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Routeburn-Caples, Otago

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Routeburn-CaplesIntermediate - Experienced

Submitted by Mike Steel

Info Info
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Trail Information







Back country - remote

Point to Point (one way)

Undulating, some big hills

Native bush
Open tussock/grasslands
Open ridges/tops

Intermediate - Experienced

12:00 (Slow)
9:00 (Moderate)
6:00 (Fast)



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To Fiordland and back. An awesome journey with spectacular views of the high Fiordland mountains, bush, lakes, waterfalls, deep valleys, and more. It combines the Routeburn Great Walk with another classic tramping route. A 30k bike ride at the end gets you back to the car.

Place a mountain bike the night before at the Greenstone/Caples car park and camp at the DOC campsite that's a few km before the Routeburn track. Start early to avoid the many walkers on the `Great Walk' Routeburn track. A pleasant run takes you past Routeburn Falls Hut, and onwards climbing above the Lake Harris lake to Harris Saddle, with picture-postcard sweeping views, including the glaciated granite Darran mountains to the west. From here, an exhilarating run above the steep Hollyford Valley brings you down to the postcard Lake Mackenzie hut. Then it's a cruisy run to the Lake Howden Hut, where you avoid the last few km of the Routeburn and head off on the start of the Greenstone/Caples track. The Caples track is shorter, but involves a grunty climb up to McKellar saddle which has great views of the lower Hollyford peaks (Mt Christina). From here it is all downhill (though a bit slow until the Upper Caples hut) and an easy but lengthy run out down the open Caples valley past the mid-Caples Hut and out. [An alternative but longer return is via the Greenstone Valley]. The bike will be a welcome sight for the return journey beside the lake to the car.

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Features of interest

Fiordland mountains, bush, lakes, waterfalls, deep valleys, and more.

Make Up of Run

Moderate Single Track: 50%

Easy Single Track: 50%

Route Data


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I did it!
  • Access

    Routeburn car park at the end of Routeburn Road from Glenorchy.

    25 km

    28 minutes



  • Staying Safe


    Make navigation of this route super-easy by using the Capra app on your phone. View on Capra .

    Following well-marked and signposted tracks the whole way, but take a topomap nevertheless.


    Long-sleeved thermal top, Seam-sealed waterproof jacket, Beanie/thermal headwear, Whistle, First aid kit, Extra food for emergencies, Survival blanket, Cellphone, Map.

    Plenty of water along the way (and at huts).

    Can be snowed under in winter.

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