Introduction

A guide to the times and distances on the Greenstone and Caples Tracks and information on side trips that can be done from the tracks.

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

Huts

All huts on this track have a fee.

There are 3 DOC huts on this track:

These huts are serviced with coal fires for heating only. There is running water in summer months at all huts. There are hut wardens from late October until mid-April.

There are 2 huts managed by the NZ Deerstalkers' Association on this track:

  • Mid Greenstone Hut
  • Upper Caples Hut.

Book these NZ Deerstalkers Assocation' huts.

Camping

Camping is allowed along the bush edge, 50 metres from the track. You cannot camp on McKellar Saddle or on the open valley floors of the Caples or Greenstone Valleys as this is private land.

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.

You're allowed to camp by the DOC huts but you may need to pay a fee. Check the hut webpage for fees.

Greenstone road end to Mid Caples Hut

Time: 2 to 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 to McKellar 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, 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 Routeburn Track junction/Lake Howden outlet 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.

McKellar Hut to Greenstone 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. 

Greenstone Hut to road end

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.

Side trips

McKellar Hut to Lake Howden

Time: 1.5–2.5 hours

From McKellar Hut the track skirts to the left of Lake McKellar. It then goes through forest to the Routeburn Track junction/Lake Howden outlet.

Caples/Steele Creek Junction to Greenstone Hut via Steele Creek

Time: 10–12 hours

This route is suitable for experienced trampers only.

Mavora-Greenstone Walkway

Time: 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.

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