This is a hike you would not want to miss out on when you are in New Zealand. It was absolutely breathtaking; the trail was filled with beautiful alpine landscape and lush forests! I didn’t understand why people said they loved it even though they hiked it through horrible weather condition for the whole three days. Now that I went, I am totally mesmerized by the scenery at every step. Fortunately, we were greeted with very pleasant weather so it made this amazing experience even more unforgettable!
We hiked with Ultimate Hikes and I can’t recommend them enough! All the guides were very knowledgable and extremely friendly. This is a three days two nights hike totaling ~ 33 km ( 20 miles) with a climb of 1300 meters (4200 ft). Looking at the numbers, this is not a strenuous hike for advanced hikers. It’s definitely a hike that an average person can do. With that being said, it was still a long hike for people who love photography and that was us. 😛 It was so hard not to when it was so beautiful everywhere.
Day 1, it took us a few hours to get to the start of the Routeburn track from Queenstown with a short stop at Te Anau. We hiked ~ 12 km (7.5 miles) on the first day with an optional hike to Key Summit. I highly suggest checking out Key Summit, it’s very scenic. We had the option of leaving our backpacks with one of the guides before we climbed the summit portion. This portion is not strenous and it’s about an hour return trip unless you take a long break on the top.
After the summit and lunch break, we passed by another highlight of the day, Earland Falls. It’s one of the wettest section of the whole hike. We got pretty damp passing through here and also decided to take a break right by the fall with our snacks. The view was too pretty to not stop for a few minutes and take it all in, especially with a rainbow at the bottom of the fall, worth getting a little wet for. 😀
After the fall, we had to go through a steep descent before getting to the lodge. I highly recommend bringing a trekking pole because your knee will thank you at the end of the day, mine definitely did! Oh my, Lake Mackenzie Lodge! Let me just prefix this with these Ultimate Hike lodges are the BEST stay we had on this two weeks trip! It’s minimal but it’s super comfortable and clean. It had everything we need and it was located in the middle of nowhere surrounded by nothing but breathtaking views! It made me wonder how the hell did they build such a nice lodge like this! Lake Mackenzie was right behind the lodge, hence the name. We went there both night and morning to check out the view. It was rejuvenating, how can it not be when there is nothing but mountains, lake, stars and us. ❤
Oh goodness, let me tell you about the food. The food was prepared so darn well, almost michelin star well IMHO. All the ingredients used were super fresh, meats were cooked perfectly (with sous vide) and desserts were made to perfection. After a day of breathtaking views we finished the day with a hot shower, delicious meal and a comfortable bed to sleep in. Boy, did we feel spoiled?!
Day 2, we started the day with delicious hearty breakfast. Did I mention the ingredients they used here were all natural, organic? The eggs were so tasty! The vivid colour of the egg yolks were not commonly seen in the U.S. unless you visit a local farmer’s market. I wish I had the stomach to eat two servings of everything and that they gave me the choice to of course. XD
This is the most strenuous day out of all due to the optional section of climbing Conical Hill. We hiked out of the Lake Mackenzie which is an uphill climb, walked across the Hollyford Face to the Harris Saddle. The views were very pretty and we had to walk pretty fast to squeeze in time for pictures. Harris Saddle is where we had lunch at before we climbed up to the Conical Hill.
This is the most strenuous portion of the whole hike. It is optional but I’m so glad we did it. The view up on top is out of this world. With the clouds below you and an awesome 360 degree view of the surrounding mountains/lakes, I felt like I’m on cloud nine. You get a great view of Martins Bay. The most difficult part of this whole experience is going back down. I thought going up was tiring, that’s before I realized that coming down was scary!
From Harris Saddle, we trekked around Lake Harris before ending the day at Routeburn Falls Lodge. Similarly to the day before, the meal was prepared perfectly! The perk of these lodges were they had a full bar (almost). We had to get a bottle in celebration of surviving both days without any injuries! ;D
Day 3, it’s our last day on this trek. The weather was not cooperating with us. It was pouring so hard when we started our morning. Interestingly enough, I was glad that it was pouring because I wanted to experience what other hikers talked about before. I can see how three days of trekking through rain can be a pain, my lower body was totally soaked, my waterproof hiking shoes were filled with water. This is the easiest hiking day of all three days. It’s only a half day hike. We passed by Routeburn Fall on the way out of the lodge heading towards Routeburn Flats. There were creeks where we had to walk through that had calf-high water, hence the soaked shoes. The abundance of beech trees was interesting to see. Once we reached the Routeburn River, we were near the end of the track and soon saw the bus that was going to take us back to Queenstown.
It was such an amazing and memorable experience that we don’t mind doing over and over again. Now I only have pictures/videos to look back to, but the memory is still so fresh in my mind as if I was just there yesterday.
I hope when you visit New Zealand, you also get to experience this fantastic hike and enjoy it as much as we did! Also, sometimes the person you are with also play a key role in that whole experience. 😉