Let me set this up a little bit for our writer Brian Merewitz. I read about the Routeburn Track about six months ago when I set my eyes on a good bit of toilet reading. (By that I don't mean vulgar reading, but rather great literature for your time at the oval office). This literature was titled "Fifty Places to Hike Before You Die". The fifty places listed in this book stood out for one reason or another as the top fifty places in the world to set off hiking. I would be more than happy with the top fifty places in the United States. So when I found out Brian was hiking the iconic Routeburn Track in New Zealand I had to inquire a little further:
Where are you (park, forest, etc.)- The Routeburn Track begins in Mt Aspiring National Park, but then goes into Fiordland National Park
Nearest town (s)- On the side that we started, the nearest towns are Kinloch and Glenorchy, but the nearest big town is Queenstown. On the other side, it would be Milford or Te Anau.
How long is this hike- Day, overnight, backpack: It can be done in several ways. There are many day trips or it can be done as an out-and-back for any period of time. We chose to go to the second hut, spend the night, then come back. If you complete the entire track, it is usually done in 3 days.
Miles- We only did a little over 10k, or 6 miles on this trip.
On your toughness scale (1 easiest, 10 toughest)--3
Well, after hitting a New-Zealand-style traffic jam, we finally got to the trail head at the exact time that you aren’t supposed to start a hike—4pm with 2 hours until sunset. Oh, and a New-Zealand-style traffic jam is when a farmer is herding his sheep across the road, which is far more common than actual traffic in a country with 20 million sheep and 4 million people. So, we got there, packed our stuff up and began our journey, which started over one of the tracks famous rope bridges—it is just what it sounds like.
We then walked through the bush for the first, maybe 90 minutes, crossing the Routeburn River several times. The river was the clearest blue/turquoise water I’d ever seen. It looked so tropical until you saw the snow covered peaks just behind it. Then, we finally hit a hill, which would bring us up above treeline to our hut for the night. In New Zealand, huts are very common along tracks in order to concentrate the disturbances from humans. After some members of our trip, from the flat east coast of the US of A, struggled up the hill and the sun went down, we finally made it to our hut around 7pm. The views were incredible looking back down through the valley. There were only 10, or so, other people in the hut, so it was peaceful and we set down to make our dinner. After my friend accidently dripped some of his gas from the stove on to the table, then lit it, you wouldn’t have known anyone in that hut was tired. They jumped up almost as fast as the flame erupted up, but after dumping a bucket of water on it, we got that fire out, but the table will always have a little black circle of evidence we were there. Anyway, dinner ended up good, then we went and checked out the surrounding waterfalls just by the aptly named Routeburn Falls hut.
They were incredible to listen to, while laying and watching the stars, which were everywhere! Finally, we made the group decision to go to bed around 9pm on a Saturday night, like most college students, and were going to get up at 5:45am to hike up to the highest point of the track to watch the sunrise. I was skeptical, but we did get up there, despite there being some snow on the ground and cold temperatures because it is still late winter here and it was absolutely worth it. We saw an incredible sunrise over a beautiful alpine lake surrounded by snowcapped mountains. After that, we walked back to the car and made the trip back home, but it was my second backpacking trip and first Great Walk (NZ has 9 national trails, or Great Walks) and it was incredible!
Would you recommend? (Yes or no) and on a (1-10 scale)? Yes, 9
free FNO microfiber headband. We get to hear some awesome stories and in return we’re rewarding you just to go get some fresh air! That’s a win-win in our book.