The Lake Monowai area has some of the loveliest tracks around. Three scenic lakes. Few other people.
A secret outdoor paradise.
It should be overrun with trampers.
Okay, access isn’t the best. You need transportation, and a short stretch of gravel road needs to be covered. Then you leave your car in a fairly remote area, although this should not be an issue in reality. Public transport to the area isn’t a thing.
Any track is a cul-de-sac, so you need to walk in and out the same way. Unless you go over the tops, and that’s not for everyone.
The tussock areas can be swampy, as can some low-lying areas. Bridges are completely absent, so your feet will get wet.
These are challenges.
But the tracks are generally well marked, and are a delight. A trail through club moss or crown fern, with not so much undergrowth, rather than a manicured highway. You feel like you are having a real adventure.
Highlights are the scenic Green Lake, Lake Monowai, and the at times superb tracks themselves.
Not for novice trampers, due to occasional track finding requirements and the generally remote nature of the area, but if you like tramping away from the crowds, with a reasonable level of energy expenditure, on relatively underused tracks, this would be an excellent choice.
where | Lake Monowai, Fiordland National Park
Two choices from the Monowai Campsite carpark.
The cul-de-sac to Roger Inlet Hut. Basically there and back, although it is possible in summer to continue via the tops to Green Lake Hut.
Or, to Monowai Hut via Green Lake, and return via Borland Bivvy.
distance | Lake Monowai, Fiordland National Park
Monowai campsite to Roger Inlet Hut, 10 km each way.
Monowai campsite to Green Lake to Monowai Hut to Borland Bivvy, back to Monowai campsite, 70 km circuit.
when | Lake Monowai, Fiordland National Park
November to May is best. The saddle on the way to Green Lake is around 1000 m and not excessively steep, so, therefore, no great avalanche risk. Best to avoid when snow-covered.
Avoid immediately after heavy rain, or if it is predicted, as no creeks are bridged. 12 hours may be sufficient to let the water levels drop.
maps and GPS | Lake Monowai, Fiordland National Park
Most of the tracks appear on the Land Information New Zealand, LINZ, Topo50 series maps: CE07 – Lake Monowai. These can be bought at the DOC office at the Te Anau iSite and some tramping supply shops: Hunting and Fishing is your best bet.
This can be downloaded at Lake Monowai map at LINZ. Then you can print your own sections that you require. Or upload them to your phone.
route description | Lake Monowai, Fiordland National Park
Rodger Inlet Hut. The track to the Walker River is one of the most delightful walks in New Zealand. No swingbridge at Walker River, but at the river crossing point is reasonably flat and has a gravel bottom. The track becomes progressively more energy-requiring closer to the hut, with areas of bog, sidling around steep slopes, and windfall. A track exists to get onto the tops, a 1300 m climb, but this is steep and gnarly, and not recommended for novices.
Monowai Hut. From the Monowai campsite, the track climbs steadily to the unnamed saddle north of Mt Cuthbert, before dropping 180 m to Green Lake. Some bog, with windfall and track-finding issues at times. Green Lake to Monowai Hut is very well marked, mostly, and is regularly maintained by DOC. The track from the Green Lake turnoff to Borland Bivvy is well-trafficked and passes through some boggy tussock areas. It is possible to hitchhike down the gravel of Borland Road to West Arm of Manapouri back to Borland Lodge, then cut through on the DOC track back to the Monowai Campsite carpark, but note that Borland Road is closed for winter, and only opens in late October.
See the slideshow at the bottom of this page if you require further convincing.
huts | Lake Monowai, Fiordland National Park
Green Lake Hut is the big drawcard here. It can be busy in summer.
supplies | Lake Monowai, Fiordland National Park
Te Anau has one major supermarket, Freshchoice, open 7 am to 9 pm seven days, for getting the main supplies. There is also a small 4 Square with similar, but marginally truncated opening hours.
Shellite or Fuelite and gas canisters for your stove can be obtained at Outdoor Sports, Fiordland Frontier Supplies, both open Monday – Friday 9 00 am–5 30 pm and Saturday 9 am-1 pm, or Mitre 10, Monday – Friday 8 am-5 30 pm, Saturday 9 am-4 pm, Sunday 11 am-3 pm, if you haven’t been allowed to fly with it. All these shops are in the main shopping area of Te Anau.
warnings | Lake Monowai, Fiordland National Park
Your car will be left in the car park for a few days, so keep everything in the boot to avoid temptation. This is a perceived rather than real issue, but don’t tempt fate.
Note that tramping times indicated by DOC are often for ideal conditions, with no windfalls, etc. After rain, the bogs may have become flooded and need some negotiation. Some of the crown fern-infested areas may take longer because you can’t see your feet. That means that the six — seven hours from the Monowai Campsite to Green Lake Hut may take some time longer, particularly considering the big climb.
The weather may be variable. It can snow at any time of the year, and that includes January. It can be sunny and looking great, and 20 minutes later horizontal rain can arrive with some force. After all, it is Fiordland National Park, so it is usually hit with any cold front coming through.
Creeks can go up rapidly, although the catchments are steep and not extensive, and therefore they go down quickly as well.
Walker River does not have any bridge, but is usually less than knee-deep, and flat where you cross. The other creeks will often just wet your already wet feet. Crossing the outlet to Island Lake needs some care, but further down where you cross the upper parts of the Grebe River a few times, the crossings are flatter with a pebbly bottom.
Yes, you will have wet feet, and with the occasional stretches of mud, it’s worth wearing decent gaiters and/or overtrou.
The tracks are generally well marked, but they suffer from plenty of windfall, and it may take time to pick up the track on the other side of the fallen tree.
Getting through the crown fern can require some trail finding experience, and there are areas of poorer marking where care needs to be taken.
Avoid periods of predicted heavy rain as stated, none of the streams are bridged, and rain can be intense. Just look at all that moss and fern.
You are really on your own out there, so remember to pack an ELB, Emergency Locator Beacon.
a big image slideshow | Lake Monowai, Fiordland National Park
Here’s a 38 image slideshow from Monowai Campsite to Rodger Inlet, and Monowai Campsite to Monowai Hut via Green Lake and back via Borland Bivvy, giving an indication of the general track conditions and sights along the way, if you need any further convincing.
Click on the thumbnail image below to get the slideshow started, then you can click on the left or right sides of the bigger images to go forward or back.
Images of the Lake Monowai huts can be found in Southland/Fiordland huts.