Hiking in Fiordland National Park

There are plenty of hikes to do in The Fiordland National Park, one of the most famous is The Routeburn. A 33 km long hike that offers spectacular alpine views, flora and fauna, that leads all the way to Milford Sound and  takes on average 3 days. There are huts along the way which you can stay in, or you can choose from a couple of campsites if you wish. There are guided hikes available for this track, or you can do it on your own. You will need to book your accomodation in advance and also most importantly – be well prepared! As it says by so many trails in New Zealand: Your safety is our concern, but its your responsibility. There are also plenty of great day hikes in Fiordland National Park.

As much as we would have loved to do the Routeburn Track, we weren’t equipped for it. Travelling around the world with a bicycle and backpack each, restricts you quite a lot in what you can bring with you. So we had to satisfy our hiking itch with the half day Key Summit walk, which is actually the start of The Routeburn Track.

After kayaking in Milford Sound the day before we drove along Milford Road and made a stop at Lake Gunn DOC campsite for the night. It’s a very small DOC site and we were lucky to get there when we did as we snapped up the last official spot, but it still got pretty busy and filled up. It was a lovely little campsite right by this gorgeous small lake, famous for trout fishing. In the morning when we woke up, the lake was totally still and there was a wonderful mirror clear reflection of the surroundings – all this for only $6 per person, you can’t beat that!

We headed back to The Divide, where the Key Summit Walk starts. The beginning of the walk is a bit of a climb, with some switch backs, through temperate rain-forest, which changes in its vegetation as you get further up. Once you get out of the forest, you start seeing the snow capped Alpine tops around you. It takes about 30 min – 1,5 hrs, depending on your fitness level, how fast you walk of course and how hot it is outside, to get to the Key Summit.

The Key Summit is a perfect spot for a break, have a snack or some packed lunch. You can sit down and just inhale the pure fresh air and soak in the fantastic panoramic views of the Humboldt and Darran Mountain ranges and admire Mount Christina at 2502 M high and Mount Talbot at 2105 M high. It’s hard not to fall in love with this view and even harder to teare yourself away from it.

We picked up a self guided leaflet and did the Key Summit Nature Walk as well, which I would highly recommend, if you’ve made it all the way up there you may as well do the rest and enjoy the views it has to offer. The leaflet tells you about the flora and fauna around you. For instance the Alpine Silver Beech, these trees are over 200 years old and has withstood some of the harshest of weather conditions, making them grow stubby, short and crooked, unlike their tall and grand Silver Beech friends further down the track. You will also be able to spot some Alpine Lakes and if you’re lucky some birds too, like the cute little Tomtit – a tiny, very round and fluffy black bird with a white chest.

The websites and leaflets all say that the walk takes 2,5 hrs, I wouldn’t really agree with that. Maybe if you do the walk non stop. But I reckon once you get up there you will want to stop, sit down and take it all in for a bit. We spent 4 hours doing the walk and it took us around 1 hour to get to the Key Summit as it was quite a hot day. If we’d known it would take more than 2,5 hrs we would’ve taken more water with us for the walk as well, so that’s something to keep in mind. If you’d like more information on the walk, you can find it here and if you wish, you can even do it with a guide.

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