guided hike.

Day Hike from Sandfly Point

One option is to either drive yourself to Milford Sound or take a bus or coach, and then take boat transport with Fiordland Outdoors (book in advance) to Sandfly Point to access the Milford Track. Then take a 3-4 hour return independent hike to the tumbling Giant Gates Falls, a terrific picnic and swimming spot, before returning to Milford Sound again via boat. 

Day Hike from Te Anau Downs

To experience the first part of the track, you can drive or take a bus or coach service to Te Anau Downs and take a water taxi with Fiordland Outdoors (book in advance) from Te Anau Downs to Glade Wharf. From here you can take a 3.5hr return hike up to Clinton Hut and then return to Te Anau Downs via boat again. 

Guided Day Hikes

If you’d like to do either of these day hikes with a guide, then you can book with Trips & Tramps, and experience a taste of the Milford Track with a small hiking group while a knowledgeable guide shares fascinating stories and information about the Milford Track and its wildlife.

Staying in Te Anau

Te Anau, New Zealand, Luxe Tours NZ

Te Anau is the closest town to Milford Sound, and its convenient location makes it a great place to stay before and after hiking the Milford Track. In Te Anau, you’ll find a range of accommodation options to suit your budget and preferences, including hotels, motels, luxury lodges, backpackers, campgrounds, and Airbnb. There are multiple cafes and restaurants throughout the town, and many activity options to add to your stay, such as the Glowworm Cave tour, the Te Anau Bird Sanctuary, a Fiordland Jet Boat ride or the Lake 2 Lake cycle trail. 

The Milford Track has been a favourite of hikers for over a century. This hike will bring you breathtaking views all the way and the grand finale of Milford Sound, and with proper preparation and planning, the Milford Track is sure to provide you with memories that will last a lifetime. 

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