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Conquering The Routeburn Track in  2 days

The Routeburn Track is spectacular. We hiked, we camped and we conquered The Routeburn Track in 2 days carrying our 20kg packs!

Considered one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, The Routeburn Track must be on your bucket list. It shows just how magnificent New Zealand really is. The photos and description do not do it justice but I will try and share our experience to hopefully entice you to get out there.  

Note: we saw people of ALL ages, ALL sizes and ALL fitness levels walking The Routeburn Track. There are so many ways you can hike it.

We opted to hike The Routeburn Track on our own as we didn’t feel we needed a tour guide with all our hiking experience. We also decided 2 days was enough for us instead of the recommended 3 and we camped in our tent for the night.

How to get to The Routeburn Track:

Note: You can start the Routeburn Track at either end of the track. We chose to start from The Shelter in Glenorchy and walk to The Divide.

The Routeburn Shelter is located 25 km from Glenorchy along a partially unsealed road.

The Divide Shelter is 85 km from Te Anau.

The road distance between each end of the track is 325 km, so transport is needed at each end (more on that at the end of the blog). 

The Routeburn Track – Day 1: 

Day 1 – Routeburn Shelter to Lake Mackenzie. Fitbit stats – 42,800 steps. Burnt 3,828 calories. Walked 29.09kms (included Conical Hill and walking around campsite) and completed 519 flights of stairs.

We set off from The Routeburn Shelter at 8am on 29 January 2021 with our 20kg packs. It was cold to start but we quickly warmed up… hard not to with a giant pack on the back!

The first part of the Routeburn Track from the Shelter to the Routeburn Flats is relatively easy and flat. You cross a few bridges and walk through a lot of green lush forest and grasslands. Make sure you stop to take it all in. Its pretty picturesque.

From the Routeburn Flats, it is a steady incline until you eventually reach The Routeburn Falls Hut. We arrived here at 10.30am after a couple of photo and water breaks.

The Routeburn Falls Hut is very nice and clean. The facilities are good and the views even better. The Luxury Lodge is also situated here.

We didn’t stay… given we were completing The Routeburn Track over 2 days, we needed to push on.

It was then onto the Saddle Shelter which we reached at 12.30pm. To get here, it is about an hour and half up hill with some flat pathway through the valley. There are so many waterfalls everywhere. It is truly a beautiful site.

We stopped for lunch at the Saddle Shelter and to rest the legs. Lots of people were arriving here at the same time but from the opposite end of the track. Find a spot and put your feet up.

From the Saddle Shelter you can take a side hike up Conical Hill (1515m). It is a steep incline up the whole way and extremely rocky. It took us 30 minutes to get up and we were back down within the hour. The views were well worth the extra steps on already tired legs.

Note: we left our packs at the Routeburn Shelter and just took with us, our Camera and a Moro bar!

It’s then onto Lake Mackenzie via the saddle!

We walked for 2.5 hour winding around the ridge line admiring the epic views. We were lucky with the weather as it was extremely warm on our walk. I have been told that the saddle can be horrendous with wind, snow, ice and rain. So please prepare accordingly to the weather conditions at the time of your hike! Also, if you get a beautiful hot sunny day like we did… wear sunblock! I failed in this area and got a burnt face.

The last 30-45 minutes was hard going. We were tired after walking 20kms and carrying 20kg packs each. But finally, we reached Lake Mackenzie at about 4.30pm.

Camping at Lake Mackenzie:

We opted to camp on The Routeburn Track, which meant we had to hike in our tent, sleeping bags, mats etc. We did this partly due to the huts being full at the time of booking and because we love a good adventure!

The Lake Mackenzie campsite is 5 minutes’ walk around the lake from the Lake Mackenzie Hut. They have asphalt lawn down for you to pitch your tent on – which is super handy! There is also rocks all around to use as pegs and/or as a hammer. I would highly suggest you book in advance as the campsite was full when we were there.

The camp site has a shelter with sinks and water for you to wash your utensils etc. and fill up water bottles. There are long drops there as well.

When we arrived at 4.30pm, it was quite sheltered and hot. People were sunbathing… but it cools down extremely quickly when the sun goes down. So be prepared – even in the middle of summer!

Take a book to read or cards to play before bed. Though if you have hiked the 20kms in one day, you will probably be ready for sleep after eating!

We took our little camp cooker and heated up soup and bread for dinner. It was nice to sit and relax after the day of hiking.

Cooking our dinner!

Meditating by Lake Mackenzie. 🙂 

The Routeburn Track – Day 2:

Day 2 – Lake Mackenzie to the Divide – Fitbit Stats – 33,144 steps. 2,898 calories. 22.54 kms. 154 flights of stairs. This also included a walk around Milford Sound later in the evening!

We woke to it being freezing! So, we huddled in our tent and cooked oats for breaky as we needed to fuel up to walk the last 13kms or so out.

We left Lake Mackenzie at 9.30am.

The walk to the Divide from Lake Mackenzie was relatively easy. More down hill then up hill and it wound around waterfalls and cliff edges. The views were nothing I can describe and I actually did not take any photos! I was to busy taking it all in.

We came across Earland Falls and tried to capture it on camera. At 174m high, it was hard to capture all at once!

Of course, after a lunch stop, we came across the path up to Key Summit and had to hike this as well.

Tip: leave your bag at the bottom of the pathway (everyone does). No one should take anything… you would hope anyway, as everyone is out hiking the same track.

Key Summit is a steady incline but is relatively easy. The views are spectacular. You can even see Lake Marian from up there, nestled in the middle of the snow-capped mountains. We ended up hiking to Lake Marian the next day (yes after walking 75,944 steps in two days). You should know by now… we are crazy! Blog post on that to come soon.

Key Summit

Lake Marian inbetween the mountains.

The last 30 minutes to The Divide was HARD. We were well over it. The body was sore, my knee was killing me and the 20kg pack felt like 40kg.

But we did it! We arrived at The Divide at 2.30pm! 5 hours of walking on day 2 (including breaks & Key Summit).

The best feeling getting to the end, cracking open a beer and a bag of grain waves knowing we just aced The Routeburn Track. So super grateful we were able to do this!

All I can say, is if you have EVER thought about hiking The Routeburn Track then go do it! You will not regret it at all. It really is one of New Zealand’s Great Walks.

Yes… we are already planning the next. Watch this space.

Sez x

It was as cold as it looks here by Lake Mackenzie on the morning of Day 2!

Our tips for Hiking the Routeburn Track:

We stayed at Glenorchy the night before so we could rest and pack and then it was only a short drive to the starting point.

As we were in the South Island for nearly two weeks, we hired a car and then booked a transfer company for the Routeburn Track. The company Easy Hike picked our car up from the Routeburn Shelter carpark and transferred it to The Divide whilst we were hiking. They left the keys in the locked box and we were able to jump in and drive to Milford Sound straight away. It was super easy to organize and well worth the money.

What we packed into two back packs:

We used basically everything we packed in our packs.

P.S. – you can always check out my Instagram page or Facebook. I post regularly on Instagram.

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