They say it is the best high mountain trail in the world. We cannot tell you so much; what is clear is that it is one of the best routes that can be done in spectacular New Zealand and that is not little. Because if something stands out this wonderful country is in its infinite number of places where the encounter with nature becomes a true spectacle. We have walked in The Atlas; in Nepal; in Chilean and Argentine Patagonia; at Kilimanjaro ... And the New Zealand experience was simply great. A little far back in time; but we really wanted to see old slides again and travelers notes to tell you about this mythical route reminiscent of the pioneer epics.
In the 53 kilometers that mediate between Glade Wharf, at the head of Lake Te Anau and the Sandfly Point jetty, in Milford Sound, the trip gives you amazing landscapes; tall and vertical mountains as buildings; spectacular hills like the Mackinnon Pass; waterfalls; suspension bridges over pristine rivers; dense forests; lakes embedded in snowy peaks ... All in the framework of the Fiordland National Park, one of the most beautiful places in the world. And here we do get wet. A route in which to reach the point of departure (can only be done in one direction and with limited space) is a visual spectacle.
Arriving by bus to Te Anau Downs: First things first. There are several bus companies that connect the city of Queenstown with Te Anau. They are about two and a half hours away and prices vary widely according to schedules and companies. In this link, you can see the schedules, the routes and the different prices.
Getting to Glade Warf: The company Fiordland Water Taxi joins the piers of Te Anau Downs and Glade Warf on a daily basis. It is advisable to make a previous reservation through its website to avoid problems. The same goes for Real Journeys.
Do I need permission? Yes. And in high season - from the end of October to April - the seats fly, so you have to do it well in advance. It can be done through the National Parks Service website or by contacting the Fiordland Park Visitor Center. But we recommend the first option. The rules are very strict and you have to make the route in four days and the price of shelters is not cheap: 70 New Zealand dollars in high season and 15 in the low season ( see updated exchange rate ). Of course, children under 17 do not pay but must make the reservation.
The 53 kilometers that mediate between Glade Wharf and Sandly Point are a real physical challenge, the least is the hardness of the route (which to deny it, is quite affordable and with few sections of steep slopes). We are in one of the rainiest places in the world and water is usually present at any time of the year. The route can be divided into three sections. The first, which is about 20 kilometers, follow the Clinton River channel to its head through a spectacular glacial valley. The route follows a profile of gentle ascent crossing large spots of the rainforest at the river's edge. A couple of suspension bridges (one of them almost 80 meters long) save the crosses. It is normal to start walking early in the afternoon (the ships arrive after 15.30) to the first shelter - Clinton Shelter- (5, 6 kilometers) and leave the first 'walk' for the next day. So it is best to take things very calmly. Go slowly, make all the necessary stops and enjoy to the fullest.
The 'first' day of the road offers you two possibilities. The first is to make 14 kilometers to the Mintaro Refuge, just at the entrance of the glacial circus or climb up to the mythical Mackinnon Pass. If you stay in Mintaro you can rest after two very hard final kilometers and dedicate the rest of the day to see the surroundings.
The ascent to the Mackinnon Refuge is another four kilometers and a slope of more than 500 meters. It is the most beautiful section of the route; also the hardest kilometers. Of course, if you opt for this last option, the next day is a slight 12-kilometer walk - yes with a brutal descent at the beginning - to the Dumpling Refuge with a visit to the Sutherland Waterfall - the highest in New Zealand - included. We leave the high mountain and return to the humid forest.
When all is said and done, it will take you four days to walk the entire Milford Track. You can only walk in one direction and stay in the pre-booked huts, but, the experience is like no other and it should be high on your bucket list.