Located far within the South Island sphere, the Dusky Track was named to be one of the ‘hardest’ and ‘most advanced’ hiking trails - not only is it considered one of the ‘wettest’ locations, but this might just be a point of realism.
Although the hike is associated as one of the most advanced trails, it is also simply inaccessible to the majority. With only a few options to begin your hiking adventure - the most common path is taking the hike to Milford Sound. This can be the easiest starting point compared to the other ones - with a relatively straightforward opening. Just follow the road signs, and the crowd of tourists and you should find your way! We would recommend that you turn back at this stage if you find that it’s not best fit for your level. There’s still time now!
Length of journey: 8-10 days (84km one way)
Highlights: Alpine vistas, Dusky Sound and lakes
Proximity: From Te Anau to Lake Manapouri (1 hour - 21km)
Grade: Advanced (Only for experienced hikers)
Seasonal restrictions: There are many different obstacles that might impede you from having a smooth-sailing experience. Prepare for the unforeseeable. During winter, the track is filled with snow, ice, and avalanches.
Pets? No pets allowed. (Would be too risky overall)
This track is only recommended for advanced hikers. It might be too difficult for beginner-to-intermediate levels. Even if you are looking to challenge yourself, this trail is no joke.
It is a must to be well-prepped for this journey. We recommend:
- Download an offline topographical map for better navigation. It is dangerous, and there might be a lot of times where you can get lost with no data access. Moreover, there might not be anyone that can easily help you navigate.
- Bring enough food, hiking equipment. Make sure to pack extra food in case you get hungry along the way. (Being stranded for 2 days or more is not uncommon).
- If you get lost, stay calm and look for the nearest shelter or hut ahead of you. Make sure to stay in the lane and do not take the frisky route.
- Check the parkland conditions and individual rules before you set foot in this journey.
- Make sure to tell someone your full itinerary so if anything goes wrong, this person can keep an eye out for you and raise alarm if you have not returned by a specific period of time.
- Bring a sleeping ear plug. It can get quite noisy in different sleeping conditions. Truth is, you cannot be 100% certain of where you’ll end up each evening.
- Although huts are relatively cheap (as low as $4 per night), they all have bunks between 10-12 people, no advance booking is entirely necessary. However, it is good to call-in before your journey in case it might be peak season.
- Fiorldland tends to be extremely wet and cold. Hence, it is highly advisable to bring a sleeping tent and utilise the huts along the hiking trails. Make sure to pack a sleeping bag!
My Personal Journey
First Hour: When you first walk past the opening, an intriguing boat awaits. One thing to keep in mind is that the Dusky Track is only accessible by boat. If you have a fear of being in a boat, it can be quite terrifying. Either way, just keep your head up and read on…
Fourth Hour: Not to be dramatic but imagine weaving through the trails with a constant pool of sand flies swarming on your entire body… The initial route was fine, but it gets progressively more challenging. This will test your stability and tolerance for height, as there are plenty of short obstacles you’d have to get through. Most importantly, please watch your way as it can get quite challenging.
Tenth Hour: Once you reach the Lake Roe Hut, the perfect wildlife view awaits you. The weather started to cool, and it started drizzling for us. After a tired adventure, we went straight to the huts and had small talk with some people residing in the same hut. Overall, extremely cozy and everyone was pleasing.
- DOC huts provide accommodation along the trail. Not difficult to come across a nice, cozy hut for your overnight stay or if you are just seeking shelter.
- 21 three-wire bridges (prepare for a thrilling adventure)
- Mountain ranges
- Major Valley Systems
Twenty-fourth hour: Day two starts on a rather exhilarating route. After our well-rested night, we were quite prepared for our adventure ahead. We started with a hike up Pleasant Ridge. The walk could’ve been much better if it wasn’t for the wind that constantly slapped my face. One small improvement was that the sandflies were no longer swarming in my face while I hiked - one thing I was pleasantly surprised by.
Thirtieth hour: After getting through our exhilarating route, we reached the Seaforth River where we are invited to hop in on one of the major obstacles of the entire trail.
This was quite terrifying as the past day or so has been extremely challenging for an avid hiker like myself. Either way, I was prepared for the journey ahead of me and what’s to come. After calming my nerves, I managed to encounter a persistent rain that just continued throughout the entire evening. Seeking for shelter as the rain continued, I had quite a restless night. I woke up to quite an unfortunate scene as the shelter began to flood after the rain.
Forty-sixth hour: Mentally preparing for what was ahead, I can assure you that the trail was much harder to get through with the flood. As I try to navigate past the side creeks and the river without entirely submerging myself, I found it extremely hard to get through.
At this point, I was sweating profusely and there were bound to be some tears and blood along the way. I told myself to suck it up and continue the hike but the thought itself was becoming harder and harder to make believe. As I fought my way up the Gair Lake, I finally found the Kintail Hut. I was overly excited as the land was finally dry, and I was ready to leave the stressful few days behind.
Seventy-second hour: After the rather fruitful sleep, I found myself unable to leave my cozy sleeping bag. I just wanted to tuck myself in and sleep throughout the day. My partner wanted to finish the trail as soon as possible, so I followed.
Seventy-sixth hour: I almost forgot what the real-world looks like. In a way, I found myself in a fantasy-like world and I started almost enjoying it. I suddenly felt satisfaction in the challenges I was going through. After the exhilarating journey that I went through, I finally saw the picturesque view that enchanted me into a whole different world. I couldn’t describe how I felt at that moment, but it was a good, enriching feeling.
Finale: I could not believe that the journey was finally coming to an end. In the final hours, the rain started dissipating and snow started falling.
For what was supposedly a relatively easy trail, the trail was left with remnants of snow. I was determined to finish the trail in a positive mood. Although my hands and feet were exceedingly numb by this point, I strode to the finish line and was invited by the final hut. What’s better than spending the night with some new friends and some good food.
This route is immensely challenging and is certainly not made for beginners. If you are up for a challenge and want something different from the usual, this route was one of my favourite hikes in New Zealand!