The Routeburn was a classic tramp before DOC commercialised it, but despite the clutter, it is still worth doing. Fit trampers will be able to walk from the Routeburn car park to a campsite on the Greenstone Saddle in one long day, and then exit via the Caples or Greenstone on a second day. There are good campsites in the north branch of the Routeburn (go 500m from the Routeburn track to avoid DOC's ban) and in the Caples and Greenstone. The side trip to Conical Hill from the Harris Saddle is well worthwhile. Crossing the McKellar Saddle and descending the Caples is more strenuous than the Greenstone, but also more beautiful. From the Caples it is possible to cross back to the Routeburn car park via Fraser Creek and Emily Creek, or to six kilometers below the Routeburn car park via Kay Creek and Scott Creek (see sf).

The Routeburn, Greenstone, and Caples valleys are all easy tramping, and are well described in Moir's Guide Book North.


NZ0068 NZ0784 NZ0621 NZ0620 NZ0789
Routeburn Lake Harris Lake Harris Martins Bay Tutoko
NZ0797 NZ0800 NZ0256 NZ0254 NZ0125
Moraine Creek Tutoko Tutoko Lake Mackenzie Lake Mackenzie


NZ3380 NZ3381 NZ3382 NZ3385
Caples Caples Caples Caples
NZ0243 NZ0247 NZ0249 NZ0688
Caples Christina Christina Winter


NZ1202 NZ1205 NZ1201 NZ0670 NZ0685
Waterfall Cows Greenstone Winter Winter

DOC's damage to the Route Burn Valley

DOC's destroyer of tracks, at work below the Route Burn flats, December 2014.

I have been walking the Route Burn for over fifty years, and every year DOC seems to have inflicted further damage on the valley: the beautiful old track has been bulldozed and blasted into oblivion; the Falls have been marred by the addition of a small village; the beautiful old swing bridge at the start has been replaced by one capable of carrying a small bus load; an ugly toilet has been added only 45 minutes from the road and 45 minutes from the Flats hut; etc. While DOC spends vast sums reconstructing the Route Burn valley to the tastes of the wealthy guided tourists, it allows the rest of the network of tracks and bridges at the head of Lake Wakatipu to fall into disrepair.

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Copyright © 2013, 2014 J.S. Milne.