The Milford Track is a widely known tramping (hiking) route in New Zealand – located amidst mountains and temperate rain forest in Fiordland National Park in the southwest of the South Island.
The 53.5 km hike starts at the head of Lake Te Anau and finishes Milford Sound at Sandfly Point, traversing rainforests, wetlands, and an alpine pass.
Summer peak season
During the summer peak season of late October to late April, access to the trail is highly regulated. Walkers must complete the track in four days, travelling only in the northward direction.
Camping is prohibited on the trail. Walkers can tramp the track independently, or as part of a more expensive guided walk with a guide company. A maximum of 90 walkers can start the trail per day (40 Independent, and 50 Guided). Usually these 90 places are booked out for many months in advance, despite the high cost of the guided walks.
Due to the one-way ticket system and limited hut capacities, trampers need to keep moving even during bad weather. During periods of especially heavy flooding, the DOC regularly calls in helicopters which fly trampers over flooded sections of the track at no further charge.
If hiking independently, each night must be spent in a hut owned and maintained by the Department of Conservation. The huts for independent walkers have basic facilities, which include bunk areas, restrooms, and cooking facilities; walkers have to carry their own equipment and food.
On a guided walk, walkers stay in lodges owned and operated by Ultimate Hikes. These lodges have facilities such as hot showers, catered meals, beds, lounge areas, electric lights, and drying rooms.
Guided trampers need only carry clothing, toiletries, their sheets, and lunch while on the trail. Guides walk with trampers, providing as little or as much assistance as required.
During the off season from May to mid-October, the track is essentially unregulated, and can be tramped in either direction, over any number of days.
It is however much more difficult and dangerous tramping in this season, as facilities at huts are removed, some bridges are removed to prevent damage, and numerous avalanche paths cross the track.
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