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Routeburn Shelter to Routeburn Falls Hut: Routeburn Track Day 1

Routeburn Shelter to Routeburn Falls Hut: Routeburn Track Day 1

The three-four hour walk from Routeburn Shelter to Routeburn Falls Hut is a relaxing way to start a multiday hike. You’ll follow a pristine river (The Routeburn) through the forest and then head above the valley for some awesome views. It’s also a perfect day walk route if you’re short one time. Keep reading for everything you need to know about day one of the Routeburn Track!

Routeburn Shelter to Routeburn Flats Hut

I wrote a full post about how to plan for the Routeburn Track, so there won’t be many details in these ones. The aim is to show you what you’ll see on each day of the Routeburn Track, and the start of day one is an easy stroll through the forest. Right at the start of the track you’ll cross a scenic bridge, and after that you’ll only get an occasional view of the river. You’ll see a detour to Sugarlaof Pass, a good day walk alternative.

It’s worth taking the two-minute detour to Forge Flat, as this is one of the only spots you’ll be able to access the river.

From there it’s an easy walk to Routeburn Flats Hut. It’s actually a slight detour from the main track, but I’d recommend checking it out even if you’re not staying there. It’s the most open part of the track thus far and provides some stunning valley views.

Routeburn Flats Hut to Routeburn Falls Hut

It’ll take most people around two hours to reach Routeburn Flats Hut, and from there it’s another hour or so up the hill to Routeburn Falls Hut. This is the hut that most people will stay at if doing the Routeburn Track in three days. This is the first proper uphill section so take it slow if you’re struggling with a heavy bag. There are occasional views on this part of the track, and close to the top there’s a slip / clearing where you’ll get an amazing view of the valley below.

Routeburn Falls Hut

This marks the end of the first day for most people, but if you’re there early you’ll want to explore a bit. The hut itself is in a nice location with a view down to the valley. Head up the track for another few minutes and you’ll see Routeburn Falls, a sprawling set of cascades crashing down the hill. 

John, the hut warden, told us of another viewpoint above the valley but we ran out of time (and energy) to visit it. We spent about 45 minutes up by the waterfall and then returned to the hut to cook our dinner for the night. Day one of the Routeburn Track was a success and pretty easy for a Great Walk – day two would be tougher though!

READ MORE: Routeburn Track Day 2: Routeburn Falls to Lake Mackenzie Hut

Can You Do This as a Day Walk?

Yes! The walk to Routeburn Falls and back is an excellent day walk option. It should take five-six hours and as you can see, the views are well worth it. You could also do the day walk to Key Summit at the other end of the track.

Are you planning on walking the Routeburn Track? Check out our guide — it should make planning a little easier!

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Jon Algie

I'm a South Island local -- born in Timaru and raised in Dunedin. I left the island in 2006 and returned 10 years later. Having seen a good chunk of the world I realised how special this place is -- the most beautiful island in the world! Seven years (and almost 400 posts) later I'm still helping locals and tourists alike plan their trips around the South Island.