Hike “the finest walk in the world”, Milford Track
The Milford Track, in New Zealand, has it all. Super-lush forests, hundreds of waterfalls, and a spectacular alpine pass. Mari Johnson packs her raincoat and leads the way. To find out more about Mari, visit the bio page of Youtuber Mari Johnson. Here’s two videos of the hike—the first video is a quick aerial overview by Youtuber Yousup Lee, then Mari takes us through the hike.
Yousup Lee and Mari Johnson guide us through Milford Track…
Milford Track, New Zealand. The best of the 9 ‘Great Hikes’ of New Zealand?
Considering the English journalist, Blanche Edith Baughan, who described this 54 km (33.5 miles) hike as the “finest in the world” never actually set foot on the track, you could be excused for a raising a questioning eyebrow, but rest assured, the Milford Track is a ripsnorter. Thanks to a ridiculous average annual rainfall of 6,412 mm each year (252 inches/year compared to New York’s 42 inches/year), the forests are dripping with moss and greenery, there are waterfalls everywhere, and the creeks and rivers are crystal clear. Throw in the amazing views of Mackinnon Pass (1,154 metres), Sutherland Falls, the world’s fifth highest waterfall, then the final leg into the world-class fords of Milford Sound, and you’re hard pressed to argue with Ms Baughan. A little help with the weather doesn’t go astray though.
One enormous advantage of this remote hike is that there are two accommodation options—New Zealand Department of Conservation huts with bunks, fresh water, kitchen facilities and toilets, OR private accommodation through Ultimate Hikes, with guides, hot showers and a 3 course meal (the food is helicoptered in weekly) in front of an open fire! The other advantage is that the amount of people allowed on this hike is restricted each day so it’s easy to feel alone with all this rugged nature. If it rains a lot, you get to see waterfalls everywhere! If it’s clear, the views from the top are mesmerising. If you’re lucky, you’ll get both.
The hike itself essentially a 3 day walk. Day 1 is hiking through a green, beech forest followed by the Prairie—glacier-carved meadows in a u-shaped valley surrounded by alpine peaks. Day 2 is over the tree-less alpine Mackinnon Pass walled in by majestic peaks, a descent into the Arthur Valley, and a side-trip to Sutherland Falls, the world’s fifth highest waterfall. Days 3 is the hike out through dripping wet rain-forest, with endless creeks and waterfalls, the best of which is Mackay Falls where the gutsier of the hikers swim in the glassy-clear but chilly waters.
Book 6-12 months ahead. For either the DoC huts or the private guided walk.
Bring the best waterproof jacket you can get your hands on, and insect repellent for sand flies on the last day. Avoid big, heavy boots that can become waterlogged.
If you are not used to much hiking, use cotton wool or Vaseline between the toes to avoid blisters. (Ultimate Hikes give great blister advice. Follow it!)
With New Zealand’s Department of Conservation huts you can go all year, but there are less facilities off-season and it is sometimes impassable due to snow in winter. On-Season is called the “Great Walks” season (New Zealand has 9 ‘Great Walks’) and is late October to late April, where you must book your spot in the huts.
With the Ultimate Hikes private guided walk—Early November to mid April. This is a 5 day excursion which includes 3 full days of hiking, transport to and from Queenstown, and a boat cruise of the wonderful Milford Sound, a beautiful fjord with dolphins, towering mountains each side, and plenty of lovely waterfalls.
The south-west of the South Island of New Zealand