Day 1 on the Routeburn Track: Routeburn Shelter to Routeburn Falls Hut

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Hiking the Routeburn Track New Zealand

After making my way through Christchurch and Queenstown, I was finally heading out on the Routeburn Track! It had rained that night and my dreams of tramping this Great Walk were almost trampled by threats of high wind. I’d met my new backpacking friend, AJ, climbing the day prior and he asked if he could join me on the track. Though my whole mission was to wander around solo, I opted for some company.

Worst case scenario, we’d part ways. Best case scenario, it would be a blast. AJ and I woke up bright and early to a drizzly and gloomy morning. We were going to catch a TrackNet bus from Queenstown to the Routeburn Shelter where we would begin our tramping.

Hiking the Routeburn Track New Zealand

At 10:30 in the morning, we found ourselves at the start of the Routeburn Track with a small bus load of other people. Rearranging packs, donning our rain gear, we made small talk with the other trampers as they one by one trudged off onto the track. We had plenty of time to get to our destination.

In fact, we weren’t even sure where we would be sleeping that night; my permit was for the Routeburn Falls Hut, AJ’s was for Routeburn Flats. We’d figure it out when we needed to.

Hiking the Routeburn Track New Zealand Hiking the Routeburn Track New Zealand

It was 6.5 kilometers to the first hut. Our brochure estimated that it would take 1.5-2.5 hours. We decided to take the long way around, dilly dallying on the nature walk before continuing on the main trail. We spent a ton of time taking photos with Routeburn River. The water was so ridiculously clear.

Hiking the Routeburn Track New Zealand Hiking the Routeburn Track New Zealand

We hiked up and into the valley where the Routeburn Flats Hut was situated, looking at mountains surrounding us. From here, we’d either stay here or continue on to Routeburn Falls. We managed to flag down the ranger who worked some radio magic and let us know that there was a spot available for AJ. This meant that our hike the next day would be much shorter.

With tons of daylight left in the day, we decided to drop our packs, cross a stream, and take a small detour on a lesser-traveled track into marveling at all the waterfalls and the mountains. We frolicked around for a bit in a meadow before heading back to the Hut to pick up our belongings and begin the ascent up to Routeburn Falls for the night.

Hiking the Routeburn Track New Zealand

It wasn’t a long hike, but the trail was steep. We decided to have a bit of fun and broke out our bottle of Jameson. The game was one shot for every bridge we crossed and every waterfall we saw after noon which would continue on through the end of the trip. The views on the ascent were phenomenal. We peeked down into the valley where we’d just tramped from. Absolutely breathtaking. And then we were at our hut for the night.

Hiking the Routeburn Track New Zealand Hiking the Routeburn Track New Zealand

After a little snafu with hut permits (not ours), we were able to secure two bunks side by side. We spent some time playing in the sun, dancing by the waterfall and hooting and hollering about how ridiculously beautiful everything was. Our stomachs rumbled and we went inside to cook dinner.

The Routeburn Falls Hut was well equipped with stoves, gas and running water, making dehydrated meal prep a breeze. Plenty of seating was available for trampers making dinner and playing games. Bathrooms had running water and flushable toilets, though it was very, very cold. Around 9pm, we passed out in the bunks with the intention of waking up to watch the stars. It was a fairly noisy night for this light sleeper, so bring earplugs if you’re prone to waking up; there are lots of snorers.

The next day, we headed to Lake Mackenzie. After Lake Mackenzie, we continued on to the Divide Shelter and Milford Sound.

Gear: Mountain Hardwear Ozonic 50 OutDry Pack, Norrøna Bitihorn Lightweight Pants, Woolx Mia T-Shirt, Woolx Base Camp Hoody, Arc’teryx Bora Mid GTX Boots, Black Diamond Ultra Distance Trekking Poles

For Day 2 on the Routeburn Track, click here.

Last updated on September 19, 2018.