Hiking the Routeburn track: questions and answers


Before we hiked (tramped/trekked) the Routeburn track in New Zealand we had a few questions that were not so easy to find the answers to online. We also know that other prospective hikers are searching for answers to their own questions too.

Now we’ve done the hike we can easily answer our own (and other people’s) questions.

Is Routeburn wet?

It can be. Before we went all sources (DOC, guidebooks, hiking store employees) said “Yes! You’ll need to wear waterproof jacket and trousers”. Fortunately we didn’t get any rain but I’d still take my waterproofs if I did it again.

Where can I stay on the track?

There are campsites and huts (sometimes called refuges) along route. The DOC lists all the options on their website.

We stayed at the MacKensie hut campsite and the camp at Routeburn Flat.

Which direction should I hike Routeburn?

We hiked it West (The Divide) to East (Routeburn). We chose that route because the profile of the hike was a more gradually incline to start (from The Divide to the Mackensie hut) and a steeper decline at the end (towards Routeburn).

I’m not particularly convinced that either direction is better than the other but we enjoyed this route.

Take a look at the map and elevation as well as campsite or hut availability to help you decide.

Where can I stay before or after the hike?

It depends where you start and end. The Routeburn end is very close to Queenstown which has great services. The Divide is close to Te Anau which is a good base too. Neither trailhead is very remote. As long as you’re at either trailhead by mid afternoon you should be able to get a transfer to either location.

We stayed in Queenstown the night before and returned there after the hike.

How do I get to the start of the track?

Most people use a transport service from Queenstown or Te Anau. We used Info&Track. They picked us up from Queenstown and took us to The Divide to start and then picked us up at Routeburn at the end. We choose to leave our van in Queenstown and do the longer journey transfer at the start of the hike to avoid hours on the road after the hike finished. I don’t think that’s really a big deal though.

I would recommend booking your transfers in advance as we saw many
people on some buses. Our outbound (to the trailhead) was full.

Can I park my campervan at start of the track?

Yes. However, you’ll need to get yourself back to the trailhead to collect it. A better option would be get a lift to the trailhead and leave your van in town (either Queenstown or Te Anau).

The DOC do warn about van break ins at trailheads so this is also a consideration.

If I’m camping how do I cook? Can I use the hut facilities?

If you camp you’ll need your own cooking equipment. Unlike other “Great Walks” campers in Fiordland cannot use hut facilities. We found out the hard way.

Can I hike Routeburn if I’m afraid of heights?

As neither Ian or I are particularly afraid of heights it is hard to say.

There are some parts of the trek where you are high in the mountains and can see the ground below. However, I would not say you are at any risk of falling from a cliff or ledge and should have no concerns about your safety on the track if you act sensibly.

The views are amazing.

How long does it take to hike Routeburn?

We did it in about two days with two nights on route. We hiked an afternoon, most of the next day and then an hour or so the final morning. With all the transfers we were gone about 2 and half days and two nights. We wish we’d walked out on the second day as we had nearly finished but the times of the transfers back to Queenstown meant we couldn’t meet a shuttle until the next morning so we stayed the second night on the track.

The DOC recommends 2 to 4 days.


If you have a question about Routeburn that isn’t here feel free ask in the comments. Or if you’ve done Routeburn and have alternative answers to some of these questions please share your thoughts.



  1. Pingback: Walking the Routeburn Track | Somewhere about there
  2. Pingback: Try The Routeburn Track, New Zealand | Esential Scenic Mountian Trekks

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