It is New Zealand's most renowned walking track, visited by approximately 6 500 walkers during the Summer Season each year. Almost half of this number are New Zealanders. The track's popularity coupled with the fragile nature of the environment require that some important restrictions apply. Camping is prohibited at any time within 1km of the track. During the Summer Season:
- 40 independent walkers may begin the track each day. Hut accommodation must be booked in advance, which guarantees walkers a bunk for every night of their journey. Bookings are available through the Great Walks Booking Desk. Bookings for the following Summer Season open in July. If visiting New Zealand, you should book before departure. Booking requires payment of hut fees which are NZ$90 per person for three nights accommodation.
- The track may only be walked in its entirety from Te Anau to Milford, with one night spent at each hut, making a total of four days and three nights, no more and no less.
Family discounts are available. A package providing hut fees and all the transport requirements to and from the track is available when booking. This costs around NZ$200 and includes:
- Bus transport from Te Anau along SH 94 to Te Anau Downs.
- Launch across Lake Te Anau to the beginning of the track at the Glade Wharf.
- Three nights hut accommodation on the Milford Track.
- Transport from Sandfly Point Shelter across Milford Sound to the Milford Sound Launch Terminal. The drowned glacial landscape of Milford Sound is a justly popular tourist destination in itself and cruises (including overnight) are available from here. Accommodation is available at the nearby Milford Sound Lodge.
- Bus transport back to Te Anau along SH 94, the Milford Road, probably the most spectacular road in the country. You can arrange to be dropped at the Divide, the beginning of the Routeburn Track.
Alternatively, a guided walking option is available.
Glade Wharf-Clinton Hut: 1 hr
Cutting easily across the Clinton River flats, the track soon passes Glade House, the first night's accommodation for guided walkers. Across a bridge, the track clings close to the river. The independent walkers' hut is reached soon after. Note: Clinton Forks Hut no longer exists. It was replaced recently by the Clinton Hut, cutting an hour's walking off the first day and adding an hour to the second.
Clinton Hut-Mintaro Hut: 5½ hrs
Passing Clinton Forks, the track follows the West Branch and continues past a short side track to Hidden Lake. As the river enters the Clinton Canyon, the Pompolona Hut is passed. This is the guided walkers' second night. From here the mountains climb 1300m on either side of the track in the space of a kilometre or two. Mintaro Hut is situated near the tiny Lake Mintaro.
Mintaro Hut-Dumpling Hut: 6 hrs
The track begins to climb in graded zigzags up the valley side to Mackinnon Pass. A memorial is located near here. The track drops into the glacial valley of the Roaring Burn to the guided walkers' Quintin Huts and airstrip. A public shelter is also located here.
A 1 hour return side track leads from here along Staircase Creek to the 580m Sutherland Falls, the highest falls in New Zealand and the third highest in the world. It is a further hour, following the Arthur River, to Dumpling Hut.
Dumpling Hut-Sandfly Point Shelter: 5½ hrs
Continuing alongside the Arthur River, The track eventually crosses it near Boatshed Hut. Shortly, a bridge crosses the Mackay Creek, where a side track leads to the Mackay Falls and Bell Rock. The track soon sidles by Lake Ada, passing the Giant Gate Falls.
Continuing past the Arthur River rapids, the track comes to Sandfly Point, a name well chosen. The boat to Milford Sound leaves during the Summer Season at 2pm and 3pm.