Lake Marian Track: The Perfect Day Hike on the Road to Milford

Visiting Lake Marian is one of the best things to do in New Zealand's South Island

The Lake Marian Track is an incredible short day hike along the road to Milford Sound. Taking only 3 hours to complete, the hike includes views of waterfalls as well as the stunning Lake Marian. This blog is a guide to the track including our own personal experience.

Lake Marian Track: A Complete Guide

The road to Milford arguably as memorable and beautiful as Milford Sound itself. Boasting incredible valleys, snowy mountain peaks, and countless trails to explore you could literally spend days on this short 120 km stretch of road!

But, if like us, you don’t have days pt spend getting to Milford Sound you will need to pick and choose wisely where you want to spend your precious time. There are a ton of different stops on the road to Milford and a ton of different trails – but if you’re going to pick one trail in particular then I recommend making time for the hike to Lake Marian.

the beginning of the lake marina track

Where is the hike to Lake Marian

As I said before, the hike to Lake Marian starts along to road to Milford – between the town of Te Anau and Milford Sound. You’ll find access to the Lake Marian track from the Hollyford Road turnoff (same place as Gunns Camp) approximately 38 kilometres from Milford Sound. Hollyford Road is well signposted and can also be easily be found using Google Maps.

Drive on Hollyford Road for 1 km and you will reach a parking lot. Park there and you will see the signs for the Lake Marian Track. You’ll know you’re headed in the right direction if you cross a suspension bridge almost immediately.
the lake marian suspension bridge

What makes the track to Lake Marian so special?

Lake Marian is a gorgeous turquoise lake sitting in a valley surrounded by snowy peaks and waterfalls. It is simply stunning – and that alone is what makes it so extraordinary.

The walk itself is also noteworthy. At the beginning of the Lake Marian Track, you will cross a river on a suspension bridge and then only a few hundred meters later find yourself walking on a platform right next to waterfalls!

From there, it is all hiking uphill through the jungle. Once you have climbed and climbed and climbed you will turn one last bend and low and behold, in front of you is a huge valley and Lake Marian! Simply spectacular!

the view of lake marian
The view of Lake Marian is incredible!

How long is the Marian Track?

The Lake Marian Track is approximately 10 kilometres long for a return trip. You walk along the same trail to and from Lake Marian.

Allow approximately 3 hours to complete the hike, however, if you like to take lots of stops for photos or maybe even swim in the lake (if you can bear the cold water) then allow a bit more time!

bautiful waterfalls
This waterfall is only a couple hundred meters from the start of the track!

How hard is the Lake Marian Track?

The Lake Marian Track starts off very easy. In the beginning, it is flat, well maintained, and suitable for all fitness levels. However, after the waterfalls there is a sign that warns that ahead is a steady incline with a rocky path – this sign is right!

The majority of the Lake Marian Track is uphill and involves climbing over rocks. It isn’t easy by any means and you would definitely need good footwear to complete it. When it has been wet, the rocks can be slippery and there is also some very muddy sections. Expect to have to climb over trees or on top of large rocks at times.

It isn’t the easiest of day walks near Milford Sound, but if you are up for it then it is totally worth it!
walking along the lake marian track

What should you bring to the Lake Marian Track?

There are a few things I would recommend to bring along with you for the Lake Marian Track hike. They would be:

Good hiking footwear. Good grip on the shoes for the slippery rocks and waterproof would also be a great idea for the muddy sections.

Rain gear. The weather can change in an instant in Fiordland National Park, so even on the sunniest of days bring your rain jacket just in case.

750ml of water per person at least. The Lake Aria Track is a bit of a climb on the way there so you’ll find yourself getting thirsty pretty quickly.

Camera. The views of Lake Marian are stunning – you will absolutely want to take photos.

Our Experience and Overall Opinion

We once saw a beautiful photo of Lake Marian Instagram and then decided that we wanted to check it out for ourselves. Without any research, we planned to do it on our way to Milford Sound.

When we arrived we saw the sign saying it takes three hours to complete the hike. We were a bit surprised as most of the hikes along the way to Milford are very short and can be completed in under an hour, but we wanted to see Lake Marian so we had a quick bite to eat, filled up our water bottles, and headed off.

As I said, the beginning portion of the Lake Marian Track is easy and beautiful! We stopped many times to photograph the waterfalls. It after the waterfalls when the serious hiking started.

We were hiking in the middle of spring and although it wasn’t raining at the time, there had been tons of rain prior making the rocks along the trail slippery. The trail took a bit of time and effort (and a few water breaks to catch our breath) but we eventually made it to Lake Marian – and it was definitely worth it!

Daniel, being hot and sweaty, decided that jumping into the freezing cold glacier-fed lake was a good idea. The few people sitting around the lake watched and laughed at him as he jumped into the water and jumped back out just as quickly.
swimming in lake marian
We took a few photos and relaxed a bit before making our way back down to the car park. The way back took much less time than the way there.

Overall, I was thoroughly impressed with the hike to Lake Marian. It was challenging but not too hard, and the views at the end were so rewarding! The little gem is often missed by visitors, in fact, we skipped it on our first trip to Milford Sound. I am so glad we decided to do it this time around though, was such a stunning lake and a good way to send a few hours one afternoon.


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