Follow or subscribe to our blog to get notifications of updates to this site
as well as more frequent insightful, pithy commentary


bike logo



The Routeburn Track

by Pamela Blalock with (most) photos by John Bayley

The Routeburn Track is one of New Zealand's Great Walks. The term, Great Walk, is actually a Department of Conservation (DOC) designation for several of the more popular walks. These Great Walks tend to have nicer huts and a correspondingly higher hut fee, and often require reservations well in advance. I was able to reserve spots on the Routeburn with just a few weeks notice. But this was near the end of summer. It definitely requires more advance notice for January. We had thought of doing it last year after the Kepler, but waited too late to book. Instead we did two tracks that are close, the Caples and Greenstone. Many people combine one or the other of these walks with the Routeburn to make an almost loop. Since we'd already done these, and wanted to get to Te Anau, we chose the one way option, planning to catch a bus at the end to Te Anau. After that we'd have a rest day and then do the Milford Track.

But I'm getting way ahead of myself. First, we had to get a bus to the start of the Routeburn, and then start walking. It was a bit chilly when we started, but we quickly warmed up walking with heavy packs. The skies were clear at first as well, but it had clouded over by the time we reached the Routeburn Falls hut. The early views from the valley were great. We walked up by the waterfalls beyond the hut, but the clouds had come in, so we didn't bother going any higher in search of views that day.

The temperature dropped as we gained in elevation, and it was rather chilly on the second day. We started the second day in drizzle. It cleared a bit, before proper rain started in the afternoon. We got in early enough to only get rained on for an hour. We missed the great views from the top, and someday may do this walk again to try and get them. The sun popped in and out on the last day. We got some lovely views from the hut, and then some nice rainbows. We also experienced frozen white stuff falling from the sky. Near the end, we hung out at the Howden hut, about an hour from the road, for a couple of hours. Our bus would not arrive until 3:45 and it made more sense to wait in a heated hut, than to arrive several hours early to a wide open (unheated) shelter.

If you've read about our other tramps, you will be happy to hear that my knees coped quite well on this trip. The winning formula seems to be 2400 mg of Ibuprofen a day, walking sticks, and the knee support for hills. I also used my hiking sneakers rather than my boots which I am now convinced are a 1/2 size too small. I enjoyed this track enough to toy with the idea of ordering some custom boots for doing more walking in the future.


Bike Touring

Enough of this walking stuff. Jump straight to the

South Island Bike Tour

Milford Track

Doubtful Sound

Franz Josef Glacier