Due to its remoteness and lack of tourist infrastructure, most people rush through the Milford Sound region without really getting off the main road. Stick around a while and you’ll be treated to some world-class hikes. Hiking to Lake Marian generally takes 3-4 hours. It’s fairly straight forward and the final viewpoint will blow you away.
The hike to Lake Marian starts off pretty low-key. First you’ll cross a bridge then amble through the forest for 10 minutes or so before reaching Marian Falls. This large set of rapids and small waterfalls is surrounded by pristine forest. There’s a wooden boardwalk skirting the river — this is the most scenic (and the easiest) part of the track. It doesn’t last for long though, and soon you’ll be hiking steadily uphill towards Lake Marian.
It’s not what I would describe as difficult, but the majority of the Lake Marian Track heads steadily uphill. It gets a little tiring but most people should be able to handle it. It’s not a particularly exciting section of track either as it very rarely leaves the cover of the forest. There are lots of tree roots and boulders to climb over and some patches of mud to navigate. Keep going though, as you’re about to see something pretty special.
When hiking uphill you can generally be confident that you’ll eventually reach an incredible viewpoint to make it all worthwhile. Seeing this alpine lake, surrounded by steep, snow covered hills, is certainly special. We only had to share it with two other people, one of the advantages of deviating slightly from the tourist trail (and travelling in winter).
The shores of Lake Marian are covered in large boulders. Those boulders were themselves covered in frost when we visited, which made it difficult to get down to the water’s edge. We eventually made it (after almost slipping a few times) but we didn’t try and walk far around the lake. We spent about an hour at the lake, taking in the view, scrambling over boulders and eating lunch. I’ve heard of people camping at Lake Marian and I’d love to try it sometime (probably not in winter though).
Getting to Lake Marian
The Lake Marian car park is located 1 km down Hollyford Road, just off the main Milford Sound Road. It’s located a short distance from the Divide Car Park (for the Key Summit Hike) and you could easily do both hikes and Milford Sound on a long day trip in summer (it stays light until after 9 pm). Otherwise you can camp in one of the DOC campsites in the area or stay at Milford Sound in one of the lodges.
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