Following in the footsteps of the Maori greenstone trials. And some of the postcard views that make New Zealand famous.
The Routeburn Track is comprehensively signposted from Glenorchy. Follow Glenorchy Paradise Road the turn left onto Priory Road.
After 2.6 km turn right onto Glenorchy - Routeburn Road, cross the Dart River and bear right.
The road is unsealed to the roadend, 25 km from Glenorchy.
From the Routeburn Shelter it is an easy path to the swingbridge over the river. Views towards the Dart Valley peek through the forest foliage, with a high vertical cliff face on the right.
A large wooden bridge on steel girders spans a set of canyons, with the force of water excavating small chasms in the rock. Canyoners belay eachother through torrents while clipped to the rock faces.
The Route Burn suddenly ends in a barricade of rocks and tree trunks. The entire river dives out of view through a narrow gap in the rock, before re-emerging into the wide flats once again.
A section colloquially-known as Sappers Pass is just one of the undulations on the wide smooth track, cultivated for day walkers, but an easier surface than the rocky descent from the saddle.
Forge Flat is a sunny beach by the ice blue waters of the river. This is a popular spot to linger for lunch, throw rocks in the water and listen to the crashing of water.
Skirting the grassy Routeburn Flats at the bush edge before re-entering the forest, this section is almost entirely through silver beech forest, with the track following the course of the Route Burn. There are 2 swingbridges, the second catching views up the bouldery stream.
The track descends to a junction with Routeburn Flats Hut, 5 minutes to the left. Beautifully sited on the flats with Routeburn North Branch and Mount Somnus in view, this is the New Zealand of tourist brochures. The campsite is 200 metres upstream.
Shortly after, the track circumvents Phoenix Bluff, here again you should keep a keen eye, especially in heavy rain, when falling rock may become dislodged.
From the large slip, created during the January 1994 storm, there are impressive views up the Routeburn North Branch to Mount Somnus (2293 metres), with it nevee, glacier and couloir, penetrating straight down the flanks. A skier’s Holy Grail. The slip has caused a graveyard of dead trunks and requires care to cross due to falling debris.
The track drops into the silver beech forest, where the trees are immediately lofty, unlike most treelines where the silver beech becomes stunted and moss covered. A short section of towering red beech occupies a drier, better drained site. The track crosses a swingbridge over Emily Creek, the backside of the peak viewed yesterday from Lake Mackenzie. Other footbridges give vantage points for other creeks.
Routeburn Falls Hut is close-by the falls. The Routeburn Falls find numerous paths through the smoothed rock, winding their way though clefts to the valley floor.
Return via the same track.
The Routeburn Track was once followed by Maori travellers, plying their route from greenstone sources in Fiordland to settlements on the coast. Between 1650 and 1800, the Maori settlement at Martins Bay was a strategic stopping off point in the search of pounamu. Using the Greenstone Valley as the main route, Harris Saddle was also traversed as a major east-west link. Their series of names stretches from Lake Wakatipu through Te Komama (Routeburn) to the Tarahaka Whakatipu (Harris Saddle) and Whakatipu Waitai (Lake McKerrow). The generic term for the region was ‘Titiraurangi’, meaning ‘the land of many peaks piercing the clouds’. Those early travellers traded with coastal settlers, pounamu, kiwi and kakapo feathers exchanged for muttonbirds, mere, adzes and fish hooks.
South Island ▷ Queenstown Region ▷ Glenorchy
Can you contribute? If you've experienced Routeburn Falls then please and write a review.
Thanks to all the good people working for the NZ Department of Conservation - for all your hard work - making NZ more beautiful, accessable and healthy! Cheers 😍