Track overview & logistics
The Routeburn Track is 33km, with trailheads at the Routeburn Shelter near Glenorchy (an hour from Queenstown), and at the Divide Shelter, on the Milford Highway (an hour from Te Anau). Along the track there are three huts, two of which also have campsites nearby. It is typically completed in three days, staying at Routeburn Falls Hut and Lake Mackenzie Hut. From the Glenorchy end the track begins alongside a river in the beech forest, gradually climbing up to Routeburn Falls Hut.
Past here you leave the bushline on the climb up to Harris Saddle, with views back down the valley, past Lake Harris to the Valley of the Trolls, and can stop at the Harris Saddle Shelter for a rest and food. There is an optional steep walk up Conical Hill near the shelter, which gives fantastic 360 degree views if conditions allow.
Between the shelter and Lake Mackenzie Hut the track sidles along the side of the range, high above the Hollyford River, before dropping down to the lake. After Lake Mackenzie Hut you continue sidling along the range, mostly in the bush with some open areas, gradually descending to Lake Howden then a final short climb up around Key Summit before dropping to The Divide Shelter.
There is a 324km drive between trailheads, which can make logistics tricky if you have your own car or rental. Some options are to get a shuttle/bus to or from trailheads, use a car relocation service, or swap keys with another hiking/running party going the other way. Keen people looking to extend their tramp sometimes combine the Routeburn Track with the Greenstone – Caples Track, forming a rough loop. This makes the trailheads closer together but will still require some hitchhiking/car shuffling/shuttling to avoid a 28km walk along the road.