The beautiful Fiordland National Park contains 3 of New Zealand’s 9 Great Walks: the Kepler Track, Milford Track and the Routeburn Track. On the road to Milford Sound from Te Anau, is an area called the Divide, near where the Milford Highway skirts round the end of the Hollyford Valley. It marks the start (or end) of the Routeburn Track, a multi-day hike that cuts through the Humboldt Mountains. With my appetite whetted from hiking the Kepler Track, I vow to come back one day to hike the Milford and Routeburn tracks as well, but on my way back to Te Anau from Milford Sound, I pulled in at the Divide to walk to Key Summit which had been highly recommended.
The first 40 minutes or so of the walk is along the Routeburn Track, winding upwards and round the end of the Livingstone Mountain range. It is a simple gravel path, past a few small waterfalls, hidden amongst the trees but within ear shot of the Milford Highway and its passing traffic. Not until the path has skirted round quite far does the canopy allow a view of the Hollyford valley and the Humboldt Mountains. It is, like so many parts of the National Park, a stunning sight. Both the valley and the mountains were thick with vegetation and far below, the Hollyford river sparkled under the glorious sunshine.
A sign marks the split up to Key Summit, and the path winds back and forth through an increasingly alpine vegetation until the summit is reached. The summit (919m/3015ft altitude) is relatively flat and has a self-guided alpine nature walk around it, encompassing a mixture of alpine wetlands, lakes and alpine vegetation. No matter what direction you look, there are mountains on all sides: Humboldt, Darran, Ailsa and Earl Mountain ranges.
A track heads up to a higher lookout where most of the alpine nature walk is visible below, and also the hidden Lake Marian comes into view. Lake Marrian is nestled within the Darran mountain range to the west. Returning via the same path, it rejoins the nature walk which, via various lookouts, forms a loop back to the path to take you back down to the Routeburn track and back to the Divide the way you came. At just over 2 hrs, it is a fantastic walk to do on a sunny day, and gives a good taster of the spectacular views that I’m sure the Routeburn Track offers.