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Back on Track – Milford, Routeburn Great Walks to Reopen This Summer

Aug 03, 2020
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Get your tramping boots ready – bookings for Fiordland’s Milford and Routeburn Great Walks will open on 18 and 19 August respectively.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) is delighted to announce both the Milford and the Routeburn tracks will be open in full from 30 November for the Milford, and 7 December for the Routeburn.

DOC southern South Island Operations Director, Aaron Fleming says this summer is a great opportunity for New Zealanders to get out on our most iconic tracks.

“The Milford and Routeburn tracks are internationally regarded as some of the best hiking experiences in the world, bookings typically fill up very quickly – particularly over the peak summer weeks.

“This summer looks to be a perfect opportunity for kiwis to get out and explore our own backyards on these and the many other fantastic tracks we have around the country – and the communities that support them.”

The iconic Milford and Routeburn tracks were extensively damaged by an extreme weather event in February 2020.

A three-day storm saw one tenth of the region’s average annual rainfall dump on northern Fiordland between 4-6 February. This sparked a major search and rescue operation, damaged 440km of tracks and wiped out key infrastructure including parts of the Milford Road.

The Milford and Routeburn tracks sustained heavy damage. Lake Howden Hut and 32 bridges were damaged, along with other huts, campsites, and facilities.

Repair work to the tracks has been ongoing with $13.7 million allocated from Budget 2020 to go towards repair work across the region.

Aaron Fleming acknowledges the huge amount of work the DOC team has been doing behind the scenes getting the tracks back to standard.

“We know people are really keen to get back out there, so last season we offered alternatives; the Milford Mackinnon Experience and Routeburn Return which gave users the opportunity to experience parts of these iconic tracks while avoiding the areas with the most damage.

“With repairs making great progress, we’re in the very happy position of being able to offer both tracks as the full through experiences this summer once more.”

Before hikers get too keen and head out early, they do need to heed current warnings, Aaron says.

“While we have full confidence the tracks will be open this summer, we are still undertaking critical repairs, and minor repairs may continue into the walking season.

“Every effort is being made to restore the tracks entirely, but there will be some changes. Howden Hut on the Routeburn will not be open this summer and won’t be available to book – walkers will need to plan to tramp all the way out to the Divide near the Milford Road (or vice versa to Lake MacKenzie heading towards Glenorchy).”

“While DOC is doing its bit to keep trampers safe, all those heading into NZ’s great outdoors need to be well prepared for their experiences. Let someone know before you go, check the weather and track conditions and make sure you take the necessary food, water, clothing and equipment.”

Despite any changes, DOC is still confident walkers will have as close to a traditional Great Walk experience as possible.

“If the booking figures for the other Great Walks – which had a record opening week are anything to go by, we’re expecting to again see huge demand for these tracks heading into the summer season.

“Nearby communities of Te Anau, Piopiotahi Milford Sound, Glenorchy and Queenstown provide plenty of other fantastic visitor opportunities and attractions to add to your National Park experience.”

“Plan ahead, mark your diaries and get ready to secure your spot for the summer.”

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