The Milford Track is one of New Zealand’s most stunning Great Walks and is commonly referred to as the ‘finest walk in the world’. The route starts along the shores…
The Milford Track is one of New Zealand’s most stunning Great Walks and is commonly referred to as the ‘finest walk in the world’. The route starts along the shores of Lake Te Anau and finishes in Milford Sound at Sandfly Point. The Milford track is completed in four days with overnight accommodation at well run Department of Conservation huts. This article will introduce you to this incredible trail, give an overview of the Milford Track route, as well as provide in depth maps, navigational resources, and much more so you can be sure you’re ready to tackle the finest walk in the world!
In this post
- Where is the Milford Track?
- Interactive Milford Track map
- How long is the Milford Track?
- What is the elevation profile of the Milford Track?
- Which maps should I carry on the Milford Track?
- Stage-by-stage maps for the Milford Track
- Milford Track GPS/GPX
- Apps and offline mapping
Where is the Milford Track?
Located in the far southwest of New Zealand’s South Island, the Milford Track explores the stunning valleys, high mountain passes, and untouched rainforest of Fiordland National Park.
The walk begins at Glade Wharf along the shores of Lake Te Anau, which is only accessible via boat from Te Anau Downs. The nearest town to the start of the walk is Te Anau, where there is ample accommodation for both before and after the walk. On the northern end of the track walkers will finish at Sandfly Point, a short boat ride from Milford Sound village. While not exactly a town, here you’ll find overnight accommodation, transportation links, and plenty of tour operators. Walkers may be in for a bit of shock when they encounter the vast number of visitors in Milford Sound for a boat tour, kayak trip, or sightseeing flight after four days in the wilderness!
In between Glade Wharf and Sandfly Point, walkers will spend most of their trek exploring two glacially carved valleys (the Clinton and Arthur River valleys) separated by the stunning Mackinnon Pass. You must stay in the designated Department of Conservation huts along the way (unless you have booked a private, guided trek) and you must complete the walk in four days during the Great Walk season from the end of October through the end of April. This is to help manage the total number of walkers on the track at any point and ensure trampers stay reasonably spread out along the trek. The stages of the Milford Track are as follows:
- Stage 1: Glade Wharf to Clinton Hut
- Stage 2: Clinton Hut to Mintaro Hut
- Stage 3: Mintaro Hut to Dumpling Hut
- Stage 4: Dumpling Hut to Sandfly Point
Unlike many long-distance walks, there are no alternate trails along the Milford Track. However, there is the opportunity to take in a few side trails along the way, with the most notable example being a visit to Sutherland Falls, shown on the map below.
Interactive Milford Track map
The interactive Milford Track map below will allow you to zoom in on the various stages as well as view the traditional stops along the route.
How long is the Milford Track?
Most sources list the Milford Track as being 53.5 kilometers or 33.2 miles long from Glade Wharf to Sandfly Point. While this is certainly very accurate, we measure (via GPS) the Milford Track to be 54.5 kilometers long. But what’s a single kilometer!
Of course, measuring the exact distance of the walk has very little practical value as you’ll certainly end up walking a bit further than any exact distance we provide. Most walkers will at a minimum want to take a side trip to see the spectacular Sutherland Falls, which is approximately 4.5 kilometers round-trip. In addition, evening explorations to stretch the legs, countless opportunities to take in view points, and short side trips to trail side lakes will make the distance actually walked vary from person to person.
However, it is still helpful to have an idea of the distances of each stage of the Milford Track. The map below shows just that, with the approximate distances of each stage provided. These distances don’t include a trip to Sutherland Falls so be sure to factor that in as well.
What is the elevation profile of the Milford Track?
Over the course of the Milford Track’s 54.5 kilometers the trail gains approximately 1,755 meters! Averaged across the four stages this equates to around 440 meters of elevation gain each day. Of course, the majority of this elevation games comes on Stage 2 and 3 of the Milford Track which brings the crossing of Mackinnon Pass.
Mackinnon Pass is the high point (literally and figuratively!) of the Milford Track at 1,154 meters above sea level. Given that you finish at sea-level you can at least appreciate the fact that you’ll ultimately lose more elevation than you’ll gain on the Milford Track.
The elevation profile shown below will give you an overview of what each stage of the Milford Track in like in terms of total elevation change as well as distance covered. Elevation is shown on the left side while distance is shown on the bottom. Each blue dot represents one of the Department of Conservation Huts along the route where each stage finishes.
The steepness of the line between any two points reflects the steepness of the trail for that particular stage. The distance between the two points shows the length of the the stage. So for instance you can see that the stage from Mintaro Hut to Dumpling Hut has a lot of elevation gain, while the stage from Clinton Hut to Mintaro Hut covers quite a bit of distance.
Which maps should I carry on the Milford Track?
The Milford Track is a remarkably well marked and easy to follow trail. There is little opportunity to take a wrong turn and most trampers will have no problem navigating on the trail. However, we always recommend carrying a map with you on any backcountry or wilderness excursion and the Milford Track is no exception.
When we walked the Milford Track we did not rely on a physical map, instead preferring to utilize GPS navigation on our phones. Given that there is limited to no cell phone service on the Milford Track, it is very important to have a good offline mapping app, such as Gaia GPS, to ensure you’ll be able to access your location along the walk.
In addition to GPS navigation, we recommend all trampers also carry a physical map. In the event the famous Fiordland rain renders your phone unusable you’ll be glad you brought it! There are a few options for Milford Track topographic maps out there, and we recommend the NewTopo map available here. The 1:40,000 scale is sufficient for basic navigation along the route.
Given the high probability of rain during your trek we also recommend bringing a weatherproof carrying case like this one.
Stage-by-stage maps for the Milford Track
The Milford Track is broken into four distinct stages with each stage finishing at a designated Department of Conservation hut. Maps for each of the four stages of the Milford Track are shown below.
Stage 1: Glade Wharf to Clinton Hut
Distance: 4.8 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +140 m / -150m
Stage 2: Clinton Hut to Mintaro Hut
Distance: 17.75 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +854 m / -430 m
Stage 3: Mintaro Hut to Dumpling Hut
Distance: 13.7 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +753 m / -1248 m
Stage 4: Dumpling Hut to Sandfly Point
Distance: 18.3 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +560 m / -672 m
Milford Track GPS/GPX
If you’re interested in getting access to the GPS data used to create all of the maps in this post, we are happy to offer our Milford Track GPX files for only $4.99. When you download the GPX file, you’ll get route data for each stage of the Milford Track, plus way-points for each of the Department of Conservation huts along the route.
You’ll be able to load the GPX file into the mapping software or GPS phone app of your choice!
Apps and offline mapping
As mentioned above we utilized offline downloadable GPS maps on our smartphones to navigate while walking the Milford Track. This is a great way to navigate on the trail as it allows you to see your progress for the day and also doesn’t require a cell phone signal (which you likely won’t have) to display the map. Our Milford Track Offline Mapping post has all the information you need to get set up using an app for your map. This step-by-step article will teach you how to quickly and easily turn your phone into a GPS device.