The Routeburn and Greenstone Tracks had their beginnings in the 1860s when a route through the Southern Alps to the West Coast was proposed for shipping gold to Australia, though this never eventuated. The Routeburn track was finally completed in the 1920s. A private guided walking operation was founded in 1967 and the concession to operate private walks was awarded to Ultimate Hikes in 1989.
Quintin Mackinnon discovered the pass which allowed land access to Milford Sound in 1888, and he was the first guide to take walkers from Lake Te Anau to Milford Sound, on what is now famously known as the Milford Track. In 1901, the government established the Department of Tourist and Health Resorts and assumed administrative control of the track. The guided walk operation was retained in government control until it was sold to a private enterprise in 1990. Ultimate Hikes acquired the concession to operate on the Milford Track in 1992. The company remains the only one permitted to operate multiday guided walks on the Milford, the Routeburn and the Greenstone Tracks (which, combined with the Routeburn Track makes up the Grand Traverse). Ultimate Hikes has put extensive time, effort and investment into upgrading the facilities on the tracks, and we constantly strive to provide a safe and professional guided walk experience with an international reputation, attracting walkers from New Zealand and all over the world.
Operating in National Parks, where in excess of 9 metres of rain can fall per year, is a challenge; unpredictable weather conditions and relative inaccessibility of the lodges are major considerations in the daily operation of the guided walks. Accommodation for walkers is provided in purpose-built lodges, privately owned and operated by Ultimate Hikes.
Over 120 people are employed each walking season to ensure that the service provided exceeds our walker's expectations.
Safety is paramount and we have strong communication systems connecting the guides, lodges and Queenstown base at all times.
Considerable effort goes into maintaining the tracks and Ultimate Hikes works closely with the Department of Conservation, on track maintenance and pest control.
Ultimate Hikes also operates guided day walks on the Milford, and Routeburn Tracks. These day walks are specifically designed for those who can't fit the full walks into their holiday.
Sister companies of Ultimate Hikes include other iconic New Zealand visitor attractions; the historic Hermitage Hotel, Glacier Explorers, Tasman Valley 4WD and Argo Tours, and the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre (all located at Aoraki Mt Cook Alpine Village), NZSki Ltd operators of New Zealand's premier ski areas: Coronet Peak, The Remarkables and Mt Hutt, and AJ Hackett Bungy New Zealand.