These tracks can be walked in either direction. This description details the Caples then the Greenstone Track.
The Caples Track and the Greenstone Track can both be combined with the Routeburn Track.
- Track sections - times and distrances on the Greenstone and Caples Tracks.
- Side trips possible from the Greenstone and Caples Tracks.
Places to stay
DOC huts on the track are serviced with coal fires for heating only. All huts have mattresses. There is running water in summer months at all huts. Trampers should carry their own cookers as gas stoves are not provided.
Hut wardens are present on the tracks from late October until mid-April. A Backcountry Hut Pass or Backcountry Tickets must be purchased in advance from a DOC office or approved outlet. Trampers are expected to leave the huts clean and tidy, and to pack out what they pack in, as there are no rubbish disposal facilities on the tracks.
Mid Greenstone Hut and Upper Caples Hut are managed by the NZ Deerstalkers' Association. Book these huts.
Camping is permitted along the bush edge, 50 m from the track. You can't camp on McKellar Saddle or on the open valley floors of the Caples or Greenstone Valleys as this is private land.
To camp by any of the three huts there is a fee of $5 per night for adults and $2 per night for children. If camping here use the hut toilet. If camping elsewhere bury all human waste carefully.
Fires are only to be lit in recognised fireplaces. Do not cut down or use live vegetation. Make sure the fire is out before leaving the area. Keep fires small and have billies of water nearby.
Time: 2 - 3 hr, 9 km
Follow the Greenstone/Caples Track from the car park. After 2–3 minutes, a stock bridge gives access to the Lake Rere Track. Don’t cross the bridge but keep to the true left—the river’s left bank, looking downstream. The track continues past the confluence of the Caples and Greenstone rivers.
Another swing bridge provides access to the Greenstone Track. The Caples Track continues on the true left of the Caples River. There are several slips between the Caples/Greenstone confluence and Mid Caples Hut – navigate with care during periods of poor weather.
Along the valley floor the track mainly follows the bush edge, but crosses the occasional grassy clearing. Just before the 24-bunk Mid Caples Hut, the track crosses a spectacular gorge.
Mid Caples Hut
Time: 6 - 7 hr, 22 km
Travel up the valley through bush and grassy clearings is easy—beware however of side streams on this section after heavy rain. About two hours from Mid Caples Hut, after entering the beech forest at the end of Top Flat, the recently upgraded track passes junctions with Steele Creek and Fraser/Kay Tracks before sidling steadily up towards the bush edge. The track across McKellar Saddle (945 m) gives great views and has been boardwalked to protect the fragile subalpine vegetation.
West of the saddle, the track again enters the bush and zigzags downwards for one hour to the open valley floor where a track junction is reached upstream from Lake McKellar. The 24-bunk McKellar Hut lies to the left and 28- bunk Howden Hut to the right. Both are about one hour from the junction.
Note: Upper Caples Hut is managed by the NZ Deerstalkers' Association. Book the hut.
Time: 4 hr 30 min - 6 hr 30 min, 18 km
Cross the bridge in front of the hut and follow the track down river on the true left. It is a relatively easy valley walk alternating between tussock flats and bush, until the track reaches a gorge through an old land slide. Steele Creek is crossed by a swingbridge and the track veers to the right passing close to a private hut (Steele Creek Lodge) and the local Deerstalker's association Mid Greenstone Hut. The Greenstone Hut is approximately 1-2 hours away from this location.
The track then meanders down the valley past a large white terrace bank, still keeping on the true left of the river all the way down a wide open valley before entering the bush again. A junction in the track is reached shortly after this. A right turn leads across a bridge over a gorge to the Greenstone Hut (20 bunks) and the Mavora Walkway.
Time: 3 - 5 hr, 12 km
To continue down the Greenstone Valley to the Greenstone Carpark return to the junction via the bridge over the gorge
On the Greenstone Track the valley begins to narrow sharply as the river enters a long gorge section. In winter this section of track may be prone to avalanches. Slip Flat is a large open area about halfway down the gorge. There is an emergency bridge upstream if the creek across Slip Flat is in flood.
Beyond Slip Flat the track enters the bush again and follows the river down to its junction with the Caples River. Several deep pools next to the track offer good swimming on hot days. Parts of the track cross private land and stock may be present. Continue to the confluence with the Caples River. Near the confluence is a swing bridge crossing the Caples to the true left bank. Here you join the Caples Track. Trampers wishing to walk out to the car park should follow the track downstream for 30 minutes.
McKellar Hut to Lake Howden
1.5 - 2.5 hours
From McKellar Hut the track skirts to the left of Lake McKellar and through forest to Howden Hut on the Routeburn Track (bookings are essential from October - April).
Caples/Steele Creek Junction to Greenstone Hut via Steele Creek
10 - 12 hours
This route is suitable for experienced trampers only.
2 - 3 days
From Greenstone Hut it is a 2-3 day walk along the Mavora-Greenstone Walkway to Mavora Lakes. The track is part of Te Araroa/The Long Pathway, and passes through open tussock country and beech forest. The terrain is gentle, and the highest point on the walk, Pass Burn, is only 200m above the level of Lake Wakatipu. There are two other huts on the walk.