Morning view of Copland Valley from the Welcome Flat bridge
Image: Bob Christie ©

Introduction

The Upper Copland Valley Track provides access to Douglas Rock Hut. It is suitable for well-equipped and experienced backcountry trampers and mountaineers only.

Track overview

Walking and tramping

3 days + Advanced: Tramping track
Expert: Route

Dog access

No dogs

About this track

Description

Access to this track is via the Copland Track to Welcome Flat Hut track (18 km, 7 hours). On this section of the track, you can stay at Architect Creek Hut.

Architect Creek Hut.

Architect Creek Hut

Category: Standard
Facilities: 2 bunk beds, heating, mattresses
Bookings not required - first come, first served

Welcome Flat Hut to Douglas Rock Hut

Time: 3 hr one way
Distance
: 7 km one way

The suspension bridge near Welcome Flat Hut leads across to the true left of the Copland River and onto a series of extensive grassy river flats. Along the flats there are fine views into the Ruera Valley and the Navigator Range beyond, while Mount Sefton and the Footstool rear up behind The Sierra Range, reaching heights over 2000 metres above the valley floor.

Track to Douglas Rock near Welcome Flat.
Track to Douglas Rock near Welcome Flat

Occasionally the track wanders into low forest but returns to the grassy flats before crossing the multiple channels of Scott Creek. This creek can be extremely hazardous in wet weather.

Beyond Scott Creek the track enters the forest again and begins to climb gradually above the upper gorge. There are a number of open slips to cross with views up and down the river. Eventually the swingbridge across Tekano Creek is reached and the views to the upper valley open out in front of you. Douglas Rock Hut (8 bunks) is nestled in a forest glade just across the bridge. On a clear day the views from the hut are expansive.

Welcome Flat Hut. Photo: Sally Jackson.

Welcome Flat Hut

Category: Serviced
Facilities: 31 bunk beds, heating, mattresses
Bookings required
Douglas Rock Hut. Image: S Jackson.

Douglas Rock Hut

Category: Standard
Facilities: 8 bunk beds, heating, mattresses
Bookings not required - first come, first served

Welcome Flat Hut must be booked year round - hut tickets and backcountry passes are not valid.

Douglas Rock Hut to Copland Pass

The route which continues past Douglas Rock Hut towards the Copland Pass should only be attempted by those with alpine experience, skills and equipment. Avalanche and flooding risk is high on this route.

From Douglas Rock Hut the route ascends through sub-alpine vegetation with increasing views of the high mountain peaks surrounding the Upper Copland River. Marked by cairns and poles, the route sidles above the river, with Aoraki Mount Cook coming into view near Fiddian Creek. 

The route continues to sidle until directly below the Pass, at which point it zigzags its way up the steep slopes into an alpine basin. The route is not maintained past the zigzags and it is strongly recommended that trampers do not go any further.   

A crossing of the Copland Pass requires a very high level of mountaineering experience and appropriate equipment. Access on the eastern side is difficult due to erosion, and it is strongly recommended that you do not cross the Pass from the west.

Contact DOC Aoraki Mount Cook for more information. Do not attempt to climb to and cross the Pass without the right experience or equipment – there have been a number of fatalities here.

Getting there

Road access to the Copland Track is off State Highway 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.

Know before you go

Experience

Suitable for well-equipped and experienced backcountry trampers and mountaineers only.

Times given are guides only and will vary greatly with fitness and weather conditions. Only experienced trampers should proceed beyond Welcome Flat Hut. Tramping in this area is demanding and you should allow plenty of time to reach your planned destinations – the area is unsuitable for inexperienced parties. 

The track beyond Welcome Flat Hut is more difficult as the conditions underfoot are rougher and the majority of creeks are unbridged and may be impassable during and after heavy rain.

Best season

Summer and autumn.

Topo50

BX 14 Gillespies Beach; BX15 Fox Glacier

Hazards

Flooded rivers, rock fall and avalanche.

Safety

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 or DOC office in Fox Glacier before heading into this area – conditions can change rapidly. 

Note: true left and true right refer to the side of the valley or river when facing and looking downstream.

Contacts

Westland Tai Poutini National Park Visitor Centre
Phone:   +64 3 752 0360
Address:   69 Cron Street
Franz Josef Glacier 7856
Email:   westlandnpvc@doc.govt.nz
Full office details
Hokitika Office
Phone:   +64 3 756 9100
Address:   10 Sewell Street
Hokitika 7810
Email:   hokitika@doc.govt.nz
Full office details
Back to top