Day 3 of the Milford Track is by far the most dramatic. The track takes you up and over Mackinnon Pass, where you’ll see amazing views of various valleys and mountains. From there, the highest point on the track, you’ll head down to the Arthur Valley, where a detour to the tallest waterfall in New Zealand awaits. Such a great day amidst some of New Zealand’s most spectacular scenery!
An Uphill Hike from Mintaro Hut
From Mintaro Hut you’ll head steadily uphill through the forest for the first 30 – 40 minutes. The occasional view pops its head out along the way, and before you know it you’ll emerge from the trees to some truly special views.
This section of track, from the bushline to the Mackinnon Pass Shelter is the best part in terms of views. From the first part you’ll mostly see the Clinton Valley, but once you get over the hill there is heaps more to see.
There’s shoutout to the discovery of the pass (Mackinnon Memorial) standing among the tarns and tussocks of this high altitude landscape. It was very windy up there, and it looked like it could rain at any moment (and it did an hour or so later) but we were just happy to see it at its best. It’s not uncommon for the weather to obscure the views up there!
Mackinnon Pass Shelter
By this point you’ll be wanting to escape the elements for a bit, and Mackinnon Pass Shelter is the idea spot. It has a very scenic toilet, and there’s a water tank next to the shelter where you can fill up your drinking water. The good news is that this is the highest point of the track – it’s pretty much down the whole way from there.
Down to the Valley
From the shelter you’ll be heading down to the Arthur Valley. We did it in avalanche season, so we had to take a different (apparently harder and less scenic) path down. It was very steep and rocky – definitely the worst part of the track (still some nice views though).
It was better once we met up with the main track. This section follows a series of waterfalls down to the valley floor. Such a cool spot, tough to capture properly though!
There’s a 90 minute detour to the base of Sutherland Falls, the tallest waterfall in New Zealand. It’d be tempting to skip it, especially if you’re tired at this point, but I reckon it’s worth the energy. There’s a shelter at the start of the track, so you can take off your heavy bag and hike in a bit of comfort.
It took us around an hour there and back, mostly because it was raining at this point and we rushed. It’s an easy walk (one small hill to go up) and it’s great to see this powerful waterfall up close.
From the shelter near Sutherland Falls it should take around an hour to Dumpling Hut. It’s an easy section of track, and a little along the way you can see Sutherland Falls (not as good a view as you get from the detour track though). It was raining heavily at this point so we got into a good walking rhythm and quickly got to Dumpling Hut. A beautiful, sunny start to the day and with a soaking to finish it – pretty typical for a Great Walk in Fiordland I’d say.
It took us around 9 hours to walk from Mintaro Hut to Dumpling Hut. That includes the detour to Sutherland Falls, and we went pretty slow up to Mackinnon Pass. It’s not so bad taking your time though, as there isn’t much point getting to the huts too early. There’s quite a bit of uphill (and then hard downhill) walking on day 3 of the Milford Track, but with great heights come great views, and you won’t get much better than these ones!
Are you planning on hiking the Milford Track? Let us know in the comments below!
Latest posts by Jon Algie (see all)
- Wānaka Travel Guide: How to Plan a Trip to Wānaka - November 28, 2022
- Wānaka Itinerary: How to Spend Three – Seven Days in Wānaka - November 25, 2022
- Ferrymead Heritage Park, Christchurch - November 14, 2022