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New Zealand Great Walks: Kepler Track

Fiordland National Park

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New Zealand Great Walks: Kepler Track

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  • The control gates where you start the trek.- New Zealand Great Walks: Kepler Track
  • Beach at Brod Bay before the climb.- New Zealand Great Walks: Kepler Track
  • Climbing through rainforest up to the bushline.- New Zealand Great Walks: Kepler Track
  • Views of Te Anau through the trees.- New Zealand Great Walks: Kepler Track
  • Tussock fields after leaving the trees.- New Zealand Great Walks: Kepler Track
  • Open views of Te Anau.- New Zealand Great Walks: Kepler Track
  • Luxmore Hut.- New Zealand Great Walks: Kepler Track
  • Side trip to Luxmore Cave.- New Zealand Great Walks: Kepler Track
  • Make sure to bring a headlamp.- New Zealand Great Walks: Kepler Track
  • The cave extends fairly far.- New Zealand Great Walks: Kepler Track
  • Lake Te Anau at sunset.- New Zealand Great Walks: Kepler Track
  • Lake Te Anau.- New Zealand Great Walks: Kepler Track
  • Mountains across the fjords from Luxmore Hut.- New Zealand Great Walks: Kepler Track
  • Sunrise over Lake Te Anau.- New Zealand Great Walks: Kepler Track
  • The kea alpine parrot, a very curious and social bird.- New Zealand Great Walks: Kepler Track
  • Low clouds dotting Lake Te Anau.- New Zealand Great Walks: Kepler Track
  • Morning light on the far peaks.- New Zealand Great Walks: Kepler Track
  • On the way to Luxmore Summit.- New Zealand Great Walks: Kepler Track
  • Mount Luxmore, high point on the track.- New Zealand Great Walks: Kepler Track
  • Another angle from the summit.- New Zealand Great Walks: Kepler Track
  • Looking down at the first shelter on the ridge walk.- New Zealand Great Walks: Kepler Track
  • The western arm of Lake Te Anau.- New Zealand Great Walks: Kepler Track
  • Epic peaks rising out of the water.- New Zealand Great Walks: Kepler Track
  • Panoramic views from the balcony trail climbing to the ridge.- New Zealand Great Walks: Kepler Track
  • The highlight of the track, the ridge walk.- New Zealand Great Walks: Kepler Track
  • Another point on the ridge walk.- New Zealand Great Walks: Kepler Track
  • Tussock covered ridges.- New Zealand Great Walks: Kepler Track
  • Alpine tarns dotting the valley on the descent.- New Zealand Great Walks: Kepler Track
  • Getting back down to bushline.- New Zealand Great Walks: Kepler Track
  • Panorama of the final ridge descent.- New Zealand Great Walks: Kepler Track
  • On the way down to Iris Burn Hut.- New Zealand Great Walks: Kepler Track
  • Looking back on the ridge walk.- New Zealand Great Walks: Kepler Track
  • Iris Burn.- New Zealand Great Walks: Kepler Track
  • Iris Burn Falls.- New Zealand Great Walks: Kepler Track
  • Small ground birds along the trail.- New Zealand Great Walks: Kepler Track
  • Iris Burn Valley at dawn.- New Zealand Great Walks: Kepler Track
  • Wonderful views of the valley on Day 3.- New Zealand Great Walks: Kepler Track
  • The trail follows Iris Burn toward the lake.- New Zealand Great Walks: Kepler Track
  • Last Hut of the Kepler Track near Lake Manapouri.- New Zealand Great Walks: Kepler Track
  • Sunset at Lake Manapouri.- New Zealand Great Walks: Kepler Track
  • Wetlands viewing area with Mount Luxmore in the background.- New Zealand Great Walks: Kepler Track
  • The path leads through the rainforest for the final stretch.- New Zealand Great Walks: Kepler Track
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Fantastic views. Great huts. Diverse terrain. Easy logistics.
Cons: 
Huts book up quickly.
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Region:
Other,
Congestion: 
High
Pets allowed: 
No
Number of days: 
4
Highest point: 
4,712.00 ft (1,436.22 m)
Net Elevation Gain: 
4,117.00 ft (1,254.86 m)
Year round: 
Yes
Parking Pass: 
None
Permit required: 
Yes
Permit reservation URL: 
https://booking.doc.govt.nz/
Permit self-issue on site: 
No
Preferable Season(s):
Summer, Fall
Total Distance: 
45.30 mi (72.90 km)
Total elevation gain: 
7,428.00 ft (2,264.05 m)
Trail type: 
Loop
Trailhead Elevation: 
688.00 ft (209.70 m)
Typically multi-day: 
Yes
Current Local Weather:
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Hike Description

Hike Description

Pro Contributor

The Kepler Track is a circular tramping track that is part of the Great Walk system in New Zealand. It is entirely located within Fiordlands National Park near the town of Te Anau on the South Island. The Track measures 60-kilometers and starts and ends at the Lake Te Anau control gates trailhead, Rainbow Reach, or Brod Bay. The Kepler Track was originally designated in 1988 as a way to ease congestion on the nearby Milford Track and Routeburn Track, which had greatly picked up in popularity as well in the mid-1980s.

A spectacularly diverse tramping experience awaits anyone willing to make the journey to this remote corner of New Zealand. Any walkers can expect a mixture of high alpine tussock ridges with expansive views of Lake Te Anau and surrounding mountains, mossy temperate forests, peaceful lakeside beaches, and everything in-between. Note that the logistics involved in planning this trip can be more difficult than the trip itself, so becoming familiar with reservations, transportation, lodging and packing is strongly recommended; you can read more about Great Walks logistics here. The description below addresses walking the Kepler Track in a counterclockwise direction from the Lake Te Anau Control Gates Trailhead and assuming the standard four-day trip itinerary in the hut system. Though there are three huts in the standard loop, two campsites are also available for alternate options or shorter out-and-back trips.

Day 1

If you’re starting your trek from the Fiordland National Park visitor center, add an extra 5 kilometers to get to the Kepler Track carpark at the Control Gates. The first section of the trek leads through dense forest and takes about 1.5-hours to cover 5.6 kilometers to the Brod Bay Campsite. There you can find 15 tent sites, a shelter, water from a tap, and a vault toilet. Nice beach views can be found at this site.

From here the trail gets steep, and there is a challenging climb under limestone bluffs to take you above treeline with views of the Te Anau Basin in all directions. The hike to Luxmore Hut from Brod Bay is 8.2 kilometers and takes approximately four hours depending on fitness and how often you’re stopping for pictures of the gorgeous landscapes. It is highly recommended to pick out your bed as soon as you arrive, then take the 20-minute round-trip hike to check out the nearby Luxmore Cave, which has some information posted in the hut.

Day 2

Hope for good weather on this leg of the trek, since the views on this stretch are the highlight of the entire Kepler Track. The hike from Luxmore Hut to Iris Burn Hut takes you high into the alpine tussock ridges with expansive views of the Murchison Mountains. It is around 14.6 kilometers, and you should expect this to take between up to six hours depending on the weather and how many SD cards you fill with photos from the ridge. There are two emergency shelters with vault toilets on the way, and these make great spots to rest and escape the wind and sun for a few minutes. The entire day is fairly exposed until the trail descends back under the bushline as you approach Iris Burn Hut. Here there is another 20-minute side trip to Iris Burn Falls, which is worth a visit; just don’t expect to stay long because the sand flies can really start to get bothersome.

Luxmore and Iris Burn Huts are also the two best places on the trek to view the wild alpine kea parrots. As the hut stewards will tell you, they love to steal boots and trekking poles, so make sure everything is hung securely. The keas may also wake you up far earlier than you’d want with their playful and loud vocals as they swarm over the hut looking for things to chew.

Day 3

The hike from Iris Burn Hut to Moturau Hut is approximately 16 kilometers, which means you'll cover more ground than Day 2. It involves much less elevation gain, however, so the actual trekking time is around the same. The scenery is very diverse, and there are many open areas in the bush to view the surrounding towering cliffs and ridges. A low saddle is crossed, and then you'll have a pretty steady walk through the rainforest with occasional lake views before reaching Moturau Hut.

Day 4

The final leg of your journey from Moturau Hut back to the Kepler Track car park involves walking alongside the lake through fragile wetlands and then turning north to take the Waiau River back to the trailhead. At around 6 kilometers you’ll come across the Rainbow Reach Bridge, which is one of the larger swing bridges in Fiordlands and worth a stop. Rainbow Reach is another possible entry point on the trek, as well. From here it is another 10 kilometers of rolling path along the river back to the control gates where your journey began.

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