Hiking the Milford Track

Touted as ‘the finest walk in the world‘ by poet Blanche Baughan in the London Spectator in 1908, the Milford Track is also the most famous of New Zealand’s Great Walks.

The Maori frequently traveled this route during journeys to Milford Sound to collect pounamu (greenstone, or nephrite jade). In 1888 a track was cut up the Arthur Valley to Sutherland Falls (New Zealand’s highest waterfall). While obviously not as wide as Niagara Falls, it is over 10 times taller at 580 meters (versus 53 meters).

Today approximately 14,000 people walk the Milford track each year making it one of the most popular walks in New Zealand.

We chose ‘glamping,’ which you can only do with a company called Ultimate Hikes. The hike was guided, and we stayed in catered lodges along the track. After a bus ride from Te Anau, we boarded a ferry with about 50 other hikers from the US, Australia, New Zealand, UK, and South Korea. Because hikers are allowed to only go in one direction on this Track, the group easily spread out each day, and we were hiking by ourselves nearly all of the time.
Again, the scenery of the lake rivalled the fiords. We crossed Lake Te Anau to get to the trailhead.
Our start of the famous Milford Track on the South Island of New Zealand.
Our first stop after a brief hike was the Glade House lodge. It was a short first day, but our guide Shaun gave us an informative nature walk with humorous commentary on the flora and fauna we encountered.
…..to be starting the hike. A dramatic setting for the lodge.
Morning sunrise on the mountains produced dramatic lighting and shadows.
Our first of many suspension bridges, the largest on the Milford Track, crosses the Clinton River.
Reflections of the morning.
A great path through verdant rain forests. It takes a lot of rain to support the ubiquitous dense moss and prolific ferns; we were so fortunate to have 5 full days of sunshine for our hike.
This New Zealand South Island Robin was lured by insects unearthed by Mark’s boot scrapes on the trail…
….but was fascinated by his fashionable gators. 

The second day was a more ‘proper hike’ of 10 miles with some ups and downs. Here are some images from the day.

The southern part of New Zealand abounds with waterfalls. We couldn’t help but photograph them at every turn.
The water was amazingly clear….
….originating mostly from snowmelt and rain runoff, not from glacial flow.

The living forest from Lord of the Rings?
End of our first hiking day…..
Striking out the morning of our second day of hiking. Our destination before lunch is covered by low-lying clouds.
It was a bit unreal to be hiking in rainforests just below rocky ridges and peaks……
….not to mention the sea of ferns. New Zealand has nearly 140 different type of ferns. Disbelievers: click here.
Pretty windy near the top of the Mackinnon Pass.
It was interesting to see the clouds contour to the shallow part of the valley.
The monument just before Mackinnon Pass honors Quinton Mackinnon, the first Milford Track guide who was long remembered for his good nature and ability at cooking pompolonas, a type of scone from which one of the guided trip huts takes its name. Ultimate Hikes serves them with afternoon tea using Quinton’s recipe.
The peak that we had earlier seen from the valley floor, minus the cloud hanging around it.
Not the highest we’ve been, but challenging nevertheless because of the large rocks that served as giant stepping stones. The descent down the other side was even steeper than the ascent.
A loo with a view… of the valley below the lunch hut near Mackinnon’s Pass.
More stunning waterfalls occurred at intervals as the track followed streams and rivers.
We couldn’t stop oohing and aahing over the water colors.
We did a side hike to see Sutherland Falls, NZ’s highest.
1902 feet high.
Well worth the hike.
The Falls produce as much as 10 times this amount of water after a heavy rain.

The clearest mountain streams we have ever seen. We often saw trout just under the surface… a fly fisherman’s dream stream!
We always saw Paradise Ducks in pairs.
Another pair…
Ahhh, sweet.
And there are…..
…..so many……
……waterfalls in the South Island.
NO napping in Bell Cave…..we have to keep hiking!
Often more moss than trees, it appeared.
The moss was like thick shag carpet.
Near the end of the Milford Track, the rock had to be blasted to make a trail…..
…..which ran along the broadening river that emptied into Milford Sound.
Near the end of the Milford Track, the trail opened up and became a gravel “sidewalk” through the forest.
…..and done. 35 or so miles.
The Milford Track ends at the Milford Sound. This is a late afternoon picture of Mitre Peak, an iconic mountain in the South Island of New Zealand, located on the shore of Milford Sound. It is one of the most photographed peaks in the country. It is named after the mitre headwear of Christian bishops.
An early morning picture of the Sound at low tide.
We cruised toward Mitre Peak in the morning with calm seas.
Milford Sound looks this for about 10 miles before it reaches the Tasman Sea.
Waterfalls flowing into Milford Sound originate from the heavy rainfall experienced in the southwestern part of the South Island……
…..and occur all around Milford Sound.
Our group of hikers. What a super hike.


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