Key Summit Walk: Fiordland National Park

Breathtaking landscapes are in abundance on this truly majestic walk. With stunning 360 degree views of some of the most spectacular scenery, you will ever see anywhere in the world.

This easy half-day walk is on the Routeburn Track, one of New Zealand’s Great Walks and a spectacular trek in its own right. A well graded and easy track to follow is suitable for walkers of most abilities and those with young families. Allow 3 hours return.

If you’re short on time and would like to experience a Fiordland Walk or even get a taste of the Routeburn Track, I recommend Key Summit. There are other great day walks in the park; Gertrude Saddle is one and one of our Top 5 Day Walks in New Zealand. You would need to set aside a day for this walk and have some tramping experience. It’s another stunning hike with great views if you have the time.

The Key Summit walk, Fiordland National Park
A view from Key Summit

Route Description 

The Divide to Key Summit return 3 hours, 7.8 kilometre’s

Starting from the carpark at The Divide, the track climbs gently on the Routeburn Track to the Key Summit junction. Allow 30 to 60 minutes for this section. Take the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of Fiordland’s lush rainforest. There’s a nice mixture of trees and native plants here, with beech the dominant native tree.   

From the junction, it’s a 20-minute climb to Key Summit. The climb is steady and the track zigzags with stunning views. Take the alpine nature walk, which loops back to where you started. This is the highlight of the walk and best described as a wonderland of tarns, bogs, stunted beech trees and native plants. It has the most amazing views of Fiordland’s towering mountain peaks, glacial carved valleys of the Hollyford and Greenstone. The mountain lakes of Lake Marian and the forest that stretches as far as the eye can see is simply spectacular. 

After the Alpine walk return the same way to the Divide. If you have extra time, continue along the Routeburn Track to Lake Howden and the hut. Allow 60 to 90 minutes return from the Key Summit junction. 

Key Summit, Fiordland National Park
Looking towards Lake Marian
The Key Summit walk, Fiordland National Park
Key Summit’s alpine walk
The Key Summit walk, Fiordland National Park
More scenery along the way.

Getting There

The drive from Te Anau to the start of the Key Summit Track is approximately 85 kilometres; travel time is around 1.5 hours.

Take the Milford Road to Milford Sound and watch out for the signs for The Divide, the carparks on the right side of the Milford Road coming from Te Anau.

If you’re backpacking, or don’t have your own transport, here are some other transport options for accessing the walk.

New Zealand by Bus

What to take

This is an easy bush walk; however, Fiordland is one of the wettest places in the world. It rains 200 days of the year so picking a good day can be difficult. With that in mind taking the right gear to keep dry and warm is essential; this is what I recommend you take:

  • Food and water
  • Waterproof raincoat
  • Sturdy footwear
  • Warm clothing: thermals and fleece
  • Hat and gloves
  • Sunscreen and sunglasses
  • First Aid Kit
  • Map


For more information on what to take hiking check-out my blog.

To print the above map, click on Key Summit Walk 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 Key Summit Walk 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. 

View Larger Topographic Map

Walking Times 

Expect some variation in times depending on conditions and personal fitness levels. I’ve graded this an easy walk. The tracks are well defined and well-marked, there are no stream or river crossings and the duration of this walk is less than 6 hours. Whereas, a hard walk is one that is more than 6 hours, will have longer steeper climbs, have river crossings and requires good navigational skills.

Enjoy your walk?

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8 thoughts on “Key Summit Walk: Fiordland National Park

  1. This looks like an awesome hike! Was Lord of the Rings filmed near here? The landscape looks a lot like the movies. does it rain everywhere in New Zealand 200 days of the year or does that just happen in mountainous regions?

    1. Hi Dan
      Thanks for your message. Luckily Fiordland’s the only part of the country where it rains that often. If you were looking at hiking, February and March are the most settled months. That’s a good question regarding the Lord of the Rings. I know the movies were filmed all over the country and some of those scenes do look like they were taken in Fiordland. The Gertrude Saddle walk definitely does as well.

  2. Hi Murray,

    I recently visited New Zealand for the first time last year. We were mainly there for a spot of snowboarding but I would love to go back there and check out the Fiords, I have heard and can see from your post that they will be well worth the trip. The way the mountains just rise up out of the lakes are absolutely amazing.

    Thanks for posting,

    1. Hi Adam
      Thanks for stopping bye and leaving your comments. Yeah New Zealand’s great place for snowboarding in the winter and hiking in the summer. If you need further information, don’t hesitate to contact me, I’m more than happy to help.

  3. My goodness, Murray, those images are stunning! As I’ve said to you before, your articles make me crave the opportunity to get out and go for these treks. It sounds and looks so completely appealing at every level.

    Are you getting any support from the tourism board in NZ? I hope so. Just looking at your posts makes me want to come visit your beautiful country and take some of these walks for myself. One day, I will.

    Keep up the great work!


    1. Thanks Kevin, good to see your becoming a regular visitor to my site. Hope you manage to make the trek down this way sometime.
      All the best.

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