How to Backpack the Routeburn Track

The Routeburn Track is arguably the best backpacking trip in the world.  With a diversity of glacial peaks, lime green hillsides, teal rivers, tall waterfalls, alpine lakes, steep mountain faces and deep green forest, the Routeburn Track delivers everything you could want from a hike.  

The hike is a mere 20 miles which keeps your load light and your days enjoyable.

One great thing about the Routeburn Track is the facilities. There are sinks and toilets at every hut and campground. The huts even have full camp kitchens. 

On a similar note, you will have to carry out ALL trash. Take note of this when packing and bring ziploc baggies for your trash. The distances and times I’ve included for each section are the times it took us. Note that if you are reasonably fit or walk at a moderately fast pace then you probably be walking at the lowest end of estimated times.  We almost always hiked at the fastest estimated pace that the signs showed.  

We camped at Sylvan Campsite the night before which is beautiful and is very close to the trailhead.

Related: Tips For Tent Camping In New Zealand

Sylvan Campsite: How to Backpack the Routeburn Track
Sylvan Campsite

Part 1: Glenorchy to Routeburn Flats Hut

Distance and time: 6.5 km, 1.5 hours

Routeburn Shelter to Routeburn Flats Hut: How to Backpack the Routeburn Track
Getting ready to hit the trail at the Routeburn Shelter trailhead

There aren’t many better starts to a hike than this one. The first 1-2 hours are a low incline ascent to Routeburn Flats Hut. The trail starts in a lime green forest but soon the valley becomes narrower and you will be heading upriver, parallel to a perfectly teal blue river (is there any other color to New Zealand water).

Routeburn Shelter to Routeburn Flats Hut: How to Backpack the Routeburn Track