Key Summit is a short day-hike in Fiordland National Park. The hike is a small part of the Routburn Track, which is one of the great walks in New Zealand. Key Summit is just one of the spectacular views that you are rewarded with if you finish the great walk. However, if you head to the end of the Routeburn Track and hike it backwards, it only talks a few hours to reach Key Summit.
Here are some quick statistics about the hike:
Length of Hike: 2 miles
Skill needed to complete: Low
Fitness level required: Low to moderate
Trail condition: Great during nice weather
Time to complete round trip hike: 3 hours
Recommended age group: Any age
Key Summit may be the best day-hike in Fiordland National Park. It has everything going for it: easy car access, rainforest scenery, waterfalls, great mountain views, and it can be accomplished by almost anyone. The trailhead can be accessed from “The Divide,” also known as the end of the Routeburn Track. From Milford Sound Lodge, it is about an hour drive to the trailhead. I hitched a ride from my Polish roommate, Anna, in order to get to the trailhead. Then, to get back to the lodge, I had to hitchhike. It is actually sort of a funny story. After I finished the hike, I waited for over two hours for someone to stop and pick me up. During that time, a group of hikers waiting for a shuttle watched me in anticipation. As a van pulled up, and a French guy named Nico offered me a ride, the group of hikers began to clap and cheer. It is fun to be around a group of travelers with a good sense of humor.
The first hour of the hike takes you through awesome rainforest. Fiordland averages about 200 rain days a year. This has created a luscious green landscape that is stunningly beautiful. It is amazing to see all the different plants growing on top of each other, with no concern for personal space. If you are lucky, it will have rained the day before your hike, which will have created numerous temporary waterfalls. However, there is always a larger one that is permanent year-round.
Once you get to the clearing with the final climb up to the summit, you will get nice views of the valley and its surrounding mountains. This path will lead you to the top where you will get to see snowcapped mountains.
There is also a pond there that, on a clear day, can provide great reflections of the mountains. Key Summit is definitely worth the few hours it takes to complete. If you complete the hike in the early morning, you are ensured a peaceful experience without too many fellow hikers. If you decide to complete the hike solo, remember to always let someone know of your plans, even if it is someone at the front desk of your accommodation.
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