Routeburn Huts: Best Route & Itinerary

Hiking from hut to hut is the go-to choice for most trekkers. It provides shelter from the elements and preserves much needed energy to enjoy the track. The Department of Conservation, or DOC, is responsible for the 900 huts across the 10 Great Walks in New Zealand. One of the most popular Great Walks, filled with breathtaking valleys, rivers, waterfalls, and forests is the Routeburn track.

About the Routeburn track

  • Track difficulty: easy to moderate, navigation is considered easy.
  • Routes length: ranges between 35 to 70 kilometers
  • Time to complete: 2 to 4 days
  • The track is available year-round:
    • Peak season is between October 29th to April 30th
    • The risks of the off-season (avalanches, snowy weather) should be taken only by advanced trekkers.

Routeburn Huts: booking, facilities, and prices

There are 4 huts and 2 campsites along the Routeburn Track that must be booked in advance during the peak season. Off-season trekkers can make use of the Backcountry Hut Pass, which can save you some money if you are planning to trek several Great Walks.

*Note that camping outside the designated campsites or staying overnight in the shelters, even when huts and campsites are fully booked, is not permitted. DOC rangers are patrolling the track.

Booking:

Bookings are made through the DOC website. For the coming summer season, bookings usually open in February (exact dates are published on DOC site closer to that time)."Be aware that huts and campsites can book out many months is advance"- Department of Conservation.

Even if all huts are fully-booked, don’t worry, many people cancel their bookings, you just need to sign up for a notification service to know when they become available again.

Facilities:

All Routeburn huts are “Great Walk huts” which are the most comfortable type of all huts and campsites that Great Walks has to offer.

  • Bunks with mattresses
  • Water supply, including flushing toilets and hand washing facilities (no showers)
  • Heating with fuel (solar lighting in main area)
  • Cooking with fuel (no cooking utensils), tables and seating
  • A DOC ranger which for information or help in emergencies

Prices (for 1 adult for 1 night in standard huts):

  • International hikers:
    • Peak season: 130 NZD (86 USD, 73 EUR)
    • Off-season: 15 NZD (10 USD, 8.5 EUR)
  • Local hikers:
    • Peak season: 40 NZD (26.5 USD, 22.5 EUR)
    • Off-season: 5 NZD (3 USD, 3 EUR)

*During the off-season, some facilities are reduced: no gas, no running water inside the huts, and no DOC rangers.
*Youth are not required to pay

Recommended 3-day Itinerary - Routeburn Shelter to The Divide

This itinerary provides enough time to fully appreciate all the ‘must-know’ areas of the track as well as to explore additional locations and scenery. You will need to book a pick-up or shuttle transfer at the end of the track.

Day 1| Routeburn Shelter to Routeburn Falls Hut | 4 hours | 9.5 kilometers

This beautiful ascendence takes you from the forest into the valley, yet it is a warm up for what’s coming up tomorrow. Today you can expect to see plenty of open meadows, alpine vista points, and rivers.

Mountain view of the way between New Zealand’s Routeburn Shelter to Falls HutPhoto: Backpacking Matt
Day 2 | Routeburn Falls Hut to Lake Mackenzie Hut | 5.5 hours | 12 kilometers

Today is considered the peak of the track, which starts a few minutes walk from the hut where you come across the Routeburn falls, followed by the breathtaking panoramic mountain view of the valley below.

Traveler hiking across Lake Mackenzie in Routeburn, New ZealandPhoto: Sally Thompson, Mac Adventure
Day 3 | Lake Mackenzie Hut to The Divide | 4 hours | 12 kilometers

Gradually descending from Lake Mackenzie Hut to the forest is an amazing experience. On the way you will pass through the Earland Falls. If you don’t want the track to end, head up to Key Summit, it adds over an hour to the trip, but has incredible panoramic views of the Fiordland and beyond.

A low angle view of the Earland Falls in the Routeburn Track, New ZealandPhoto: Tomas Sobek