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How To Hike Gertrude Saddle In Milford Sound


Modified: September 26, 2023

by Jewelle Gaylor



Welcome to the stunning wilderness of Milford Sound, a world-renowned destination nestled in the heart of New Zealand’s South Island. If you’re an adventure enthusiast and love the thrill of hiking, then Gertrude Saddle is a must-do for you. This exhilarating trek will take you through lush forests, rugged terrains, and awe-inspiring alpine landscapes.


Gertrude Saddle is a popular hiking trail that offers breathtaking panoramic views of Milford Sound and the surrounding Fiordland National Park. This challenging hike is not for the faint of heart, but the unforgettable experience and jaw-dropping vistas make it well worth the effort.


Before we delve into the details of conquering Gertrude Saddle, let’s talk about how to get to Milford Sound. Located in the southwestern corner of the South Island, Milford Sound is a remote destination that can be reached by car or by taking a scenic flight from Queenstown or Te Anau. The journey itself is an adventure, as you’ll pass through majestic mountains, winding roads, and picturesque landscapes.


Once you’ve arrived in Milford Sound, you’ll be captivated by the magnificent natural beauty that surrounds you. From towering mountains and cascading waterfalls to crystal-clear lakes and dense forests, Milford Sound is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts.


So, gear up and prepare yourself for an unforgettable adventure as we dive into the thrilling journey of hiking Gertrude Saddle in Milford Sound. From preparation tips to trail information and safety considerations, this guide has got you covered. It’s time to lace up your hiking boots, embrace the challenge, and immerse yourself in the wonders of Gertrude Saddle.


Getting to Milford Sound

Getting to Milford Sound is an adventure in itself, as this remote destination is surrounded by rugged mountains and dense forests. There are a few different ways to reach Milford Sound, each offering its own unique experience:

  1. By Car: If you prefer the freedom and flexibility of a road trip, driving to Milford Sound is a popular option. The journey takes you through stunning landscapes, including the famous Te Anau-Milford Highway. However, it’s essential to note that the road can be challenging, with narrow sections and sharp bends. Take your time and enjoy the scenic drive while keeping an eye out for wildlife along the way.
  2. By Bus: For those who prefer not to drive, taking a bus to Milford Sound is a convenient and comfortable option. There are several tour companies that offer bus services from Queenstown or Te Anau to Milford Sound, providing informative commentary along the way. Sit back, relax, and let someone else handle the driving while you soak in the scenic beauty.
  3. By Scenic Flight: If you’re looking for a truly extraordinary experience, consider taking a scenic flight to Milford Sound. You’ll be treated to breathtaking aerial views of the snow-capped peaks, deep valleys, and cascading waterfalls. It’s an opportunity to see the Fiordland National Park from a whole new perspective and create lasting memories.
  4. By Hiking: For the adventurous souls, hiking to Milford Sound is an option worth considering. The Milford Track is one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, spanning 53.5 kilometers and taking you through some of the most breathtaking landscapes in the country. The journey usually takes around four days, and advanced bookings are required.

Whichever mode of transportation you choose, it’s important to plan ahead and make reservations in advance, especially during peak seasons. Milford Sound is a popular tourist destination, and accommodations and activities can fill up quickly.


Now that you know the various ways to reach Milford Sound, it’s time to start preparing for your hike to Gertrude Saddle. Get ready to embark on an incredible adventure that will test your endurance, showcase the beauty of nature, and leave you with memories that will last a lifetime.


Overview of Gertrude Saddle

Gertrude Saddle is a stunning location in the Fiordland National Park, offering a thrilling hiking experience for adventurers seeking an adrenaline rush and breathtaking scenery. Situated in the Southern Alps of New Zealand’s South Island, this challenging hike rewards those who conquer it with panoramic views of Milford Sound and the surrounding mountains.


The hike to Gertrude Saddle is known for its diverse terrain, ranging from dense forests to alpine meadows and rocky slopes. It is a moderately difficult trail, requiring a good level of fitness and sturdy footwear. The round trip usually takes around 6 to 8 hours, depending on your pace and the weather conditions.


As you ascend to Gertrude Saddle, you will be immersed in the pristine beauty of Fiordland. Towering peaks, cascading waterfalls, and glistening lakes paint a picture-perfect backdrop as you make your way to the summit.


Upon reaching Gertrude Saddle, you will be greeted with a breathtaking view of Milford Sound, an iconic fiord renowned for its dramatic cliffs and awe-inspiring natural wonders. From this vantage point, you can admire the expansive beauty of the fiord and witness the interplay of light and shadow as clouds dance across the sky.


While the hike to Gertrude Saddle offers incredible scenic rewards, it’s important to note that it can be challenging and potentially hazardous. The weather in Fiordland is notorious for its unpredictability, with rain and strong winds common throughout the year. It is essential to check the weather forecast and be prepared for changing conditions before embarking on the hike.


Additionally, the trail to Gertrude Saddle involves steep ascents and descents, rocky sections, and unstable terrain. Proper hiking gear, including sturdy footwear, waterproof clothing, and trekking poles, are highly recommended to ensure your safety and comfort.


Now that we have an overview of Gertrude Saddle and what it entails, it’s time to dive into the preparation needed for this exhilarating adventure. From equipment and clothing to fitness requirements and safety considerations, the next section will provide you with all the information you need to prepare for your hike to Gertrude Saddle.


Preparing for the Hike

Before setting off on the challenging trek to Gertrude Saddle, it’s essential to adequately prepare yourself to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. Here are some key considerations to keep in mind as you get ready for your adventure:

  1. Fitness Level: The hike to Gertrude Saddle requires a moderate level of fitness. It involves steep ascents, rocky terrain, and long hours of walking. Prior to embarking on this journey, it is recommended to engage in regular exercise and build up your endurance through activities such as hiking, jogging, or cycling.
  2. Research and Planning: Familiarize yourself with the trail map, read recent trip reports, and gather as much information as possible about the hike. This will help you understand the challenges and be prepared for what lies ahead. Take note of the expected weather conditions and plan your hike accordingly.
  3. Proper Gear: Invest in appropriate hiking gear, including sturdy hiking boots, comfortable moisture-wicking clothing, waterproof layers, a backpack, trekking poles, a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen. It’s essential to dress in layers to accommodate changing weather conditions and be prepared for rain, wind, or sudden drops in temperature.
  4. Food and Water: Carry sufficient food and water to sustain yourself throughout the hike. Pack energy-rich snacks, sandwiches, and fruits to keep your energy levels up. Hydration is crucial, so ensure you have enough water or a water purification system if you plan on refilling from streams along the trail.
  5. First Aid Kit: Be prepared for any minor injuries or discomfort by carrying a basic first aid kit. Include items such as adhesive bandages, blister pads, antiseptic wipes, pain relievers, and any necessary personal medications.
  6. Navigation Tools: Bring a map and compass or a GPS device to help you navigate the trail. It’s important to have a reliable method of orienting yourself to ensure you stay on the right path.
  7. Inform Others: Let someone know about your hiking plans, including your intended route and estimated return time. This way, in case of an emergency, someone will be aware of your whereabouts and can raise an alarm if needed.
  8. Leave No Trace: Respect the environment and leave no trace behind. Pack out all your garbage and dispose of it properly, follow designated trails, and adhere to any guidelines or restrictions in place to preserve the natural beauty of the area.

By taking these necessary precautions and preparing thoroughly, you’ll pave the way for a successful and enjoyable hike to Gertrude Saddle. In the next section, we will delve into the trailhead and route information, providing you with the details you need to navigate the path to this breathtaking viewpoint.


Trailhead and Route Information

The trail to Gertrude Saddle begins at the Gertrude Valley car park, located approximately 78 kilometers from Te Anau. From Te Anau, follow State Highway 94 towards Milford Sound until you reach the Hollyford Road junction. Turn left onto Hollyford Road and continue for about 5 kilometers until you reach the signposted car park on your left.


Once you’ve parked your vehicle, start walking towards the marked trailhead. The initial section of the track takes you through a beautiful beech forest, with occasional glimpses of the mountains in the distance.


As you progress, the trail starts to ascend, and you’ll encounter rocky sections and wooden steps. Follow the well-worn path and orange markers, which indicate the route to Gertrude Saddle. Take your time and enjoy the scenery as you climb higher into the alpine terrain.


After approximately 2.5 kilometers, you’ll reach the bushline and exit the forest. From here, the landscape opens up, offering stunning panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.


Continue along the trail, which becomes steeper and more challenging as you approach Gertrude Saddle. The terrain consists of loose rocks, boulders, and scree slopes, requiring caution and concentration. It is crucial to watch your footing and take your time to ensure a safe ascent.


As you near the summit, the trail levels out slightly before reaching the saddle itself. At Gertrude Saddle, you’ll be rewarded with extraordinary views of Lake Marian, the Darren Mountains, and the awe-inspiring Milford Sound. Take a moment to absorb the beauty and capture stunning photographs of the surrounding vistas.


From the saddle, you have the option to continue further to gain better views or return the same way you came. It’s important to note that continuing beyond the saddle requires advanced mountaineering skills and experience. If you choose to explore further, ensure you have the proper equipment and knowledge to navigate the more challenging terrain.


After soaking in the panoramic views and enjoying the tranquility at Gertrude Saddle, carefully begin your descent following the same route. Take your time and maintain focus as you navigate the steep and rocky sections. It’s important to be cautious and avoid rushing, as this is when accidents can happen.


Once you’ve returned to the trailhead, take a moment to reflect on your accomplishment and relish the memories you’ve created on this extraordinary hike.


Now that you have an idea of the trailhead and route information, let’s move on to the next section, where we’ll discuss the exhilarating ascent to Gertrude Saddle.


The Ascent

The ascent to Gertrude Saddle is undoubtedly the most challenging part of the hike. It requires strength, endurance, and careful navigation through steep and rocky terrain. As you embark on this exhilarating ascent, here are some key points to keep in mind:


1. Take it Slow: The ascent to Gertrude Saddle is not a race. It’s important to pace yourself and take frequent breaks to catch your breath and rest your legs. Remember, it’s better to take your time and reach the summit safely than to rush and risk injury.


2. Watch Your Footing: The trail consists of loose rocks, boulders, and scree slopes. Pay close attention to your footing and take extra care on the slippery surfaces. Consider using trekking poles for added stability and balance.


3. Stay Hydrated and Energized: Stay hydrated by drinking water regularly throughout the ascent. Take small sips at regular intervals to keep your body hydrated and your energy levels up. Snack on energy-rich foods to replenish your energy stores and maintain your stamina.


4. Use the Orange Markers: The trail to Gertrude Saddle is marked with orange markers. These markers guide you along the route and help you stay on track. Keep an eye out for them, especially in areas where the trail may not be clearly visible.


5. Enjoy the Scenery: Although the ascent may be physically demanding, don’t forget to take moments to appreciate the breathtaking scenery around you. Look out for glimpses of Milford Sound, the surrounding mountains, and the impressive landscapes. These views will motivate and inspire you to keep going.


6. Be Weather Aware: Keep a close eye on the weather conditions throughout the ascent. Fiordland is known for rapidly changing weather, and it’s crucial to stay prepared. If the weather deteriorates, consider turning back to ensure your safety.


7. Support and Encourage Fellow Hikers: The ascent to Gertrude Saddle is a challenging endeavor for all hikers. Show support and encouragement to those around you, and be willing to lend a hand if needed. It’s a great way to foster a sense of community and ensure everyone has a positive experience.


Remember, reaching Gertrude Saddle is an achievement that requires determination and perseverance. Take each step with confidence, and before you know it, you’ll be rewarded with the breathtaking views and a sense of accomplishment that comes with conquering the ascent.


Continue reading as we reach the summit and bask in the beauty of Gertrude Saddle and its surroundings.


Reaching Gertrude Saddle

After a challenging ascent, you will finally reach the majestic Gertrude Saddle, a rewarding destination offering stunning panoramic views. As you approach the saddle, here’s what you can expect:


1. Breathtaking Views: As you near the saddle, the expansive beauty of the surrounding landscape unfolds before your eyes. Prepare to be mesmerized by the awe-inspiring vistas of Milford Sound, the Darren Mountains, and the pristine alpine meadows. Take a moment to soak in the natural splendor and capture the beauty through photographs.


2. The Iconic Gertrude Saddle: The saddle itself is a rocky outcrop situated between two towering peaks. It’s a perfect spot to rest and take in the stunning scenery. Marvel at the dramatic contrast between the deep blue waters of Milford Sound and the rugged mountains that surround you.


3. Peace and Serenity: The silence and tranquility at Gertrude Saddle are truly remarkable. Take advantage of this serene atmosphere to pause, reflect, and appreciate the beauty of nature. It’s a chance to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and find solace in the wilderness.


4. Changing Weather: Gertrude Saddle is located in a region known for unpredictable weather. Be prepared for sudden changes in conditions, including strong winds and rain. If the weather deteriorates, it’s important to prioritize safety and consider descending to lower levels.


5. Further Exploration: Beyond the saddle, experienced mountaineers have the option to continue exploring the area. However, venturing further requires advanced skills and knowledge of the terrain. If you choose to explore beyond the saddle, ensure you have the appropriate equipment and expertise to navigate the more challenging sections.


Reaching Gertrude Saddle is a remarkable achievement, symbolizing a successful journey through rugged terrain and unforgiving landscapes. Take a moment to celebrate your accomplishment and embrace the beauty of this extraordinary location.


As the breathtaking views fill your senses, cherish this special experience and create lasting memories. The journey, however, does not end here. Descending from Gertrude Saddle brings its own set of challenges and rewards, which we will explore in the next section.


Enjoying the View

One of the most rewarding aspects of reaching Gertrude Saddle is the opportunity to bask in the incredible views that surround you. From this vantage point, you can fully immerse yourself in the natural beauty of Milford Sound and its majestic surroundings. Here’s how you can make the most of the breathtaking vistas:


1. Find the Perfect Spot: Take your time to explore the area around Gertrude Saddle and find a comfortable spot to admire the view. Whether it’s sitting on a rock or finding a grassy patch, select a location that allows you to fully take in the panoramic scenery.


2. Take Photographs: Capture the beauty of the landscape by snapping photographs of the stunning vistas. Whether you’re using a professional camera or a smartphone, find unique angles and perspectives to showcase the grandeur and serenity of the surroundings.


3. Embrace the Silence: Gertrude Saddle is a place of tranquility. Allow yourself to be enveloped by the silence and serenity of the wilderness. Take a moment to pause, breathe in the fresh mountain air, and appreciate the stillness that surrounds you.


4. Observe the Nature: While taking in the view, keep an eye out for any wildlife or plant life that may be present around Gertrude Saddle. Fiordland is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna, and you might be lucky enough to spot some unique species during your visit.


5. Reflect and Appreciate: Use this time to reflect on your journey and appreciate the effort and determination it took to reach Gertrude Saddle. Allow yourself to feel a sense of accomplishment and gratitude for the opportunity to witness such natural beauty.


6. Share the Moment: If you’re hiking with others, take the time to share the experience and connect with your fellow adventurers. Share stories, laughter, and the awe-inspiring views, creating lasting memories together.


Remember, Gertrude Saddle offers a unique and awe-inspiring view that showcases the beauty of Milford Sound and the surrounding mountains. Take the time to fully immerse yourself in the experience, appreciating the grandeur and serenity of this remarkable destination.


As you begin your descent from Gertrude Saddle, ensure you continue to cherish the memories and hold onto the sense of wonder that the view has instilled within you. It’s time to continue the journey and return safely back to the trailhead.


Descending from Gertrude Saddle

After enjoying the spectacular views from Gertrude Saddle, it’s time to begin your descent back to the trailhead. Descending from the saddle requires careful attention and consideration to ensure your safety. Here are some important points to keep in mind:


1. Take it Slow: Descending can be just as challenging as ascending, if not more so. Take your time and maintain a steady pace. Watch your footing and be cautious on the rocky and uneven terrain. Take breaks when needed to rest your legs and joints.


2. Stay Focused: It’s easy to get caught up in the beauty surrounding you, but remember to stay vigilant and focused on the trail. The terrain may be steep and slippery, so it’s important to keep your full attention on the path ahead to avoid any missteps or accidents.


3. Use Trekking Poles: If you have them, trekking poles can provide additional stability and support while descending. They can help alleviate pressure on your knees and provide balance on uneven surfaces. Utilize them to ensure a safer and more comfortable descent.


4. Follow the Trail Markers: As you navigate your way down from Gertrude Saddle, be sure to look out for the orange markers that guide you along the trail. These markers will help you stay on the correct route and prevent you from veering off track.


5. Control Your Speed: While descending, it’s crucial to maintain control of your speed. Avoid rushing or sliding down steep sections and slopes, as this can lead to injuries. Take small, deliberate steps and maintain a stable footing as you make your way down.


6. Stay Hydrated and Nourished: Don’t forget to continue drinking water and eating snacks during your descent. Keeping hydrated and nourished will help maintain your energy levels and prevent fatigue. It’s important to fuel your body as you make your way back to the trailhead.


7. Enjoy the Scenery: Even during the descent, take the time to appreciate the natural beauty surrounding you. Look back at the incredible views of Milford Sound and the mountains as you make your way down. The changing perspective will provide a different outlook on the landscape.


Remember to take care and be mindful as you descend from Gertrude Saddle. The journey is not yet complete, and your safety and well-being remain a priority. With careful navigation and a focus on maintaining a steady pace, you can make a safe return to the trailhead.


As you come closer to completing the hike, reflect on the challenges you have overcome and the memories you have created. With each step, you are one step closer to completing a remarkable adventure in the heart of Milford Sound.


Safety Considerations

When embarking on any hiking adventure, including the hike to Gertrude Saddle, it’s crucial to prioritize safety. The rugged terrain, unpredictable weather, and remote location of Gertrude Saddle make it imperative to come prepared and be aware of potential risks. Here are some important safety considerations to keep in mind:


1. Check Weather Conditions: Prior to starting your hike, check the weather forecast for the area. Fiordland is known for its rapidly changing weather patterns, and it’s essential to be prepared for rain, wind, and even snow. Make informed decisions based on the conditions and consider postponing your hike if severe weather is expected.


2. Inform Others: Always let someone know about your hiking plans, including your intended route and expected return time. This ensures that someone is aware of your whereabouts and can raise the alarm if you do not return as scheduled. Leave a detailed itinerary with a trusted person and let them know when to expect a check-in from you.


3. Be Equipped: Invest in proper hiking gear and equipment before attempting the hike. Sturdy hiking boots, suitable clothing, extra layers, rain gear, and a hat are essential. Carry enough food, snacks, and water to keep you nourished and hydrated throughout the journey. Additionally, ensure you have a map, compass, or GPS device to navigate the trail, along with a fully charged mobile phone for emergencies.


4. Know Your Limits: Gertrude Saddle is a moderately difficult hike that requires a good level of fitness and stamina. Be aware of your physical capabilities and avoid pushing yourself beyond your limits. Take breaks as needed, listen to your body, and turn back if you feel fatigued or unwell. It’s always better to prioritize your safety and well-being over reaching the summit.


5. Stay on the Trail: Stick to the marked trail and follow the orange markers that guide you along the route. Venturing off the trail increases the risk of getting lost or encountering hazardous terrain. Deviating from the designated path can also have negative impacts on the delicate ecosystem and wildlife in the area.


6. Be cautious of Cliffs and Scree Slopes: Gertrude Saddle involves navigating steep sections, cliffs, and scree slopes. Exercise caution and stay away from steep drop-offs. Watch your step on loose rocks and scree, taking care not to dislodge any loose material that could endanger yourself or others.


7. Stay Hydrated and Apply Sunscreen: Hydration is crucial during any hike. Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration, even in cooler temperatures. Additionally, protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays by applying sunscreen and wearing a hat and sunglasses. The reflection of sunlight off the snow or water can intensify the UV exposure.


8. Leave No Trace: Respect the environment and practice Leave No Trace principles. Pack out all your trash and dispose of it properly. Minimize your impact on the natural surroundings by sticking to designated trails, avoiding trampling on vegetation, and refraining from picking flowers or disturbing wildlife.


Remember, your safety is paramount when exploring the wild beauty of Gertrude Saddle. By being prepared, informed, and mindful of potential risks, you can adventure with confidence and fully enjoy the remarkable experience while respecting the natural environment.


So go ahead, embark on this thrilling journey, and create memories that will last a lifetime. Safely immerse yourself in the magnificent landscapes of Gertrude Saddle, taking in the beauty and wonder that awaits you in Milford Sound.



Embarking on the hike to Gertrude Saddle in Milford Sound is a thrilling adventure that immerses you in the awe-inspiring beauty of New Zealand’s South Island. From the challenging ascent to the breathtaking views at the summit, this hike offers a truly unforgettable experience.


As you prepare for your journey, take the time to research, plan, and equip yourself properly. Pay close attention to weather conditions, inform others of your plans, and adhere to safety considerations to ensure a safe and enjoyable hike.


Once you set foot on the trail, be prepared to conquer steep ascents, navigate rocky terrains, and witness the transformation of the landscape as you approach Gertrude Saddle. Capture the views, embrace the silence, and reflect on the remarkable natural wonders that surround you.


As you descend from the saddle, remember to maintain focus and control your speed. Enjoy the changing perspective of the landscape as you make your way back to the trailhead, cherishing the memories and sense of accomplishment that the hike has instilled within you.


Throughout your journey, prioritize safety, respect the environment, and follow Leave No Trace principles. Gertrude Saddle is a place of serenity and grandeur, and it is our responsibility to preserve its natural beauty for future generations.


Whether you are a seasoned hiker or a beginner seeking a thrilling challenge, conquering Gertrude Saddle in Milford Sound offers an experience that will leave you in awe. So, lace up your hiking boots, prepare your gear, and embark on this incredible adventure that awaits you in the heart of New Zealand’s stunning wilderness.


As you stand at the summit, gazing at the breathtaking views of Milford Sound and the surrounding mountains, you’ll realize that the effort was all worth it. The memories you create, the beauty you witness, and the sense of accomplishment will stay with you long after you have left the trail.


So, embrace the call of the wild, embrace the challenge, and embark on an unforgettable journey to Gertrude Saddle in Milford Sound – an adventure that will forever hold a special place in your heart.