The Copland Track to Welcome Flat Hut is an opportunity for well-equipped and experienced backcountry trampers to experience Westland Tai Poutini National Park.
Copland River and The Sierra Range
Access to Welcome Flat is possible year round, although snow and ice can cause difficulties in winter. Beyond Welcome Flat is best explored in summer and autumn.
Times given are guides only and will vary greatly with fitness and weather conditions. Tramping in this area is demanding and you should allow plenty of time to reach planned destinations.
Windfalls are cleared regularly and the track is scrub cut every three years with minor maintenance runs annually to keep on top of the faster growing foliage.
Carpark to Welcome Flat Hut
Time: 7 hr one way
Distance: 18 km
The track starts with a crossing of Rough Creek. If this creek is running high or is discoloured it is unlikely that this trip can be undertaken safely all the way to Welcome Flat Hut.
Although there is a flood bridge located 45 minutes upstream from the car park, if Rough Creek cannot be crossed safely then all the unbridged side creeks on the track will also be high and it is unlikely you will be able to cross them safely. The Copland River can also flood sections of the track making the track impassable.
After crossing Rough Creek, the track continues at the orange marker and follows a well formed path through the forest.
The track is marked across open areas and river crossings by orange triangle markers. From the confluence of the Karangarua River to Architect Creek, the track alternates mostly between boulder hopping on rocky riverbed and forest, with occasional grassy clearings.
Architect Creek Hut
Facilities: 2 bunk beds, heating, mattresses
Bookings not required - first come, first served
Architect Creek is considered to be roughly half way to Welcome Flat.
There are two active landslide areas to be crossed on the track to Welcome Flat Hut. The landslide areas are approximately 30 minutes upstream of Architect Creek and on the true left of Shiels Creek. Both are signposted. Due to unstable slopes care is required during and just after heavy rain.
Beyond Architect Creek the track climbs very gradually towards Palaver Creek as the valley narrows. The climb becomes more noticeable once you have crossed Open Creek.
After crossing the Shiels Creek bridge there is a short zigzag to the highest point of the track, after which you descend through fuchsia, ribbonwood and fern forest before emerging onto Welcome Flat, site of the 31 bunk hut.
The hot pools are just a short stroll from the hut with uninterrupted views of The Sierra Range. These pools are a fragile environment so please do not use soaps, lotions or shampoo in them or dig more pools. Remember to keep your head above the water to avoid the risk of amoebic meningitis.
View information on the Upper Copland Valley beyond Welcome Flat Hut.
Welcome Flat Hut
Facilities: 31 bunk beds, heating, mattresses
Access is off SH 6, 26 km south of Fox Glacier. The turn off to the car park is well sign-posted on the northern side of the Karangarua River bridge. Drive approximately 150 m down the gravel road to the car park (please close the gate after you go through).
There are no camping facilities at the road end Intercity and Atomic Shuttle buses pass the road end each morning and afternoon and will drop off and pick up pre-booked passengers.
Nature and conservation
The Copland valley offers trampers, hunters and mountaineers many challenging opportunities in the Westland Tai Poutini National Park backcountry. Welcome Flat also offers the ultimate reward for tired and achy bodies – with natural hot pools just a couple of minutes from the hut.
Forest near Welcome Flat Hut
Welcome Flat hot pools
Possum control has been undertaken in the In the Copland valley recent glacial activity has been confined to the uppermost catchment permitting the development of mixed forest associations on narrow terraces in the valley floors.
The forests of the Copland valley are visually dominated by a healthy canopy of Southern rata, a spectacular site during the summer flowering season. The other tree species most commonly found in these forests are kamahi, mountain totara, rimu, tanekaha and pokaka. Along the stream edges and in other light gaps are plentiful tree fuchsia and wineberry.
Copland since the mid-1980s and the area has had regular and sustained possum control ever since. The forest damage is significantly less than in the neighbouring Karangarua valley, which has extensive canopy dieback, and the very vulnerable species such as totara, fuchsia and wineberry are still healthy in the Copland, yet gone from most of the Karangarua.
Much of the mountain terrain is unstable and exceedingly rugged, featuring deep gorges, sheer bluffs, icefalls and sharply-dissected ranges. Hot mineral seepages are common in many valleys adjacent to the alpine fault, the best known being the hot springs at Welcome Flat.
A population of weka in the Copland valley is the furthest south this species is recorded on the mainland West Coast and is probably a remnant of a much greater distribution from the past.
Tahr, chamois and deer can be found in the Copland valley. Tahr are found on the steep faces mainly in the mid and upper valleys, but are difficult to access. There are good numbers of chamois throughout the valley, and deer are mainly found lower down the valley near the Karangarua confluence.
Due to high visitor numbers, no hunting is permitted in the Copland valley from December 20 to January 31 (inclusive) and Good Friday to Easter Monday (inclusive) annually. All hunters must have a hunting permit.
History and culture
Know before you go
BX14 Gillespies Beach and BX15 Fox Glacier
Shiels Creek bridge
Flooded rivers, rockfall, slips and avalanche. This trip should not be attempted when it is raining, rain is forecast or the river is running high. If you are continuing past Welcome Flat Hut then make sure you check avalanche conditions, are sufficiently equipped and experienced to assess the conditions and choose a safe path through avalanche terrain.
The climate in Westland mountain areas is extreme and variable. Rainfall is generally over 5000 mm per annum and can occur for days on end at any time of the year. Snow can occur during any season. Rivers can rise and fall rapidly during and following rain but can also remain high for days especially when fed by snow melt large snow fields or glaciers.
During severe weather, such as sustained or heavy rainfall, the Copland Track may be closed (often at short notice) due to flooding or other damage. If closed, notices will be placed at the start of the track.
Check the weather and conditions at the nearest DOC office before you depart. Refunds will be issued in these cases - contact the Westland Tai Poutini National Park Visitor Centre for details.
Before you go into the outdoors, tell someone your plans and leave a date to raise the alarm if you haven't returned. To do this, use the New Zealand Outdoors Intentions process on the AdventureSmart website. It is endorsed by New Zealand's search and rescue agencies and provides three simple options to tell someone you trust the details about your trip.
Check the latest conditions at the Westland Tai Poutini National Park Visitor Centre in Franz Josef Waiau or local DOC office in Fox Glacier Weheka before leaving – conditions can change rapidly. Carry a personal locator beacon, and don’t forget to sign out at the end of your trip.
Note: True left and true right refer to the side of the valley or river when facing and looking downstream.