Hikers leaving Mackinnon Memorial - Milford Track guided walk

The Classic


8 days | 7 nights
95 km | 59.2 miles
Difficulty | Difficult
Nov - Apr

Pre Track Briefing

This is held on the day prior to your walk departure date in the Ultimate Hikes Centre in Queenstown at 2.45pm. The briefing will explain the next few days of your walk, run through the packing checklist, equipment you should bring, and what you can borrow from us. We can also answer any questions you may have before departure.

Glade House - first lodge on the Milford Track guided walk


Queenstown to Glade House

1.6km (1 mile) walking from wharf to lodge on flat track

2km (over about 1.5 hours) nature walk 

Track Terrain: Some rocky sections and uneven ground with some steep and uneven terrain, including tree roots on the Nature walk.

The walk.

The group meets at the Ultimate Hikes Centre in Queenstown ready for departure.  Your pack will be put under the bus and not available until you reach the boat, so it’s a good idea to keep your water bottle, a warm layer, your phone/camera, and some money with you to take on the bus.  The bus will travel to Te Anau where you will have lunch before travelling on to Te Anau Downs to meet the boat to take you to the start of the Track and the first lodge.

The drive is approximately three hours with the stop in Te Anau of about an hour.  At the Te Anau Downs carpark you will be asked to carry a pack to the boat to be stored for the one hour ride to Glade Wharf.  The boat is a catamaran with outdoor and indoor seating – depending on the weather you will get views across Lake Te Anau and your skipper will point out sites of interest along the way.  This is where your warm layer may come in handy.

Glade Wharf marks the start of the Milford Track and once on shore, you will collect your pack and make your way up the 1.5km flat track to Glade House.  On arrival, you will be checked in and shown to your room.  After a brief refresh and some afternoon tea, you will gather for a group photo.  Afterwards, the guides will take you on a nature walk up the Glade burn.  The walk will introduce you to some of the trickier terrain of the track and some of the natural habitat you will see over the coming days.

Following the nature walk, the bar will open and you can enjoy a pre-dinner drink and snacks, before sitting down to dinner in the dining room.  The menu is set and you will have been asked for your choice of main course.

After dinner, the guides will initiate an introduction to the group and provide a briefing on the day to follow.

The group is then free to enjoy the lounge facility or return to their rooms for the evening.  The generator will turn off at 10.00pm – there will be nightlights in the rooms and corridors.  There will be no hot water until about 15 minutes after the generators are turned on in the morning.

Guide and walker on the Milford Track guided walk


Glade House to Pompolona Lodge

Morning Routine

Your first day on track sets the schedule for the next three days. Please check the timing in each lodge as it can differ slightly.  Once the generators have turned on, lunch making preparations are set up in the lounge.  Each person can choose from a variety of fillings to make sandwiches, wraps or salads.  There is also a selection of snacks, home baking and fruit to choose from.  You have a big day of walking so please ensure you pack enough food to sustain you through the day.

A continental breakfast, tea and coffee will also be available in the dining room and a cooked breakfast will follow.  Once you have completed lunch making and breakfast, and re-packed your pack, your guides will be waiting for you outside the main entrance to the lodge.

Making lunch on the Milford Track guided walk

16km (10 miles)

Track Terrain: is a mostly flat graded track with some uneven and rocky sections and an incline to Pompolona Lodge. The track closely follows the Clinton River and some sections are prone to flooding in heavy rain.  Just before Pompolona lodge there is a dry river bed to cross that has large boulders.

The walk.

Once the group is repacked and ready to go, the first guide will lead the group along the front of the Glade and onto the swing bridge, to cross the Clinton River.  You will be following the river throughout the day, but do linger and look back at the view of Glade House – a lodge has been on this site since 1895.  As the group leaves, the other guides will join them and one guide will always be at the rear of the group.  If you have any questions or concerns please ask the nearest guide or stop to wait for the guide behind you.

The track in this section is well graded through beech forest.  Look out for the mile markers – these are in miles as it was the original measurement of the track (kms are on the other side).  You will pass by 33 of them.  A side walk past the two mile marker leads to a wetlands walk – leave your pack at the turnoff and head up to the boardwalk to view the wetland and read the information panels. 

Continue along the track for about half a mile – Clinton Hut is the DOC hut and has flush toilets – the last until you reach the lodge (there are two long drops along the track). After Clinton Hut it is about 5.5 miles until you reach Hirere Hut where you will stop for lunch.  The guides will have a hot drink available and you are welcome to relax here and eat your lunch – you may see a cheeky Weka looking for scraps – please don’t feed them!

Soon after Hirere Hut, the track opens up, leaving the beech forest and becoming tall grass and manuka bush.  Along here a side track will take you down to Prairie lake where the brave among you can swim in glacier cold water.  The track then leads back into the beech forest to Pompolona lodge.  The track winds uphill before reaching Marlene’s Creek, a wide usually dry river bed with very large boulders.  A guide will be stationed here to show you the way and the orange markers will also indicate the best way to navigate through.  On the other side it’s a short walk to Pompolona Lodge.

The lodge host will welcome you at the entrance with a cold drink and snack and will show you to your room and point out the lodge facilities.  Once you have had a shower, rinsed your hiking clothes, and have them drying in the drying rooms, the lounge will provide welcome comfort with afternoon tea.  The bar will open late afternoon followed by dinner and a briefing.

Lodge comforts

The lodge host will welcome you at the entrance to the lodge with a cold drink and snack and will show you to your room and point out the lodge facilities.  Once you have had a shower, rinsed your hiking clothes, and have them drying in the drying rooms, the lounge will provide welcome comfort with afternoon tea.  The bar will open late afternoon followed by dinner and a briefing.

Mackinnon Pass - with Clinton valley beyond - Milford Track guided walk


Omanui/McKinnon Pass - Pompolona Lodge to Quintin Lodge

15km (9 miles)

Track Terrain:  Steep uphill following zig zags to Pass Hut on rocky uneven track.  Steep downhill (including steps) to Quintin lodge.  This is a very challenging day and can be made more so by the weather.  Please listen carefully to the guides briefing and ensure you have dressed and are prepared for the conditions. Take your time and walk at your own pace.

The walk

Leaving Pompolona Lodge the track leads behind the lodge and crosses another river bed before winding back into beech forest.  The first stop is Mintaro Hut.  Refill your water bottle and use the toilets.  The zig zags of Omanui/McKinnon Pass start shortly after leaving the hut.  At the 15 mile marker you will be half way up the zig zags to the memorial.  This is the steepest section of the uphill – the track is very rocky with some big step ups.  Shortly after the 15 mile marker the track comes out of the beech forest and becomes more exposed.  The zig zags lengthen out and you traverse up the side of the pass before coming across to the McKinnon memorial.  Much of the uphill for the day is done.  Rest here and have a snack.  Your guides will provide a warm drink and you can have a wander to see the incredible views from the saddle.

It can get very windy and cold on the Pass in any weather as it is very exposed to the elements with no shelter.  Listen to the advice of your guides who will point out the last section of track to Pass Hut where you will stop for lunch.  The track leads over the last bit of steep terrain to the highest point (and most exposed) before dropping down to the shelter of Pass Hut.  Rest here, have your lunch, change your clothing if necessary, and fill up your water bottle.

The descent from the pass is the steepest, rockiest terrain on the track and is often regarded as the most challenging part.  Leaving Pass Hut you will start a sharp descent down to the Arthur Valley.  The track becomes narrow in places and traverses the side of the hill – it is exposed and may cross running water.  There are two tracks down depending on the time of the season – there is some avalanche risk in this section of track so the alternative track may be used.  Both tracks require concentration and should be taken slowly. There are very rocky sections and poles are strongly advised to assist balance.  Both tracks reach the Anderson Cascades which is an amazing waterfall with a series of steep steps alongside.  They can be slippery so hold on to the railings on your way down.  At the Anderson Shelter take a break before the track continues down in a zig zag pattern. The duration of the downhill is longer than you expect, as you descend further than you climbed in the morning. You will pass the 20 mile marker and it is another three quarters of a mile to the turn off to Quintin Lodge.  Turn left at the bottom of the track, and cross the swing bridge over the Roaring burn River and Quintin lodge is in the clearing ahead of you.

Meet your lodge host, have a cold drink and drop your pack in your room.  If you have arrived at the lodge with enough time, head out to the right of the lodge entrance to Sutherland Falls.  There is a cut off time to walk to the Falls so please check with a guide or lodge member before setting off.


Sutherland Falls

This side walk from Quintin Lodge is an hour and a half return trip.  It has two suspension bridges and some steep steps to navigate.  From the second bridge you will see the Falls in the distance and this may be enough – but another 15 minutes and you’ll reach the base – you’ll hear it, and probably feel the spray before you see the thundering water up close.  Sutherland Falls is the fifth highest waterfall in the world and well worth the trip!

Quintin Lodge is well appointed and you’ll enjoy its warmth and comfort after a very full day of hiking.

Hiking to Sutherland Falls -  Milford Track
Mackay Falls on the Milford Track guided walk


Quintin Lodge to Mitre Peak Lodge at Milford Sound

21km (13.5 miles)

Track Terrain:  A downhill section from Quintin lodge, then the track follows the Arthur river through lake Ada to the end of the track where the water meets Milford Sound.  The track is in a beech forest and while it is flat, the ground is uneven with rocks and tree roots.  Some sections of the track are prone to flooding in heavy rain.

The walk

This is a long day and it’s easy to miss a step so keep an eye on the track ahead of you.  But stop to enjoy the views - especially the waterfalls, even if it’s not raining!  You will be walking under the canopy of the beech forest.  It appears denser than the Clinton valley side with lush foliage due to higher rainfall on this side of the Pass.

Soon after leaving the lodge, look out for a sight of Sutherland Falls in the distance.  About an hour along the track you’ll reach Dumpling hut where you can use the toilet.  Your morning tea stop is at The Boatshed next to the Arthur River, so called because boats were used to cross the river.  Have a hot drink and a snack.  Leaving Boatshed you’ll cross the bridge over the river and will shortly reach Mackay Falls and Bell Rock – you get a great view of the waterfall from the platform then duck into the entrance of the rock with a torch to see the inside of the rock – it is hollowed out so you are able to stand up in there. 

Continue along the track for another 4 miles or so and you’ll reach Giants Gate.  You can stop here for lunch in the shelter or on the stones by the waterfall.  Soon after leaving Giants Gate you’ll walk through an area that was severely affected by the floods in 2020. You will see where a massive slip came through the track and on a rainy day admire the temporary waterfalls. Further on the track follows the water and along a wide flat section of the track until the welcome sight of Sandfly Point signals the end of the Milford Track.

Head into the room on your right, away from the sandflies.  Your guides will have a hot drink available while you wait for the boat to take you to Milford Sound wharf.  A member of the Ultimate Hikes team will meet you and take you to Mitre Peak Lodge.

The lodge is on permanent power and each room has an ensuite and a bath.  Join your group in the lounge with spectacular views of Mitre Peak from the picture window.  Enjoy your final dinner with your group.


Milford Sound to Te Anau

No walking

This morning after breakfast the guides will ensure your belongings are labelled to go in the bus.   Please check with a guide to make sure your pack and belongings are labelled correctly, so they are available for you to collect in Te Anau and any belongings you no longer require, can be sent back to Queenstown.  If you would like to change your pack or raincoat you can do so at Mitre Peak Lodge and a guide will provide a short briefing for your next day’s itinerary. The same equipment list and instruction applies to the Routeburn Track so please ensure you have everything you need for your walk departure the next day.

When the group is ready for departure, The bus will drive you to the wharf to board the Cruise on the famous Milford Sound. Enjoy waterfalls and wildlife and glimpse the Tasman Sea before returning to dry land and hopping back on the bus for the ride back to Te Anau.  The bus will drop you at your accommodation in Te Anau at about 1pm.  The rest of your day is free to enjoy in Te Anau.  Your hotel or the visitor centre can provide information on activities and places to eat.

Please note: Your accommodation in Te Anau is provided but dinner, and breakfast the next day, is not. 


Te Anau to Mackenzie Lodge

12km (7.5 miles)

Track Terrain: The track starts with a steady uphill followed by a downhill section to the lunch stop.  In the afternoon the track continues a gradual climb to Earland Falls.  There are large rocks to navigate around Earland Falls, and a steep and rocky downhill section before reaching the lodge.  Care should be taken.

 The walk

Please be ready for collection at your hotel by 9.00am.  The bus will pick you up to join your group for morning tea.  Your pack will be put under the bus and not available until you reach the Divide at the start of the track, so it’s a good idea to keep your water bottle, a warm layer, your phone/camera, and some money to carry with you on the bus.  The drive from Te Anau along the picturesque Milford Road to the Divide is approximately an hour.

At the Divide, you will collect your pack, and the guides will allocate packed lunches – if you have provided a dietary request, be sure to advise them so you collect the right lunch for you.

The guides will give you an update of the track and weather conditions and can check your pack and pole fittings before you start walking.  The front guide will then start the group off up the track. The rest of the guides will walk within the middle of the group and there will always be a guide at the rear of the group. If you have any questions or concerns please ask the nearest guide or stop to wait for the guide behind you.

 The track begins with a steady climb up through Silver Beech forest so take your time to find your rhythm.  After about an hour you will reach the turn off to Key Summit.  A guide will be there and depending on the weather conditions, will advise you to either go up to the summit or continue to Lake Howden.  Key Summit is an optional return walk (leave your pack at the turnoff!) of about one hour return up a zigzag track and back the same way.  It is well worth the trip - at the top there is a boardwalk through wetlands and amazing 360 degree views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.  Back at the turn off, collect your pack, and it’s a short though steep downhill walk over rocks and tree roots to Lake Howden where you will stop at the shelter for lunch and a hot drink.

After lunch, the track steadily climbs to the 74m (240ft) Earland Falls – about 3.5kms. Stop for a break at the base pool.  From the falls it is another 5kms to the lodge.  The track traverses around the mountain side to the Orchard. Beyond, you’ll climb for a short section before descending to Mackenzie Lodge.  The descent is steep with large steps down across rocks and tree roots.  At the bottom you will emerge from the trees into the Hebe garden and see Mackenzie Lodge ahead of you.

Take the entrance to the right off the track and a warm welcome will await at the lodge entrance.  Your host will offer a cold drink and a snack before showing you to your room and pointing out the lodge facilities.

If you have time and the inclination, you can walk a few minutes further along the track to Lake Mackenzie to view it in the afternoon light and take a swim in the icy fresh water.

After a hot shower, you can rinse your hiking clothes and hang them in the drying room before relaxing in the lodge for afternoon tea.  The bar will open late afternoon with pre dinner snacks followed by a three course meal and a briefing on the following day.  Generators will turn off at 10.00pm.  Nightlights will operate in rooms and corridors.


Mackenzie Lodge to Routeburn Falls Lodge

11 km (6.9 miles)

Track Terrain: Uneven and steep ascent from Lake Mackenzie with a series of zig zags up the side of the hill to Ocean Peak Corner. The track then is quite narrow but mostly flat across the mountain side – rising again around the Harris Saddle and Lake Harris before descending into the valley with some boardwalks and steps. This is the most exposed day on the track and can be windy and cold in wet weather.

The walk

Once everyone is ready the guides will take you down to Lake Mackenzie for a group photo.  Bring everything with you because the track continues past Lake Mackenzie and rises up through ancient Beech forest emerging out of the treeline for stunning views of the lake below.  The ascent to the treeline is rocky with tree roots and is steep in places.  It is also narrow so please let people behind you go through when you can.  At the treeline the track zig zags across the mountain until it rounds the top and spreads out to Ocean Peak Corner. 

Take a break here, have a snack and enjoy the view.  On a clear day you’ll have a full panorama of the Darran Mountains across the Hollyford Valley, to the distant Tasman Sea at Martin’s Bay.  When you are ready the track drops down and follow along the mountain face.  This is true alpine terrain - ask your guides to point out the native flora, including mountain daisies, buttercups, gentians and edelweiss.  The track traverses the Hollyford Face for about 4.5km, about 2 hours.  There are few water sources along this section and none at the lunch stop.  Your guides will advise where to fill up with water.  The track rounds the corner from the face and crosses a stream.  Ahead is a short but steep staircase.  At the top you will wind around some alpine tarns and arrive at the Harris Shelter.  A welcome sight with hot drinks available.  Relax inside the shelter or on the surrounding deck and enjoy your lunch.  Weather permitting there is an option to take a side walk behind the shelter to Conical Hill.  This is a scramble up a steep front.  There is a plateau overlooking Lake Harris two thirds of the way up – stop here or continue up to the panorama views out to Martins Bay on the West Coast.  This walk takes about an hour and a half to two hours round trip and is a very steep scramble up and down.  Check with a guide if you are unsure about going up.

After lunch, the track continues around Lake Harris and reaches the highest point.  This section of track is narrow with some drop offs, keep to the hillside and wait for a guide if you are nervous of heights.  From the highpoint the track descends into the upper basins of the Routeburn Valley skirting the Routeburn Falls. The track is graded with boardwalks and some wide steps.  As the Routeburn river reaches the Falls the track will wind down a rocky section that can be slippery in the rain.  Hold on to the hand rails and make your way down to the lodge nestled in the trees.  A host will be waiting to greet you at the door and the schedule for the afternoon/ evening will be similar to the previous one.

Routeburn Falls Lodge has a tree hut quality with external walkways and a water source running underneath.


Routeburn Falls to Queenstown

9km (5.7 miles)

Track Terrain:  Starts with a rocky descent then mostly wide and smooth with some rocky patches.

When you are ready to leave the lodge, the track descends a steep rocky section with some big steps down before widening out to a broad track.  You’ll cross some small bridges and an open section formed by a tree avalanche in 1994 that affords an amazing view of Routeburn Flats below.  Steep downhills are over when you reach the valley floor.  A guide will be at the junction and will encourage you to leave your pack there and turn left along the track for about 5 mins to Routeburn Flats and the DoC hut.  Use the bathroom here and wander out to the pasture of the Flats where you’ll pick up the Routeburn River again.  Returning to your pack, the track continues through Red Beech forest shadowing the river.  About 4kms along the track you will reach Forge Flat – head down to the river and if the weather is in your favour stop for lunch.  Check with your guide for the river conditions if you are keen to brave the icy fresh turquoise water.   

It is an easy walk from here to the end of the track so take your time, listen for native birds in the valley and enjoy this last part of your journey through native forest with the beauty of the river flowing down the ravine below.  Take the detour loop track to a nature walk that has panels about the natural history of this vast forest. – Shortly afterwards you cross a large suspension bridge and arrive at the Routeburn Shelter and the end of the Routeburn Track. 

The coach will be waiting and the driver will assist the guides in collecting the equipment you may have borrowed – change your shoes if you want to and keep things you’ll want with you for the drive back to Queenstown.  Once everyone has arrived the bus will take the group to the village of Glenorchy – about 30 mins where you can purchase a celebratory drink at the pub.  The drive from Glenorchy to Queenstown is another hour along the side of Lake Wakatipu and arrives back at the Ultimate Hikes Centre. 

The bus route into Queenstown comes from the opposite direction to the way you went out so we are unable to do any drop offs to the airport or Frankton.

The weather and terrain can be challenging at times so it is important that you prepare for your walk. Please read the information below.