View from the Kepler Track

Image: John Strother | ©

Introduction

Vast tussock-covered ridgelines and spectacular alpine vistas contrast with peaceful lakeside and valley beech forest in this wilderness adventure.

Highlights

  • Explore the fascinating Luxmore Caves

  • Take in alpine tussock grasslands and views of Lake Te Anau.

  • Walk to Iris Burn Falls

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Video

Track overview

60 km loop

Seasonal restrictions

In the Great Walks season (23 October 2018 - 30 April 2019):

  • Bookings are required for huts and campsites
  • Huts have gas cooking stoves and resident wardens

Outside the Great Walks season (1 May 2018 - 22 October 2018):

  • Facilities are greatly reduced
  • Avalanche risk exists
  • Experience is required
  • Bookings are not required - huts and campsites are first come, first served

Dog access

No dogs

Brochures

About this track

Description

What to expect

Great Walk tracks are of a higher standard than most other tracks so are well formed and easy to follow. The tracks are usually quite wide depending on the terrain – some fit two people walking side by side in flat areas.

The surface is usually gravel, rock or dirt, and like any track can get slippery in wet weather.

Most rivers and waterways on these tracks have sturdy bridges. Occasionally there are also small streams that cross the track but are usually easy enough to step across safely. Be aware that in wet weather rivers can rise very quickly and flood the tracks.

There are hill climbs where the track becomes steeper, which is all the better for views.

Outside the Great Walks season (1 May 2018 - 22 October 2018):

Facilities are greatly reduced and there are additional safety hazards to consider.

Walking the track during this time should only be attempted by fit, experienced and well-equipped people. For more information see Walking the Kepler Track outside the Great Walks season.

Children and youth
  • Children under 15 years must be with an adult.
  • Alpine sections of the Kepler Track are not recommended for children under 10 years.
  • Also see: Children and families in Fiordland.

Walking options

Walk the full track. Most walkers take 4 days/3 nights.

Enjoy a day walk. Kepler Track carpark to Dock Bay and Brod Bay | Kepler Track carpark to Rainbow ReachRainbow Reach to Shallow Bay or Moturau Hut | Kepler Track carpark to Luxmore Hut

Places to stay

There are 3 huts and 2 campsites along the Kepler Track, which must be booked in advance during the Great Walks season.

Camping or staying overnight in the shelters at Forest Burn and Hanging Valley is not permitted.

Hut facilities

In the Great Walks season (23 October 2018 - 30 April 2019):

  • Plenty of bunks with mattresses (between 40 to 54) in a communal sleeping layout.
  • Water supply, flushing toilets, wash basins with cold running water (but no showers).
  • Heating with fuel available, and usually solar lighting in the main area.
  • Cooking facilities with fuel, tables and seating (but no cooking utensils).
  • A friendly conservation ranger - they like to chat, they know the area well and can tell you about the environment and weather, or help out should an emergency arise.

Outside the Great Walks season (1 May 2018 - 22 October 2018):

  • Gas is not provided - you will need to bring your own cooking stove.
  • Flush toilets are replaced with self-containment toilets.
  • Running water is turned off inside the huts. Water can be obtained from the outside water tank, if this is frozen, then from the nearest water course or by melting snow.
  • There are no conservation rangers based at the huts.
  • Beds are on a first come, first served basis
Campsite facilities

Great Walk campsites are in scenic locations, and usually near huts. You cannot use the hut facilities, but at each campsite you will find:

  • An open cooking shelter.
  • Water supply tap.
  • Clean toilet.
  • A friendly hut warden (from the nearby hut during summer season) who may visit to chat and check campsite tickets.

Toilets are available at huts, campsites and shelters.

Detailed description

The Kepler Track (60 km) starts and finishes at the Kepler Track carpark.

Te Anau to Kepler Track carpark

45 min, 5 km

Start your journey on the lake side path outside the Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre. Passing the Te Anau Wildlife Park, continue around the shores of Lake Te Anau to the Kepler Track carpark near the Lake Te Anau control gates (the large structure that regulate water flows between lakes).

Kepler Track carpark to Brod Bay

Time: 1 hr 30 min
Distance: 5.6 km

The track begins with a stroll through the beech forest along the shore of Lake Te Anau, the largest body of fresh water in Australasia, to Brod Bay.

Brod Bay to Luxmore Hut

3 hr 30 min - 4 hr 30 min, 8.2 km

A challenging climb under impressive limestone bluffs takes you above the bushline to panoramic views of the Te Anau Basin and surrounding mountains. Luxmore Hut is a 45 minute walk from the bushline.

Side trip: Luxmore Cave

Time: 20 min return

The track from the hut is clearly signposted.

Side trip: Luxmore summit

Time: 30 min return

In fine weather you’ll be rewarded with stunning panoramic views from the highest point on the track (1472 m).

Luxmore Hut to Iris Burn Hut

Time: 5 – 6 hr
Distance: 14.6 km

Start your day on top of the world. From the hut, you’ll climb to a ridge just below Mount Luxmore, with stunning views across the south fiord of Lake Te Anau to the Murchison Mountains. A welcoming sight after a day on the tops, Iris Burn Hut is situated in a large tussock clearing.

Iris Burn Hut to Moturau Hut

Time: 5–6 hr
Distance: 16.2 km

Experience ever-changing scenery as the track takes you over a low saddle, then down past a large slip caused by heavy rain to Rocky Point. You’ll then wind through a gorge and lowland beech and podocarp forest, before reaching the shore of beautiful Lake Manapouri. The beach-side Moturau Hut has stunning views of the lake.

Moturau Hut to Rainbow Reach

Time: 1 hr 30 min - 2 hr
Distance: 6 km

The last day is easy walking across a unique and fragile wetland. The track then follows the Waiau River terrace to the swing bridge at Rainbow Reach. You can leave the track here and catch a shuttle bus to Te Anau.

Rainbow Reach to Kepler Track carpark

Time: 2 hr 30 min – 3 hr 30 min
Distance: 9.5 km

Continue alongside the Waiau River to the Kepler Track car park.

Kepler Track carpark to Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre

Return to Te Anau along the track from the Kepler Track carpark, through the Te Anau Wildlife Park, to the Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre.

Fees and bookings

Find out about fees for the huts and campsites on the Kepler Track and how to make reservations during the summer season. The track takes 3-4 days to walk.

Huts

In the Great Walks season (23 October 2018 - 30 April 2019):

New Zealand citizens and those ordinarily resident in New Zealand*:

  • Adult (18+ years): $65 per person, per night
  • Child (17 years and under): free but booking still required

International visitors:

  • Adult (18+ years): $130 per person, per night
  • Child (17 years and under): $130 per person, per night

Outside the Great Walks season (1 May 2018 - 22 October 2018):

Walking the track outside the Great Walk season should only be attempted by fit, experienced and well equipped trampers.

For all visitors: 

  • Adult (18+ years): $15 per person, per night
  • Child (17 years and under): free

* New Zealand rates:

  • "Ordinarily resident in New Zealand" means those:
    • who hold a residence class, student or work visa; and
    • who have lived in New Zealand for six of the previous 12 months; and
    • for whom New Zealand is their primary place of established residence.
  • Proof of eligibility will be required for the New Zealand rate (such as a New Zealand drivers licence, utility bill or a copy of a passport).
Campsites

In the Great Walks season (23 October 2018 - 30 April 2019):

New Zealand citizens and those ordinarily resident in New Zealand*:

  • Adult (18+ years): $20 per person, per night
  • Child (17 years and under): free but booking still required

International visitors:

  • Adult (18+ years): $40 per person, per night
  • Child (17 years and under): $40 per person, per night

Outside the Great Walks season (1 May 2018 - 22 October 2018):

Walking the track outside the Great Walk season should only be attempted by fit, experienced and well equipped trampers.

For all visitors: 

  • Adult (18+ years): $5 per person, per night
  • Child (17 years and under): free

* New Zealand rates:

  • "Ordinarily resident in New Zealand" means those:
    • who hold a residence class, student or work visa; and
    • who have lived in New Zealand for six of the previous 12 months; and
    • for whom New Zealand is their primary place of established residence.
  • Proof of eligibility will be required for the New Zealand rate (such as a New Zealand drivers licence, utility bill or a copy of a passport).

Discounts

A 10% discount is available to members, staff and instructors of the following organisations, who also hold a valid 12 months Backcountry Hut Pass: NZ Mountain Safety Council; NZ Federated Mountain Clubs; NZ Deer Stalkers Association; NZ Land Search and Rescue (LandSAR); Scouts New Zealand; GirlGuiding NZ.

Discounts are not available online and apply to the summer season rates only. To receive the discount we need to sight your membership card and Backcountry Hut Pass, so visit a DOC visitor centre in person. If you get a discount you won't be charged a booking fee.

What to book

In the summer season you need to book huts and/or campsites on the track.

In the winter season you don't need to book. However, you must buy (backcountry) hut and campsite tickets before your walk. You can buy these via any DOC visitor centre (but not online). During the winter season there are reduced facilities and additional safety hazards to consider. See Winter tramping.

You can choose to book transport between Te Anau and the nearby entry/exit points for the track - otherwise it’s a 50 min walk. See Outside the Great Walks season.

How to book


2018/2019 bookings

Bookings are open for trips from 23 October 2018 - 30 April 2019.

International visitors - check new prices.

Follow this step-by-step process to guide you through booking the Kepler Track:

  1. Decide whether you want to walk clockwise or anti-clockwise.
  2. For the direction you want to walk in, decide what huts or campsites you want to stay at. Consider:
  3. Decide the date you want to stay at each hut/campsite.
    • Summer season: maximum stay is 2 consecutive nights at huts and campsites
    • Winter season: maximum stay is 3 consecutive nights in huts, 5 consecutive nights at campsites
  4. Check availability of huts and campsites for space in each hut/campsite on the date you want to stay. If there is no space in one of the huts/campsites you want to stay at, consider:
    • Starting your walk on a different date
    • Rearranging your walk to use a different combination of huts/campsites
  5. Optional: Check the availability of transport services on your desired date.
  6. Book huts/campsites. If you're booking campsites you'll need to know the number of people in your group as well as the number of tent sites required. Booking is required in the summer season for all ages.
  7. Optional: Book transport to/from the start/end of the track with a transport operator.

Terms and conditions

Read the booking terms and conditions (scroll to the bottom to find the Terms and Conditions link) for general information, age ranges, prices, discounts, penalty rates and the alterations and cancellations policy. Bookings not meeting the terms and conditions will be treated as invalid and cancelled.

Booking on behalf of others

Guided groups

To operate a commercial activity in an area managed by the Department of Conservation, you will need to apply for a concession (an official permit), in addition to any bookings you would need to make. Read more about concessions 

Booking on behalf of others

To make multiple bookings for facilities/services on behalf of customers, you must obtain permission or an agent agreement from the Department of Conservation. To do this, email: agents@doc.govt.nz 

Getting there

The Kepler Track is circular track that begins and ends at the Kepler Track car park, which is at the southern end of Lake Te Anau, about 5 km from Te Anau township.

Access is either by road or a 50 min walk from the Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre. Alternatively, there is an entry point at Rainbow Reach, a 10 min (12 km) drive from Te Anau.

Shuttle buses provide a daily service to entry and exit points on the track during the Great Walks season (late October to late April). A scheduled boat service also offers transport to Brod Bay.

Transport operators

Know before you go

Be prepared - take the right gear

As with any outdoor experience, the decisions you make and your safety are your responsibility.

Take the right gear for your Great Walk tramp.
Take the right gear for your Great Walk tramp

  • Check conditions – check with the DOC Visitor Centre for track conditions and weather before your trip.
  • Take the right gear for all conditions and enough food. All walkers should take a first aid kit. Get a list of what to take.
  • If walking outside the Great Walks season we recommend you also take a mountain radio and/or personal locator beacon. Also see Walking the Kepler Track outside the Great Walks season.
  • Your mobile is not useful as there is no coverage for the Milford and Routeburn Tracks and very little on the Kepler Track (limited to high areas).

Tell someone your plans

We recommend you tell someone your plans and leave a date to raise the alarm if you haven't returned. For how to do this, see the Outdoors Intentions process – AdventureSmart website.

Tracks are sometimes closed for safety reasons

Sometimes the Great Walk tracks need to be closed for safety reasons (eg avalanche danger, flooding or high winds). If walkers are not able to proceed, options are available. These may include a refund (if walk not started yet), changing direction on the track or transfer across hazard areas. DOC staff will keep you informed of all issues and options.

Hazards to look out for on Great Walks

Being lost
The tracks are very well marked but if you become lost you should stop, find shelter and stay calm. Put on extra clothing and assist rescuers should you hear them searching for you.

Being injured or ill
If you are injured or become ill, use your first aid kit immediately and contact DOC staff if needed. In case of emergency an evacuation may be possible.

Hypothermia (too cold)
During cold, wet and windy conditions, hypothermia (drop in core body temperature) can become a serious problem. From initial stages to unconsciousness can take as little as 30 minutes.

  • Wear warm and weatherproof gear and eat regularly during your walk.
  • These symptoms may indicate initial stages of hypothermia: shivering, clumsy, confused, have slurred speech, may deny they have a problem.
  • To treat: immediately make or find shelter, get the person into dry, warm clothing, put into sleeping bag, give warm, sweet drinks, monitor and seek immediate medical help.

Heat exhaustion
Heat exhaustion is usually caused by warm temperatures and not drinking enough water.

  • Carry and drink water regularly throughout your walk.
  • A person in the early stages of heat exhaustion may show weakness, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, loss of appetite and sweating. 
  • To help, give them water and find a cool place to rest.

Fires
Take care to put ashes from hut fire places in the metal drums to avoid huts burning down. At campsites only use the designated areas. No open fires are permitted in Fiordland National Park.

Flooding
During and after heavy rain, flooding of tracks is common on all Great Walks. Stream and river levels will drop rapidly once rain stops. If you are caught between flooded streams seek higher ground and wait for water levels to drop.

Risk areas may include:

  • Kepler Track – Iris Burn Valley.
  • Milford Track – between Hirere and Bus Stop in the Clinton Valley; and between Boat Shed and Poseidon Creek in the Arthur Valley.
  • Routeburn Track – Routeburn Valley.

Strong winds
Whenever you are walking in alpine areas or exposed areas on any of the tracks, such as over passes, saddles and along mountain ridges, you could be caught in strong and/or gusty winds (eg over 80km/hour winds). Take care to dress warmly as wind-chill danger is worse at these times.

Avalanches
Snow avalanches are common on all tracks, especially between late August and early November. Danger is higher during or directly after snow and rain. Avalanche and snow hazard can change rapidly from low to high within a 24 hour period.

  • Follow all advice given by staff.
  • Start zones of avalanche paths often cannot be seen from the track.
  • In danger areas, do not walk below other walkers.

Risk areas may include:

  • Kepler Track – 9 avalanche paths cross the track between Luxmore Hut and Hanging Valley shelter.
  • Milford Track – over 57 avalanche paths cross the track between 6 Mile in the Clinton Valley and Quintin Hut in the Arthur Valley.
  • Routeburn Track – over 32 avalanche paths cross the track between Routeburn Falls hut and the Earland Falls.

Slips
Routeburn Track – the area halfway between Routeburn Flats and Routeburn Falls Huts is prone to slips after heavy rain. Care is required when traversing this area. If in doubt, do not proceed.

Walking the Kepler Track outside the Great Walks season

Outside the Great Walks season (early May to late October) facilities are greatly reduced (no gas for cooking, limited water supply, no rangers or emergency radio facilities) and there are additional safety hazards to consider:

  • The winter environment in Fiordland is very cold and wet, with ice, snow and short daylight hours. DOC does not manage hazards such as flooding or avalanche.

Walking the track at this time should only be attempted by fit, experienced and well equipped people. For more information see Walking the Kepler Track outside the Great Walks season

Follow the Outdoor safety code - Mountain Safety Council

What to take

Equipment, clothing and food you need to take.
Take the right equipment, clothing and food with you

Personal equipment

  • Backpack (40–60 litre size for multi-day hiking)
  • Waterproof/plastic pack liner
  • Sleeping bag (3–4 season)
  • First aid kit (including insect repellent, sunscreen, blisterkit, personal medication e.g. antihistamine for allergy to wasp stings)
  • Survival kit (survival blanket, whistle, paper, pencil, highenergy snack food)
  • Safety equipment relevant to the track and time of year (e.g. map, compass)
  • Drink bottle (1-2 litre capacity)
  • Eating and cooking utensils (knife, fork, spoon, plate, cup, pot/pan/billy, cleaning kit, tea towel)
  • Matches or lighter in waterproof container
  • Toiletries
  • Torch/flashlight and spare batteries
  • Rubbish bag
  • Tickets and ID
If you're camping
  • Tent
  • Sleeping mat
Optional
  • Camera
  • Ear plugs for communual bunkrooms

Clothing

  • For multi-day walking you'll need at least one set of clothes to walk in and another dry set to change into at night. 
  • Tramping/hiking boots or firm footwear (should be comfortable and well broken in)
  • Socks (wool or polypropylene)
  • Shorts (quick dry material)
  • Shirt (wool or polypropylene)
  • Under layers, top and bottom (wool or polypropylene)
  • Mid-layers (wool or polar fleece)
  • Raincoat (waterproof, windproof with hood)
  • Overtrousers (wind and waterproof)
  • Warm hat and gloves
  • Sunhat and sunglasses
  • Extra socks, underwear, shirt/lightweight jersey
Optional
  • Gaiters
  • Lightweight shoes for inside the huts

Food

You can't buy food on the track.

Bring food that is lightweight, fast cooking and high in energy value. For example:

  • Breakfast: cereal/porridge/oats, firm bread, honey or other spreads
  • Lunch: cracker biscuits, cheese, salami, jam/jelly, fruit
  • Dinner: instant soup, pasta or rice, dried vegetables or fruit, cheese or dehydrated (freeze-dried) meals.

You'll also need water, snacks, biscuits, muesli bars, tea or coffee, powdered fruit drinks and emergency food in case of any delays on the track.

Download a checklist 

Equipment rental

Outside the Great Walks season

For safety reasons the Kepler Track doesn't operate as a Great Walk/Easier tramping track during May to October. If attempting the Kepler Track at that time, you'll need additional equipment. See Walking the Kepler Track outside the Great Walks season.

Guided options and other services

Walking the Kepler Track outside the Great Walks season

Outside the Great Walks season (1 May 2018 - 22 October 2018):

  • facilities are greatly reduced
  • there are additional safety hazards to consider.

Walking the track at this time should only be attempted by fit, experienced and well equipped people.

Kepler Track in winter, Fiordland.
Kepler Track in winter, Fiordland

Conditions and risks outside the Great Walks season

  • The winter environment in Fiordland is very cold and wet, with snow and ice common in high areas. Deep snow often hides the track markers.
  • Daylight hours are short and light is low due to mountain ridges.
  • DOC does not manage hazards such as flooding or avalanches.
Avalanches

The Kepler Track has a lot of challenging and complex avalanche terrain. Avalanches are frequent. There are 9 avalanche paths, some of which may bring avalanche debris to the valley floor and have the potential to cross the track.

If you are going into places avalanches could occur, be sure you:

  • have checked the New Zealand Avalanche Advisory (NZAA) and the Avalanche Terrain Exposure scale system (ATES) for the area where you want to go
  • have the skills for the ATES class you are going into
  • have checked what avalanche advisory and alert information is available from the DOC visitor centre nearest the area where you want to go
  • take an avalanche transceiver, avalanche probe and a snow shovel. Know how to use these tools.

See Be avalanche alert in Fiordland

Huts outside the Great Walks season

Fees are charged per person per night, and hut beds are on a first come, first served basis only. All huts require a Serviced Backcountry Hut Ticket, which must be purchased in advance. Alternatively, a Backcountry Hut Pass (valid for 6 or 12 months) may be used. See Fees and bookings.

Hut facilities are reduced:

  • Gas is not provided – you will need to bring your own cooking stove.
  • Flush toilets are replaced with pit toilets.
  • Running water is turned off inside the huts. Water can be obtained from the outside water tank; if this is frozen, then from the nearest water course or by melting snow.
  • No emergency radio facilities.
  • There are no DOC rangers based at the huts although DOC staff do occasional checks on facilities (and hut tickets).

Transport outside the Great Walks season

All transport must be arranged before starting the track. During winter, transport operators require minimum numbers and do not always operate a daily service. Transport arrangements can be affected by bad weather. You must discuss an alternative option with transport operators before you begin your walk.

See Transport services in Fiordland for options.

What to take outside the Great Walks season

You need to be totally self-sufficient. It is essential to have the correct food clothing and equipment. See What to take on your Great Walk in Fiordland.

In the off-season you also need the following equipment:

  • personal locator beacon
  • mountain radio (optional)
  • avalanche beacon
  • snow shovel
  • avalanche probe

Take responsibility for your own safety - be prepared

Before you go, know the The Outdoor Safety Code – 5 simple rules to help you stay safe:

  1. Plan your trip
  2. Tell someone
  3. Be aware of the weather
  4. Know your limits
  5. Take sufficient supplies

Walking the Kepler Track outside the Great Walks season should only be attempted by fit, experienced and well equipped people. Navigation, river crossing, and alpine skills are essential for your survival. Visit or contact the Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre for conditions and weather before your trip.

Find out more at Know before you go


Related links

Contacts

Te Rua-o-te-moko / Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre
Phone:   +64 3 249 7924
Fax:   +64 4 471 1117
Email:   fiordlandvc@doc.govt.nz
Address:   Fiordland National Park
Visitor Centre
Lakefront Drive
Te Anau 9600
Postal Address:   PO Box 29
Te Anau 9640
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