The Routeburn Track Weather Guide for Hikers

By Ziggy Dukes

3 minute read

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The Routeburn Track is a favourite among the New Zealand Great Walks, stretching across Mount Aspiring and Fiordland national parks.

It’s open year round and is a stunning walk to peak season (late October to April), however you’ll need some alpine and river crossing skills, if you plan to attempt it outside these times.

On a quiet day, you’ll hear a symphony of birdsong, accompanied by gushing streams and waterfalls in the distance. You’ll want to keep the camera close by as clear days treat you to panoramic mountain views, azure blue rivers and emerald coloured lakes.

True to Fiordland form, the track is no stranger to rain, so always be prepared with wet weather gear in the top of your pack!

best of Routeburn views over river bush big sky copy2

The Routeburn Valley

Peak season weather (Late October to April)

The Routeburn is at its best on clear, warm days when you can take a dip in the Route Burn river and marvel at 360° views from Harris Saddle, with Lake Mackenzie below.

Forest canopies, which are plentiful, do a great job of providing temporary shade on sunny days and a bit of shelter when it rains.

Even in summer months the track gets a good helping of rain which can enhance parts of the experience, casting an eerie mist through moss-covered forests and feeding cascading waterfalls.

Average temperatures during the Great Walk season sit between 14°C to 20°C with summer months (December to January) at the higher end of the scale. Hotter days do not necessarily mean you’ll escape the rain, one of the trailheads is only 30 minutes away from Milford Sound, the wettest inhabited place in New Zealand!

Devils Punchbowl Waterfall New Zealand

Fiordland is full of incredible waterfalls just like this one!

Off-peak season (May to October)

If you’re an experienced alpine hiker, you’ll love what the Routeburn has to offer in winter, however be warned, it’s hard yakka (kiwi slang for hard work!).

Outside the Great Walks season, the track is home to strong winds, heavy rain, snow, and ice.

Temperatures can get as low as 1°C (34°F) and there’s risk of avalanche and flooding which, unlike the Great Walks season, is not monitored by the Department of Conservation.

Hut facilities are greatly reduced and some bridges are removed and daylight is limited. Before you set off, be sure to get a comprehensive weather and avalanche risk report from NIWA.

With all that said, the sight of snow-covered mountains and iced-over lakes is certainly worth the amount of preparation required. If you wanted to do a day hike from Routeburn Shelter to Routeburn Falls Hut, you’ll still be treated to some of Mt Aspiring National Park’s best winter views, however risks (like avalanche) start to increase past this point.

What to bring for weather conditions

1 Routeburn

Stunning views await on the Routeburn Track.

For the best tips on how to pack, check out our comprehensive packing guide, and for weather specific items, see below!

The basics:

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

For off-season (in addition to the basics):

  • Ice axe
  • Crampons
  • Avalanche beacon
  • Avalanche probe
  • Snow shovel
  • Helmet
  • Gas cooker (there are no cooking facilities available outside peak season)

Like almost all the Great Walks, the Routeburn Track displays nature at its finest, and most untamed during every season.

From mountain views to picturesque rivers, lakes and waterfalls, there’s plenty to take in, which continues to transform with the addition of sunshine, rain or snow.

Love the sound of this and keen to add to the adventure?

We’d love to guide you on this walk and take care of all the logistics while you meet some awesome new people. Check out our variety of trips that take you through the Routeburn and more – The Masterpiece, Kiwi Classic, Pure South and The Great Walk Adventure.

For more information about our New Zealand Trails trips request a copy of your FREE BROCHURE! 

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