Gertrude Saddle in the Fiordland National Park has the most amazing views of Milford Sound and the surrounding mountains…a mind-blowing walk that will be remembered for years to come.
Gertrude Saddle is a challenging walk and recommended for experienced hikers. DOC (The Department of Conservation) categorizes this as an expert route…by their definition its suitable for people with a high level of hiking experience. For example, you should have good navigational and route finding skills. These types of routes have tracks that are often unformed, rough, muddy, very steep and streams or rivers unbridged. Gertrude Saddle is definitely all of those but its still achievable by anyone that has a good level of fitness. I would recommend at least one experienced walker in your group and you climb the saddle in the summer months on a fine day. There are some very steep sections on smooth rock slabs which would be very slippery and dangerous on a wet day and let’s face it if it’s wet and there’s poor visibility it’s not worth going. Don’t attempt this in winter or if there’s snow unless you have mountaineering skills and equipment and even then avalanches may well make this too dangerous.
Access is from the carpark 250 metres off State Highway 94, just before the Homer Tunnel.
Carpark to Gertrude Saddle 2 – 3 hours
From the carpark, a well-worn track marked by snow poles with markers on them heads up the valley climbing gently through mountain beech before opening out onto tussock flats. After 40 to 60 minutes of walking and near the end of the flats the route crosses Gertrude Stream and the climb to Gertrude Saddle begins. The marked trail stops and the route up is marked by rock cairns…the trail is well worn and pretty easy to follow. After 100 metres of climbing, the trail crosses Gertrude Stream again and heads up a steep section of scree, follow the rock cairns which will lead to the rock slabs and a cable which will help with the last 25 metres to the Black Lake. The view from here is stunning, continue up the rock slabs, there is another cable for this section and then sidle across on a rock terrace about the lake. From here there’s a boulder-filled gully which leads onto Gertrude Saddle, once again follow the rock cairns around the boulders. Once on the saddle spectacular views of Milford Sound and the surrounding mountains will be your reward. The towering peaks on either side are Barrier Knob (1879 m) and Mt Talbot (2105 m). Have a bite to eat and enjoy your return journey to the carpark.
This track is reached from the Milford Road, State Highway 94. The carpark is signposted shortly before the Homer Tunnel, about 98 km along the Milford Road from Te Anau. Allow 90 minutes to drive from Te Anau or if staying in Milford Sound a short 25-minute drive. The Homer Hut is near the carpark and available for overnight stays, check it for availability.
If your backpacking or don’t have your own transport check out Tracknet for transport options.
What To Take
For this alpine walk going prepared is essential. The weather can change very quickly, check weather forecasts and visit the Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre before going.
- Daypack (20-30L)
- Food and water
- Waterproof and windproof raincoat and trousers
- Sturdy footwear
- Warm clothing: thermals and fleece
- Hat and gloves
- Sunscreen and sunglasses
- First Aid Kit
Check-out my post on what to take hiking, with helpful links to apparel and equipment
Other information to know
- For accommodation in Milford Sound check out The Milford Sound Lodge, they cater for all accommodation needs. If using DOC campsites there are plenty off the Milford Road.
- If staying overnight in Milford Sound or using the DOC campsites, bring your own food, there are no shops at Milford Sound. Te Anau is your last chance to stock up. The Milford lodge does have a small restaurant and provides good meals, it also has a kitchen for guests to use for preparing meals etc.
- Bring insect repellant…there’s sandflies in Milford Sound.
- For other accommodation have a look at Booking.com or Cheap hotels
To print the above map, click on Gertrude Saddle Route highlighted at the top of the map. The printing and PDF option at the bottom of this page will print or download the post except for the map. Once selected, choose actions to print the map. This map gives great information for getting to the start of the track, however, it’s only a guide of the route, for more detail on the track click on the topomap below, and this can also be printed.
For more information on where the ascents and descents are. Plus the distance and height at any point on the map, click on Gertrude Saddle Route highlighted at the top of the map. This will enlarge the map. Then click the box to show elevation, the graph will appear below the map. Run your cursor over the elevation graph, this will display on the map where the ascents and descents are. It will also give you the distance and height at any point on the map. It’s a useful tool for planning your walk. The topomap below gives similar information, especially the ascents and descents. However, you need to know how to read those maps to get that information. The mapometer map gives you that information and more by simply moving the cursor over the graph.