Description: The Kepler track is a spectacular circular hike in the Fiordland region on New Zealand's south Island; a large portion of the hike is above tree line offering spectacular views in good weather.
It is possible to stay in three huts managed by the Department of Conservation along the length of the Kepler or to camp in designated sites en-route.
Distance: The Kepler track is a 2 to 4 day tramp varying in distance between 45Km and 60Km depending on entry and exit points - more on this later.
Difficulty: The Kepler is well graded with no route finding skills required. At the time when we walked the Kepler no river crossings or other noticeable obstacles were present. As a 2 day tramp this would rate as difficult due to the distances involved; tackled as a 3 or 4 day tramp the Kepler can be considered moderate. Our recommendation would be to plan for 3 days starting at the control gates and finishing at Rainbow Reach car park.
Permits: The Kepler Track is designated as a 'Great Walk' and therefore permits need to be purchased in advance and collected from the department of conservation (DoC) prior to starting the tramp. Permits sell out months in advance; to purchase permits and to read more about the booking system please click here
Trail head Access: We were collected from our accommodation in Te Auau at the start of our tramp and from Rainbow Reach car park at the end by Tracknet, click here for more details. We have used Tracknet several times over the years whilst in NZ and have always found them to be reliable.
It is also possible to follow the lakeside path starting just on the edge o town folloing the banks of lake Te Anau to the control gates. The path stats besides the DoC center where permits are collected prior to starting the Kepler and adds about 50 minutes to the route described below.
Where to stay: The most convenient place to stay prior to starting the Kepler is the pleasant town of Te Anau which has several supermarkets, hiking shops, bars and restaurants.
DAY 1 - Control gate to LUXMORE HUT
The tramp as we experienced it starts out from the Kepler Track car park and begins by following a well maintained flat path across the control gates.
After crossing the control gate the path winds it's way through beautiful beech forest along the shoreline of Lake Te Auau.
After an easy hour or so stroll you will reach Broad Bay. Whilst we can't confirm this 100% we're pretty sure we saw day hikers being dropped off by boat at Broad Bay on their way up to Luxmore Hut. For those brave (or crazy?) enough to attempt the Kepler in two days this would a great way to save a little bit of time and energy and not miss too much of what the Kepler has to offer.
After a stiff two hour climb through the forest you will find yourself standing at the base of an impressive limestone bluff. Just past the bluff the forest gives way and you are now above the bush line. Impressive views of the Te Anau basin and surrounding mountains make the climb well worth while!
After a further 45 minutes or so relativley easy walking with stunning views en route Luxmore Hut can be seen.
Arriving early with plenty of daylight left to explore we decided with a handful of other trampers to continue further up the trail and summit Mount Luxmore; most people decide to do this on day 2 but with an uncertain weather forecast we decided to take the oppotunity to head up.
After a long day in the hills the site of Luxmore Hut perched above Lake Te Anau was a welcome one but before turning in for the night we headed to Luxmore Caves which are a short walk from the hut along a clearly signposted trail.
Day 2 - Luxmore Hut to Iris Burn HuT
Leaving the hut early next morning we slowly retraced our steps from the previous afternoon on what turned out to be a spectacular day.
We followed the exposed but beautiful path meandering reasonably gently across the mountaintops tops.
In regards to track notes there's not a huge amount we can say other than to pray for good weather!
On reaching the Hanging Valley emergency shelter we head steeply downhill towards Iris Burn hut; whist the Kepler can be tramped in this direction (the reverse of the way most people walk the trail) it's a fair old slog. You have be warned!
On reaching the hut we grab a bunk each, have dinner and then head off for a short stroll to the nearby Iris Burn falls with its resident Whio ducks. Beware the sand flies here as they are savage!
Day 3 - Iris Burn Hut to Rainbow Reach
Please feel free to download the Kepler Track GPX file below for use on your personal GPS device or to load into Google maps or other GPX visualization tools.
Please note that we exited the Kepler at the Rainbow Reach car park and the GPX file represents this.