The hike to Earland Falls is a great way to experience the iconic Routeburn Track without the hassle of organising a multi-day trek. The 174 metre Earland Falls is an impressive piece of nature, and the hike there winds through pristine New Zealand bush full of birds, mossy trees and numerous small waterfalls. You can also combine this hike with a detour up to Key Summit, where you’ll see panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.
Starting the hike
The track to Earland Falls starts at the Divide cap park (located 85 kilometres along the Te Anau – Milford Sound road). The first section of the track climbs steadily and features a nice little waterfall. The main thing you’ll notice is how green this place is, and if you’re lucky you might spot some native birds. On the way back we saw a wood pigeon in a nest feeding its babies. After 45 minutes or so you’ll reach a fork in the road – turn up for Key Summit or keep heading straight towards Howden Hut and eventually Earland Falls. We did the falls first as it was a bit misty early in the morning, meaning the mountains would have been mostly hidden.
(Finally) reaching Earland Falls
After a leg-relieving downhill stroll to Howden Hut, it was back uphill towards the falls. It’s one of those tracks that seems to go on forever, probably due to the fact that it doesn’t often leave the shade of the forest. There aren’t too many places to see expansive views on this track, but it is a cool place to walk and there is just enough going on to keep it interesting.
After a while we finally caught a glimpse of Earland Falls poking its head out from the trees, and a few minutes later we were standing under one of New Zealand’s most impressive waterfalls. The scene was perfect – the rocks were covered in frost, there was a little rainbow at the bottom of the falls we were the only people for miles. I’d love to return when it’s warmer and have a swim in the pool below the falls!
The hike to Key Summit
I recently wrote a post about this hike, so I won’t go into too much detail here. It’s an amazing little hike though and you really should do it if you have the time. One a clear day you can see mountains in almost every direction. It makes sense to combine Earland Falls with Key Summit – together they form one of the best day hikes in Fiordland National Park.
Getting to Earland Falls
The Divide car park is around an hour’s drive from Te Anau. From there the track is the only way to reach the falls – it’s quite a long way to walk to see a waterfall but it’s worth it. If you want to visit more accessible waterfalls you could stop off at the Chasm (20 minute walk) or Humboldt Falls (17 km from the main road and then a 30 minute walk).
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