Hiking The Routeburn Track In New Zealand

September 17, 2014 Updated: September 17, 2014

The Routeburn Track in New Zealand is an excellent 2-3 days hike into the mountains and deep mossy forests. Situated in the south-east of New Zealands south islands, the track goes through some beautiful mountain scenery. Just getting there from Queenstown, a 45 minute drive away from the start, is spectacular.

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Lake on the drive to the Routeburn Track (Jonny Duncan/Backpacking Man)

The beginning of the hike starts with a relaxed 1-2 hour walk through forest, with streams, waterfalls and a fast flowing river running through, to reach the first campsite for the night at Routeburn Flats. Raining slightly just adds to the forest atmosphere, providing a misty scene amongst the mossy interior.

With the fresh water falling down from the mountain tops there is no need to purify water, just drink some of the freshest water you could have straight from the streams.

Reaching the campsite for the night you set up your tent or bivy and look at the view around you. Waterfalls streaming down the side of the mountains and a stream running on the low ground, with clouds flowing through, propelled by the fast winds up high. This is a good place for sleeping the night.

There is a hut you could stay in but it is much better to camp to get closer to nature. To get even closer to nature you could use a bivy bag instead of a tent with a tarp above if there may be rain. A bivy bag is basically a waterproof, breathable sleeping bag cover, and allows you to sleep out not surrounded by a canvas tent wall, bringing you closer to your environment.

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Into the mountains (Jonny Duncan/Backpacking Man)

As someone said before: ‘At tent is basically a crap version of being indoors!’

Waking to a beautiful blue sky, you warm up in the sun and then start the walk uphill to reach the mountain top. This takes about 2-4 hours, depending on how slow you want to go, and as you go higher up you pass through the tree line and into alpine scenery.

There is an alpine lake on the way up, glistening in the midday sun. Unless you happen to be walking up in the middle of rain and clouds of course!

Reaching the pass at the top, you get a view across to snow peaked mountains all around. Climbing up the side excursion trail to Conical Hill is worth the while for even better views. Climbing the Conical Hill in autumn can be a little tricky, as a lot of the rocks you have to scramble up are covered in slippery ice. However it is worth it.

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On top of Conical Hill (Jonny Duncan/Backpacking Man)

It takes again around 2-4 hours to reach the next campsite for the night. This is an easy walk, traversing around the mountain mostly straight without climbing up. The clouds can come and cover the area in a foggy mist, making it impossible to see anything, but adding a great surreal feeling to the mountain.

You may be lucky enough to have the company of the Kea. Kea are the only alpine parrot in the world and are very curious and social. It is easy for them to get close to you, but be careful, they like to peck at your belongings!

Watching and listening to the Kea flying in and out of the misty clouds will stay in your memory.

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Kea keeping you company on the Routeburn Track (Jonny Duncan/Backpacking Man)

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Copyright © 2014 by Backpacking Man. This article was written by Jonny Duncan and originally published at backpackingman.com