|The Divide –> Routeburn Track –> Key Summit Lookout Trail –> Routeburn Track –> Lake Howden –> Earland Falls –> Routeburn Track –> The Divide|
~ 10 km (6.2 miles)
Average Walk Time:
~ 7.5 – 8 hours (round trip)
(with plenty of time to take great shots, lunch & a quick swim under the waterfall)
🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
The Routeburn Track is the ultimate alpine adventure that links Mount Aspiring National Park and Fiordland National Park in the South West of South Island New Zealand. This tracks would take you through some unbelievable ice-carved valleys that stretched beyond your wildest peripheral vision. With majestic snow-capped mountains, pristine lakes and meadows, it is no wonder this track is so popular amongst locals and tourists!
With Milford Sound also located nearby this track, it is no surprise that the Te Anau vicinity provides the most beautiful, serene scenes in trekking. And if you are strapped for time or do not want such a long trekking expedition, then refer to the ‘TIPS?!’ section in this article for alternative routes you could consider! The thing I love about trekking is that it can suit anyone and everyone of varied fitness- AS LONG AS YOU HAVE THE PASSION, ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE! 😀
How to get there?
Though Te Anau township is the closest to Routeburn Track, the drive was still quite a far bit long from our accommodation at Kingsgate Hotel Te Anau near the town centre. According to Google Map, a straightforward driving route on the main Te Anau-Milford Highway 94 would basically take you to the start of Routeburn Track in approximately 1 hr 9 mins (slightly shorter than the drive to Lake Marian). However, we took slightly longer as we had respites a.k.a taking photos! Haha! New Zealand is just so beautiful, everywhere is just a perfect picturesque sight you know. WE JUST HAD TO STOP TO SNAP! 😀
Turn right upon seeing the small brown signage ‘The Divide’. Routeburn Track carpark is just there.
Highlights and Views
On Routeburn Track
Considering the estimated time needed to complete the entire trekking route, I remember we woke up relatively early for this trekking experience. And oh boy, was this all worth every minute awake. By the time we got to The Divide it was about 8-ish am, the morning sun had already peaked out.
We started on our trek passed the initial canopy of forested area and soon the route started to open up to a whole new world- literally. It was at that point that it hit me like the shafts of sunlight raying down. It was the most beautiful sight I have ever seen.
And yes, I have seen many mountainous sight when in New Zealand and they all put me in great awe, but this was just inexplicably different. Accompanied by the absolute fresh crisp morning breeze and the mountains in the great distance beyond the valleys, I was really just speechless. It was perfect.
Up the Key Summit Trail
You will reach an intersection either heading towards the Key Summit or Lake Howden. We decided to first head for the Summit- considering this was the highlight; and just in case the perfect weather decides to go south etc.
The climb up the Summit through the alpine was pretty glorious as well. The view of the Hollyford valley was pretty magnificent from way up!
At the Summit
After trekking approximately 2 hours (from The Divide) with a few respites of STOP-AND-SNAP, when we finally arrived at the Summit!
The view of the mini pond with the snow-capped mountain as backdrop was all I longed to see on the Routeburn Track. And it was exactly how I pictured it. Pristine pond surrounded by damped mosses, it was a view that will remain etched in my mind.
It was quite a tranquil experience. Though, the Routeburn track is a popular route to most people in the Te Anau region, it was surprising that there were not many fellow trekkers hanging around the ‘final destination’. Where could they all be, I wonder?
Because we hadn’t really eaten breakfast, we had our first meal of the day ON A (FREAKING) MOUNTAIN! How awesome was that! A meal with a priceless view. It was such a bliss to just sit on a boulder, with the sun shining down, holding on to a cookie, munching and having a peripheral view of the Darran Mountains.
To be honest, I will do anything to go back and relive the moment with simplicity at its best! #travelmemories
Back on Routeburn Track en route to Lake Howden
We ate, took tons of photos, and told each other how we wished the moment never past. It was our longest rest we had (for about 1 hr 45 mins). Well… … Time flies when you are being in the moment and embracing the view, no?
Then it was time (close to noon) to get up on our arses and back on the Routeburn Track heading towards Lake Howden and then to Earland Falls!
When we arrived at the Howden Hut, which is next to Lake Howden, it was about an hour past noon. Howden Hut is a camping facility for campers who do overnight treks. I understand from fellow trekkers along the way that some had travelled from the Queenstown and were making their way to Te Anau.
So basically they trekked from Mount Aspiring National Park to Fiordland National Park. We witnessed a father and young son, probably 12 – 13 years old, on this very long journey. Kudos to the dynamic father and son duo! Alas, I am not that adventurous yet to try an overnight trekking expedition! Haha! Maybe one day… …
About an hour trek from Lake Howden, we arrived at the almighty Earland Falls! To be honest, when we were at Lake Howden, we were contemplating if we should give Earland Falls a miss. We were considering the amount of daylight we had left, and if we could make it back to the carpark before dark.
But being already in the middle of nowhere surrounded by forest and lake, we decided we shouldn’t leave the place without finishing what we started off. And I am very glad I have a travel partner who wouldn’t quit on me. She was alright with not seeing Earland Falls, but knowing me well enough (that I wanted to carry on), she pressed on with me. So thanks girl!
We wasted no time to dilly-dally, and scurried through the forest gingerly on uneven route underfoot!
I usually espied waterfalls from a great distance. But, this time, the 174 metres Earland waterfall was the closest I had gotten to a waterfall! It was so majestic! It was literally right in front of us. We could feel the mist! We could totally go in for a swim beneath the falls and feel its wrath as the waters spattered!
The crystal clear cold waters was just so tempting for us to soak ourselves in after a long and hard’s trek. We left Earland Falls, at about 3.40 pm, and made it back before dark! We were totally exhausted after that! Haha! 😀 But it was extremely worth it! I was so glad we did not give a miss to Earland Falls. In hindsight, it was definitely worth the extra distance trekking.
Alternative Trekking Routes (important read)
When planning for this track, I was pretty ambitious. Because I did not want to do an overnight trek, but still would like to cover key sights, I had this personal route initially mapped out as shown below.
|The Divide –> Routeburn Track (first bypass Key Summit Lookout Trail) –> Lake Howden –> Earland Falls Lake Howden –> Key Summit Lookout Trail –> Routeburn Track –> The Divide|
However, when we arrived at the junction to make a decision to bypass the Key Summit and head to Lake Howden and Earland Falls first, we decided it was best to go to the Summit first instead (just in case we were strapped for time, and also considering weather changes).
And were we so glad we made this decision to go to the Summit first. Firstly, the view at the Summit was with obvious reasons exquisite! I am not saying Lake Howden and Earland Falls are not at all worth the trip- they are. But in all honestly, I will pick the view at the Summit any day over the rest.
However, if you are confident that time is not of the essence, then I guess which route you take doesn’t really matter?
If you are not looking at such a long trekking experience, then forget about Lake Howden and the Earland Falls. Just take a journey up the Summit. It would be a view worth it! This route would take about 4 hours return trip.
|The Divide –> Routeburn Track –> Key Summit Lookout Trail –> Routeburn Track –> The Divide|
Yes, I know the signage stated 3 hours return trip, but to be honest guys, of all our walks in New Zealand, never had we actually completed our treks (excluding photography and respites) based on the timings on the board. Never. So a tip is to add 1 – 1.5 hours to your planning?
We woke up at 4.30 at the crack of dawn. We must be crazy you say, but trust me it will be all worth it when you are 919 metres above sea level. Also, if you are getting on the long trekking route to visit Earland Falls, you would need those extra time of daylight!
Lunch + Swim wear
Because it was an entire day’s out in the forest, packed lunch of simple sandwich, cookies and fruits are much needed! Not to mention, your energy drink! You will need it!
We did not have our swim gear with us, so we did not have a go in the waterfalls. We see many trekkers very much prepared, and after a long trek, they all went in for a nice cool off in the waters! So if you wish to, bring your swim wears!
I reckon going on any walks in New Zealand would be safer during Summer. The Great Walks season is during end October to end April. For detailed information about the Routeburn Track walk do take time to look at the brochure.
So last year I partnered with GPSMyCity to convert my travel article “Sights & Sounds: Wat Rong Khun, Chiang Rai” on the TravelWhenever site, to a GPSMyCity travel article app that can be viewed offline! For details on that, click here.
This year, GPSMyCity announced plans to introduce subscription to their travel article apps. The subscription option is now available on iTunes, with Google Play due to follow suit shortly (due to technical reasons). Effectively, GPSMyCity app users can now purchase annual subscription at US$12.99/year with full access to all travel articles for 900+ cities worldwide OR at US$18.99/year with full access to all our walking tours + travel articles covering 1,000+ cities.
I have 10 free one-year subscriptions (worth US$18.99 each) to be given away. To enter this international giveaway, there’s only one rule: Simply place a comment on this article you are reading now regarding your planned/planning travel destinations for 2018!
It would be nice if you could follow me on Instagram: @travelwhenever as well! 😀
I am most interested to know where avid travel lovers are heading this year, ya?! The giveaway entry period will last for 2 weeks from the date that this article is published.
So let’s believe that there’s just so much more out there in this world. Believe that there’s so much beauty in this world to see and give back! Remember to Travel Whenever!