New Zealand's system of Great Walks is a good indicator of quality, and the Routeburn Track is one of the most exciting of all the Great Walks. It's second only to the Milford Track in terms of popularity, and for good reason; the views and the mountain scenery over the Harris Saddle are simply stunning.
It can be a tough climb, though, especially if you're camping and having to carry the extra weight of a tent (accommodation is available but it's not that cheap and tends to full up quickly, especially in school holidays). Rest assured that it's worth the effort, assuming the weather is behaving itself, and it comes highly recommended.
As the Routeburn is a one-way track from east to west across the mountains, it can be a real pain to find transport back to the starting point at Glenorchy. However the Greenstone Track starts just before the Routeburn ends, so it's simplicity itself to tack the Greenstone onto the Routeburn to create an almost circular route. It's still not ideal, as it's 25km from the Greenstone Car Park to the beginning of the Routeburn at the Routeburn Shelter. I managed to hitch, but there's no guarantee of a lift; making friends on the walk is probably the best bet.
Together the Routeburn and Greenstone provide you with both high-level mountain hiking and low-level river valley walking, and although the Greenstone isn't up to the high standards of the Routeburn, this is a thoroughly enjoyable round trip.
Because the Routeburn Track is one of New Zealand's Great Walks, you have to book your accommodation well in advance and the itinerary is pretty inflexible. Most people take three days to do the Routeburn, leaving a short last day onto which it's easy to tack the Greenstone Track. I rushed round the Greenstone a little because I'd had enough of lush river valleys by then, but if you have the time I'd recommend taking an extra day and splitting the journey between Lake Howden and Sly Burn at the McKellar Hut.
|Routeburn Track||1||Routeburn Shelter to Routeburn Flats||6.5|
|2||Routeburn Flats to Mackenzie Camp||13.6|
|3||Mackenzie Camp to Lake Howden||8.6|
|Greenstone Track||Lake Howden to Sly Burn||26*|
|4||Sly Burn to Greenstone Car Park||11*|
Please note that distances marked with an asterisk are estimates. The Greenstone Track is 37km long, but I don't currently have the maps to hand to check the figures for the individual days.