Hiking the Milford Track in December

By Ziggy Dukes

4 minute read

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The Milford Track is one of New Zealand’s most famous and revered Great Walks. With international recognition as one of the greatest hikes anywhere on earth, the Milford Track is a bucket list adventure for many keen hikers.

With breathtaking scenery and a rich history, the Milford Track is an incredible experience at all times of year but December is a particularly great time to visit. Officially the first month of summer here in New Zealand, December is a wonderful time to explore with perfect hiking temperatures and generally more settled conditions. 

If you’re planning a December Milford Adventure (maybe Christmas on the Trails?) then this guide is for you! Read on to learn about expected crowd levels, bookings, typical weather, travel logistics and more. 

December sunshine on the Milford Track.

December sunshine on the Milford Track.

What are Crowd Levels like on the Milford Track?

December in New Zealand is the official start of summer and the height of our season for overseas visitors. With that in mind, December can be a busy time on the Milford Track but with so much space, and time to explore, you’re unlikely to feel crowded or rushed.

If you’re looking to make the most of the experience our top tip would be to set off early, making the most of the quietest time on the trails and soaking up the unspoiled beauty of Fiordland National Park.

Do you have to Book the Milford Track? 

Like our other Great Walks, the Milford Track operates on a hut system of accommodation that is run by the Department of Conservation. Throughout Great Walks season (October to April) all hut accommodation must be booked through the Department of Conservation and with high demand you’ll want to make sure you book well in advance. Hut bookings are generally released sometime in April each year and book out in record time! 

There are three DOC huts on the Milford Track, Clinton, Mintaro and Dumpling Hut, which are equipped with bunk-style dorms, heating, toilets and basic cooking facilities. (If you’re looking for a little more luxury be sure to check out our all-inclusive New Zealand adventure tours!)

Fiordland Solo guest stoked to be in Fiordland

"Stoked" - Kiwi slang for excited, euphoric or extremely happy.

What's the weather like on the Milford Track in December?

December is the first official month of summer here in New Zealand and though temperatures are starting to heat up, in Fiordland it’s always necessary to be prepared for anything. It’s one of the wettest places in New Zealand, encountering an average of 7m of yearly rainfall, so you’ll definitely still want to bring your jacket!

With that said, average temperatures on the Milford Track in December sit around 17°C (63°F) with highs of up to 25°C (77°F).

Here’s a quick breakdown of what to expect:

Milford Track Weather

What to pack for the Milford Track?

As with any hiking adventure, packing the right gear for your time on the Milford Track can be the difference between a good time and a great time. Here’s a basic breakdown of the essentials to pack for the Milford Track but for a full and comprehensive list check out our ultimate New Zealand packing guide.

The basics:

  • Hiking boots - firm and comfortable
  • Shirt (wool or polypropylene)
  • Socks (wool or polypropylene)
  • Quick-dry shorts and t-shirts
  • Under layers, top and bottom (wool or polypropylene)
  • Mid-layers (wool or polar fleece)
  • Waterproof and windproof raincoat and overtrousers
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Hat
  • Personal locator beacon
  • LOTS of water!

How fit do you need to be for the Milford Track? 

The Milford Track is a 53km/33-mile track that passes through native forest, mountain passes and high alpine terrain. The track is incredibly well maintained and provides sure footing throughout but do be prepared for a bit of climbing. 

Across the full 4-day hike you’ll gain a total of 1755m of elevation, roughly 440m each day. On day one you’ll be eased in with a total of only 5km to cover before your first hut. Day two consists of 16.5km, day three 14km and a final push on day four of 18km (though this portion is comparatively flat).

Crusing across Milford Sound

Cruising across the spectacular Milford Sound.

With this in mind, a reasonable level of fitness will help you to make the most of your time on the Milford Track but by no means do you need to be an athlete. If you’re a recreational hiker with some experience carrying a pack with overnight supplies, your fitness levels will be more than sufficient to enjoy your adventure. 

Getting to the Milford Track

Walking the Milford Track does require some pre-planning of your logistics. A one-hour boat ride across Lake Te Anau is required to reach the start of the track and you’ll also need to arrange transport back from your endpoint in Milford Sound. There are several local companies that can provide these services, most of which run daily with a number of available times. 

Experience the Milford Track with New Zealand Trails

The Milford Track is an incredible experience that hikers from all over the world make the pilgrimage to each year. Its stunning scenery, immense natural beauty, wildlife and rich history make it one of the greatest hiking experiences anywhere in the world, but if you’re looking to experience New Zealand with a few more touches of luxury then we’ve got just the thing!

Our all-inclusive New Zealand adventure tours make it easy, fun and safe for you to explore the best of New Zealand. We take the stress out of planning the perfect trip so all you have to do is pack your bags and enjoy the adventure. You’ll be in great hands with our local New Zealand guides. If you’d like to find out more about our hiking and adventure tours grab a copy of our FREE BROCHURE HERE.


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