1 / 4
60kms - 3 to 4 days
A custom-built panoramic pathway
Unlike most of the other ‘Great Walks’, which evolved from Maori greenstone trails or pioneer exploration routes, the Kepler Track was custom-made - built for pleasure, rather than necessity.
Opened in 1988, the track was carefully planned to show walkers all the best features of Fiordland - moss-draped beech forest, prolific bird life, tussock high country, huge mountain ranges, cascading waterfalls, vast glacier-carved valleys, luxuriant river flats and limestone formations. Walk the Kepler and you’ll see everything that’s marvellous about this exquisite corner of the world.
Sandwiched between Lakes Te Anau and Manapouri, this 60 kilometre circuit is part of the Te-Wahipounamu - South West New Zealand World Heritage Area, which encompasses four national parks and almost 10% of New Zealand’s total land area.
The track’s construction makes for easier walking. Most streams are bridged, boardwalks cover boggy areas and the very steep sections have steps. Moderately challenging, the Kepler takes three to four days to complete. If a faster pace is more your style, consider the Kepler Challenge. Held at the beginning of December, this annual running race traverses the whole 60 kilometres in less than five hours.
The track takes its name from the Kepler Mountains, which were named after 17th Century German astronomer Johannes Kepler.
Whether you choose to walk the Kepler Track clockwise or anticlockwise, at some point you’ll arrive at Luxmore Hut. From here a short walk leads to Luxmore Cave, one of many in the area. Bring a torch to admire the stalactites and stalagmites. At Luxmore Saddle (1400m), the highest point on the track, you can detour up to the summit of Mount Luxmore (1472 metres). The views from here will make it worth the extra grunt.
Around the Iris Burn area, the work of glaciers is obvious. You’ll see the cirques and hanging valleys of Jackson Peaks, the deep trough of the Iris Burn valley and the narrow arete (narrow mountain ledge) you are walking on. Small tarns (lakes) can be seen between ridges.
Just above the Iris Burn is a spectacular viewing point. On a clear day the whole valley is visible, from the waterfall and tussock flats at the hut to Rocky Point and the mouth of the Iris Burn River at Lake Manapouri.
Kepler Track covers several alpine peat bogs, which began forming soon after the last glaciers retreated and are many thousands of years old. Boardwalks protect these fragile places from our footprints.
Kepler Track birds
Bellbirds, tomtits, grey warblers, fantails and chaffinches are common throughout the forest. Look for yellowheads and robins along the Iris Burn valley and yellow-crowned parakeets along the Waiau River. Tiny rifleman and flocks of brown creepers flit about energetically in the upper forest.
At dusk you might be lucky to see bats (New Zealand's only native land mammal) fluttering across a clearing. While you’re bedded down for the night, listen for the hooting of ruru (our native owl) and the brown kiwi's shrill whistles.
Above the tree line, there’s a good chance you’ll encounter kea - New
Zealand’s large, extremely intelligent alpine parrots. A scientific film team recently conducted intelligence tests on kea and found them to be as smart as the higher apes. Puzzles that took other birds months to solve were sorted in just three minutes by kea. Be sure to keep an eye on these birds, as they’re known to steal from unsuspecting hikers - socks, hats, sunglasses, food and anything else that can be carried in a beak.
In the forest
Beech is the main forest tree of the Kepler Track. At lower altitudes mountain, silver and red beeches grow alongside podocarps such as miro, rimu, kahikatea and totara. Toward the tree line and in the Iris Burn valley, silver beech dominates. A special feature of the forest is the abundance of ferns, mosses and perching plants.
Between Lake Manapouri and Rainbow Reach, a wetland dominated by wire rush and sphagnum moss provides an interesting contrast. Around the lake shores in spring, flowering kowhai trees inject splashes of yellow into the landscape.
Before and after the walk
Manapouri and Te Anau are handy to the entry/exit points of the Kepler Track. Both towns have great restaurants, quality accommodation and fantastic alpine lake scenery. Other activities to keep you occupied in the area include horse treks, glow-worm caves, night sky safaris, fiord cruises and sea kayaking.
Booking a walk with a tour provider
There are a number of specialist tour operators who can aide you in bringing your walking experience to life. Whether you are looking for a guided tour or accommodation along the track browse through our business listings to find the walkin experience that is right for you.
Booking a walk independently
If you want to walk a Great Walk independently you will need a Great Walks Pass. The fees for this vary between each Great Walk, but all prices are very reasonable as they are heavily subsidised in order to foster participation by many people.
For some Great Walks you may need to make a booking, for others simply purchase a Great Walks hut or campsite pass before your trip.
- For the Milford, Kepler, Routeburn, Heaphy and Abel Tasman the online system allows you to check availability and pay for your booking. Book online
- Department of Conservation (DOC) Visitor Centres national wide can make hut or campsite bookings on your behalf. A booking fee applies.
- Call on +64-3-249 8514, fax +64-3-249 8515, email email@example.com