Our hike to Lake Marion was actually our favorite hike we did in all of New Zealand! The trail climbs for two miles through a dense forest before emerging at an alpine lake at the base of an epic hanging valley. A highlight of Fiordland National Park, this hike was the perfect activity to pair with our Milford Sound Cruise earlier that morning.
Miles: 4.4 roundtrip
Elevation Change: 1,565 ft
Trail Type: Out and back
Trailhead: Google Maps
After parking in the dirt lot and crossing the swinging bridge over the Hollyford River, we found ourselves walking through some dense forest towards the sound of rushing water.
After about 10 minutes of walking, we reached Lake Marian Falls, a series of mini waterfalls cascading down the creek that can be viewed from the long wooden platform known as 'The Gantry'.
After following the river for a short while, the trail turns away and starts climbing up through the lush jungle. We definitely broke a sweat as we gained 1,300 ft, and occasionally we'd be treated to a clearing in the trees where we'd spot Key Summit and the Alisa Mountains behind us in the distance.
We hiked through some mossy and overgrown portions of the trail that seriously looked like a scene straight from Jurassic Park, and it was hard to believe an exposed alpine lake was somewhere out in the middle of this forest. There were a couple mini rocky valleys and dried up washes that required some minor scrambling to cross, but there are plenty of orange arrows on the trees to guide the way.
As we emerged above the treeline and spotted the snow-covered Marion and Sabre Peak in the distance, we knew the lake had to be just up ahead. As we approached the shoreline, I couldn't believe the color and clarity of the water in person!
The view from the edge of the lake was unreal. We spotted endless waterfalls rushing down the sides of the cliffs surrounding the lake, and the valley view offered clear views of the steep snowy mountains standing at 6,600 ft. I'd love to revisit this epic spot to see what it would look like at sunset, sunrise, or even with some floating icebergs in the winter!
After picking the perfect flat rock by the water, we spent a good amount of the day here eating lunch, swimming, napping, and enjoying the view. There are even some pit toilets on the edge of the tree-line. We were super lucky to only see a handful of people here throughout the day, and it was hard leaving our spot to hike back out.
The hike back down to our car took us no time at all, and on our drive out we stopped at the Hollyford Valley Lookout on the side of the road for a better view of the valley we had just hiked up to! From this vantage point we could see the lush forest we hiked through, the saddle we emerged on top of, and Mount Crosscut in the distance, although our view of Lake Marion was just hidden beyond the trees.
Going into this hike we didn't have super high expectations, but this 4 mile sidetrip turned out to be the highlight of our entire New Zealand trip! Hiking through the forest and being at the lake had quite a remote feel, and we saw very few hikers on the trail, as most tourists visiting Fiordland National Park likely come for Milford Sound.