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New Zealand (Day 5): Hiking Routeburn Track in Fiordland National Park

Summary: Routeburn Track is a popular hike in New Zealand's beautiful Fiordland National Park. Located just 80 minutes from Te Anau, the scenic drive to the trailhead is a "must do." Stop along the way to capture photos of the area's famous lupin flowers, as well as Eglinton Valley and Mirror Lakes. Like all of the New Zealand's trails we encountered, Routeburn Track is well-maintained and well-marked. This particular hike was especially gorgeous as the trail looks out upon the mountain pass for most of the journey.

Getting there. The drive from Te Anau to the trailhead at Routeburn Track is approximately 80 minutes, though we extended the drive by making two stops along the way. The entire drive is on the very scenic Hwy 94.

Eglinton Valley. The first of two stops on our way to the Routeburn Track was in Eglinton Valley. You may recognize them as the Misty Mountains in the Fellowship of the Ring. For us, it was an accidental find. We were just passing through and thought, "wait, this is gorgeous, pull over!"

Mirror Lakes. A second stop along the way is Mirror Lakes. Part of the Fiordland National Park, this brief walk offers views of wetland wildlife and of course, it's namesake, Mirror Lakes. During our visit, the onsite coffee stand was open to greet visitors passing through.

The Hike. For a day hike, we opted for the out-and-back, Key Summit hike. You can extend it once at the Summit if you wish or turn back at the top for a shorter ~5 mile hike. Parking and restrooms are available at the trailhead.

The first part of hike meanders along the base of the mountain before the climb up to the Summit. It is initially shady and damp with waterfalls along the way.

Views and more views. The climb to the Summit is correctly rated "moderate," and should be available to most hikers. We barely remember the effort, though, because there were so many stops made along the way to capture the non-stop beautiful views.

The Summit. This portion of the trail opens up to a sort of valley at the top of the mountain with marshland and alpine lakes. We took the nature walk through the planked trail and enjoy 365 degree views of the mountain tops. After taking in the beautiful scenery, we hiked back down the mountain before making our way back to Te Anau.

New Zealand's Famous Lupins. On the drive back, we stopped at one of the many fields of lupins that were in full bloom during our end of December/early January trip. They're everywhere so don't worry about how to find them - you can't miss them!

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