Hiking the Routeburn Track in October


4 minute read

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The Routeburn Track is one of the most beautiful and picturesque multi-day hikes anywhere in the world. Showcasing the diverse beauty of New Zealand’s landscape, from towering snow-capped peaks, lush native beech forest, rushing rivers, glacial valleys and glistening alpine lakes and tarns, it’s no wonder it has earned its place as one of New Zealand’s ten Great Walks.

Explore Key Summit on the Routeburn Track.

Experience the beauty of Key Summit on the Routeburn Track.

The 33km track was first used by the local Maori as a greenstone trading route, connecting Milford Sound with Lake Whakatipu. It officially became a Great Walk in 1992 along with six others and has been a hikers' paradise and bucket list destination of international recognition ever since.

Here at New Zealand Trails October is one of our favourite times to explore the Routeburn Track and coincides with the start of our summer hiking season. October in New Zealand is officially spring and as temperatures begin to heat up and the days become longer the land bursts into life with splashes of vibrant colour from the wild lupins and lambs frolicking in the fields. It’s the perfect time for an adventure on the Routeburn Track.

What are the crowd levels like on the Routeburn Track in October?

October is mid-Spring here in New Zealand and the peak of our summer visitor season is yet to come. This makes October a great time of year to explore the Routeburn Track as you’ll enjoy quieter and less crowded trails. 

Enjoy quieter trails during October on the Routeburn Track.

Enjoy quieter trails during October on the Routeburn Track.

Do you need to book the Routeburn Track in October?

Though October is generally a quieter time on the trails, bookings are still required. As with all our Great Walks, the Department of Conservation (DOC) run a network of backcountry huts to provide accommodation for hikers along the track. There are four huts on the Routeburn Track – Routeburn Flats Hut, Routeburn Falls Hut, Lake Mackenzie Hut and Lake Howden Hut – that are equipped with bunks, mattresses, toilets, heating, basic cooking facilities as well as solar-powered lighting and cold running water. 

If you are planning to complete the entire 3-day tramp on the Routeburn Track you’ll want to secure your spot early as hut reservations sell out in record time during Great Walks season. You can do this through the DOC website with bookings usually released around April/May. You will also need to consider booking transport and/or accommodation as the track is not a circuit and requires hikers to start and finish at opposite ends of the track. 

Native bush on the Routeburn Track.

Here at New Zealand Trails, we prefer to avoid the crowded bunk rooms and shared facilities. On our fully guided adventures we instead choose to sample several fantastic day walks on the Routeburn Track as well as other Great Walks in the area, all while enjoying delicious restaurant meals and a comfortable night's sleep.

What’s the weather like on the Routeburn Track in October?

Spring in New Zealand is a great time to be out exploring, the weather is beginning to warm up but the remnants of snow still lingering on the mountaintops make for some truly breathtaking views. The average temperature on the Routeburn Track in October is 14°C (57°F) with highs of up to 22°C (71°F). Lows can drop close to freezing so making sure to pack adequate layers to cope with either extreme is essential. Being an alpine environment conditions on the Routeburn Track can change quickly and you can easily experience what seems like all four seasons in a day so you’ll want to keep that rain jacket handy.

Explore Routeburn Flats.

Explore Routeburn Flats with New Zealand Trails.

What to pack for hiking the Routeburn Track?

With such changeable weather making sure to pack appropriately for your adventure is key. We’ve listed some of the essentials below to get you started but be sure to check out our comprehensive New Zealand packing guide for a full breakdown and some handy tips.

  • A good waterproof jacket
  • A windproof fleece or sweater
  • A non-cotton base layer (top and bottom) - We love to use local Merino wool.
  • Good quality hiking boots with plenty of support
  • Proper walking socks - there's nothing worse than uncomfortable feet when hiking
  • Quick dry outer layers - t-shirt and/or long sleeved t-shirt and long pants or shorts
  • A good hat and quality sunglasses 
  • A comfortable pack - size depending on whether you're day hiking or spending multiple days
  • Water bottles or a bladder 

Where to stay when hiking the Routeburn Track? 

Depending on which end you choose to start your Routeburn Track adventure you may wish to stay in either Te Anau or Queenstown. Both towns have a number of great options for accommodation and dining as well as cafes, bars and shops to stock up on supplies 

PS Jan Routeburn Track

You can't beat the views on the Routeburn Track.

While you’re in the area there are also a number of other fantastic hikes you could check out including the Milford Track, Kepler Track, Hollyford Track or Greenstone Caples. With so much in the area to explore it’s well worth spending a few extra days either side of your hike to enjoy all the area has to offer.

The Routeburn Track with New Zealand Trails

So have we convinced you yet? The Routeburn Track is one of the most beautiful and rewarding hikes anywhere in New Zealand and a bucket list worthy item for any keen hiker. Here at New Zealand Trails, we enjoy the best sections of the Routeburn Track on all of our South Island tours and it’s one of our favourite spots to share with our guests. If you’d like to find out more about our New Zealand hiking and adventure tours grab a copy of our FREE BROCHURE or get in touch with our small local team here in Queenstown – we’d love to chat.  


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