Hiking the Routeburn Track

Our final few days in New Zealand were spent hiking another of the Great Walks: the Routeburn Track. This was a shorter overall hike than the Milford, but the main day of hiking was a “PROPER HIKE”… one of our favorite days of hiking ever. Again, partly because we had brilliant weather.

This area gets much less rain than the Milford Track, and the forests are very different, especially on the eastern side of the Harris Saddle. Due to less rainfall, the forests are predominantly made up of New Zealand red beech and mountain beech, with relatively few ferns. The track spends a long time on the high ridges around Harris Saddle, with amazing long-distance views in all directions. This track also has a long history of use dating back to the 1880s.

The Routeburn Track profile.
At the start of the Routeburn Track.
An aerial look at the views from Routeburn Track….
….and here is the real thing, albeit with some low-lying clouds.
These clouds burned off quickly and we had another sunny day.
Some of the flora was quite different in the high plateaus.
The Routeburn has fewer waterfalls than the Milford. We took advantage of them for a quick break whenever possible.
Several valleys come together …..
….with their streams flowing together to make the Hollyford River.
As we made a side hike to Conical Hill (an additional 1,000 feet elevation….is that still a hill?!), this mountain lake came into view below us.
A helicopter bringing supplies to one of the lodges. Helicopters are the work horses of supplying hard-to-get-to lodges.
We were rewarded with incredible views at the top of Conical Hill.
Easy to see how glaciers carved out these valleys. This area reminded us very much of Glacier National Park in Montana.
Yoga pose!!
From the top of Conical Hill, we had views of peaks in 360 degrees.
The omnipresent snow-peaked alps in the distance.
One happy hiker.
One happy couple.
The hike down from Conical Hill was steep….
…..but not difficult if taken slow and easy.
The trail that will take us down to the valley below.
The Kea is a large species of parrot found in forested and alpine regions of the South Island of New Zealand. Almost 20 inches long, it is mostly olive-green with a brilliant orange under its wings and has a large, narrow, curved, grey-brown upper beak. The kea is the world’s only alpine parrot.
Incredible colors under flight. They put on quite a (noisy) show for us.
The Kea’s notorious urge to explore and manipulate makes this bird both a pest for residents and an attraction for tourists. Called “the clown of the mountains”, it will investigate backpacks, boots, skis, snowboards, and even cars (most commonly the rubber areas e.g. window frames), often causing damage or flying off with smaller items.
A view of Conical Hill from the plateau below.
The high plateau leveled out before the next step down to the valley below……
…..with the cascading Routeburn Falls.
The pool at the bottom of the waterfall was a great place to cool tired feet.
Mark told Shauna that he would get in up to his head if she did…..
…..and so he did!
Albeit it with dry shirt and shorts.
The mountains fell to a beautiful valley below…..
…..that made us think of parts of Montana.
The valley then turned into wooded glades.
With a great even trail on which to end our track.
At just under 25 miles, the Routeburn Track had some of the best vista views of any hike we have been on……
….and provided us with the opportunity to make a bunch of new friends!


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