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Time's running out: A tramper looks down the Routeburn valley

By DANIEL ALVEY

The Department of Conservation’s opened bookings for New Zealand’s Great Walks  summer season this week, urging people to get in early or miss out.

Bookings for the nearest of the Great Walks to Queenstown, the Routeburn, opened on Wednesday, while those for the Kepler Track, near Te Anau, opened yesterday.

The summer season runs from late October to the end of next April, with the biggest demand for hut beds during public holidays and long weekends — they can sell out within minutes.

While hikes can be made out side of the summer season, DoC heritage and visitors boss Steve Tyler says the southern Great Walks, including the Milford Track, should only be attempted by fit, experienced and well-equipped hikers because of the reduced level of facilities and higher weather risks.

The Milford’s already fully booked after opening on Tuesday.

DoC comms advisor Lizzy Sutcliffe says along with the Heaphy and Rakiura tracks, the
three walks had already received well over 3000 bookings by yesterday.

The Milford’s usually booked out first because it’s not only the most popular, but also the most restricted.

For example, no camping’s allowed to help protect the land scape, she says.

But Ultimate Hikes, a Queenstown-based operator on the Milford and Routeburn with its own huts, still has spaces available.

General manager Noel Saxon says with the restrictions on international travel, more Kiwis are booking with them.

More information on the Great Walks and how to book a spot can be found at: https://bit.ly/3zrEqdL

ed@scene.co.nz