For other tracks, see Tramping in New Zealand.
This is a DOC Great Walk and as such receives a very large number of visitors per year. On top of its Great Walk status, the Milford is considered by many to be one of the greatest hikes in the world thanks to its amazing scenery. The entire track takes four days -- only available to be walked in one direction -- from the Te Anau end to Milford Sound. There is also the option for one day guided walks of the first section of the track.
Peak season runs from late October to late April. Bookings are required during this time. These bookings can be made online, by post, fax or phone. Make sure to book early, as popular dates are often booked many months ahead of time.
Off Peak/Winter season
Running from May to mid-October. During the off peak season snow fall and thaws make parts of the track impassable. As such, only the most experienced trampers should attempt this trek during off-peak and should be exceptionally well-outfitted. Great Walk fees are not applied to tramping during the off-peak season, but simply the standard backcountry fees apply.
Just like any multi-night tramping excursion, be sure to lay out your plans in advance. Make a packing list and check it before leaving. Preparedness is key to surviving an emergency in the wilderness.
The track starts at the head of Lake Te Anau. Boat transport is required to get to the start of the track. All reservations should be made at least one week in advance. Popular dates in peak season are often booked many months ahead of time, so make sure to book early! Real Journeys operates lake transfers from Te Anau Downs to Glade House during track season. (The start of the Milford Track) website
Due to the booking system of the Great Walk, it is not an option to pass a hut in an effort to move on to the next hut. Also, there is no camping allowed on the Milford Track.
During the peak season the huts, Clinton, Mintaro and Dumpling, have gas cookers, tables, cold running water, lighting and heating in the common area. The bunkrooms are communal with mattresses provided. Flush toilets are also available.
As somewhat of a gift from the DOC, the first day is rather easy with just over an hour consumed riding on a boat to the track start. From the landing you tramp about 5 km. to the Clinton Hut where you will spend your first night. The DOC times this 5 km. between an hour to an hour and a half. Along the way you will pass Glade House, the hut for guided walkers.
Once at Clinton Hut, you may take some time to go swimming in the Clinton River or take a short trip through the nearby wetlands on a boardwalk. Depending on the DOC staffing at the hut, the warden(s) may offer an interpretation trip in the late afternoon.
Clinton Hut sleeps 40 split between two bunkrooms.
Day two is a 16.5 km. walk that the DOC has timed at approximately 6 hours. The track is a gentle ascent, following the Cliton River toward Lake Mintaro. This section crosses through more than 50 avalanche passes, making it extremely dangerous in the off-peak season.
Flooding is also a consideration on this day's tramp. Between Hirere Falls and Marlenes Creek a heavy rain can cause problems for walkers.
About an hour and a half from this night's hut is a turn-off for Pompolona Hut where guided walkers stay the night.
After gaining about 250 m. in elevation, much of it in the last couple of hours, you'll spend the night in Mintaro hut with up to 39 other people spread through 3 bunkrooms.
Day three is a 14 km. walk that should take between 6 and 7 hours. You'll start the day at approximately 500 m. and end it at around 100 m., but along the way you'll go over Mackinnon Pass at 1069 m.
It takes just over two hours to make it from Mintaro Hut to the peak, with the Mackinnon Memorial along the way. (As an interesting aside, if you were to take the plunge from the memorial, it would take you nearly 12 seconds to hit the bottom.) At the top you'll find a shelter with a toilet and, during the summer, a cooking ring.
It is 8 km. from the pass to Dumpling Hut and it descends 970 m. in that stretch. Regular breaks are suggested in order to reduce the stress as you descend this uneven terrain.
Your final day is 18 km. in 5 1/2 to 6 hours.
Aircraft and the Milford Track
While on the track you may notice the presence of an aircraft. Aircrafts are an essential part of the track environmental management system that enables you to walk the track The only reason you are able to walk the track is because the aircrafts service the track and remove every bit of waste you generate including toilet waste. As there are no roads, track maintenance and building is enabled by aircrafts and all supplies to the lodges are flown in. If you injure yourself so you can't continue or you go missing, aircrafts are the only practical method to carry out search and rescue.
The track ends at Sandfly Point near Milford Sound. Boat transport is required to get from the end of the track. All reservations should be made at least one week in advance.