Best time: Late Oct to Late April
This awe-inspiring track was designed to show you all the best features of Fiordland - mountains, native forest, waterfalls and glacier-carved valleys.
Unlike many other multi-day 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. The track’s construction makes for easier walking. Most streams are bridged, boardwalks cover boggy areas and the very steep sections have steps. Walk the Kepler and you’ll see everything that’s marvellous about this exquisite corner of the world.
Day 1: Te Anau > Luxmore Hut, 15.8km
Begin the walk at Te Anau township on the lake path outside the visitor centre. Continue on the shores of the lake past the carpark and through forests of mountain and red beech trees before reaching pretty Brod Bay. Cool off with a refreshing swim or stop here for morning tea - the views are beautiful. From here the track climbs steadily for 2 hours up to limestone bluffs before breaking out of the bush line. Here, the panoramic views of the Te Anau Basin, Takitimu Mountains, and the Snowdon and Earl Mountains are spectacular. This is also where there's a good chance you'll encounter kea - New Zealand's large, extremely intelligent alpine parrots. Luxmore Hut is only a 45-minute walk from here. After arriving at the hut, take a short walk to Luxmore Cave, one of many in the area. Bring a torch to admire the stalactites and stalagmites.
Day 2, Luxmore Hut > Iris Burn Hut, 14.6km
Today's portion of the walk includes hikes along exposed ridges with huge views of the valley below. Begin with a climb up to a ridge just below the summit of Mount Luxmore (1472 metres) - if you're feeling energetic, the summit can be reached in 10 minutes. The track then winds down to the Forest Burn Saddle before zig-zagging across a ridge system to Hanging Valley Shelter. Small tarns (lakes) can be seen between the ridges. From here, you'll descend through a beautiful forest that leads to a large tussock clearing and the Iris Burn Hut.
Day 3, Iris Burn Hut > Moturau Hut, 16.2km
A steady hike awaits today, with the track winding it's way through beech forest, a gorge and a low saddle. Bellbirds, tomtits, grey warblers, fantails and chaffinches are common throughout the forest. Walk along river flats and a lowland podocarp forest before emerging on the shores of Lake Manapouri. Moturau Hut is situated next to a beautiful beach with stunning views of the lake. While you’re bedded down for the night, listen for the hooting of ruru (our native owl) and the brown kiwi's shrill whistles.
Day 4, Moturau Hut > Rainbow Reach, 6km
The final day of the Kepler track is a moderate stroll to reach the end. The track follows the terraces of the Waiau River Terrace to the swing-bridge at Rainbow Reach. Look for yellow-crowned parakeets along the river. Walkers are able to catch a shuttle bus or arrange transport to pick them up and take them back to Te Anau from here.
During the walk
There are three huts and two campsites provided by the Department of Conservation (DOC) dotted at points along the track. Here, you'll find running water, solar lighting, tables and seating and cooking facilities in the summer months. Bookings are required for all huts and campsites on the Kepler Track from late Oct to late April. During the off-peak season DOC backcountry hut tickets or annual hut passes are required. Huts can be booked online here of through any Department of Conservation office.
Before and after
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. The alpine resort town of Queenstown is 2 hours drive away, and is home to a large range of places to stay and things to see and do.
There are a number of specialist tour operators who can aide you in bringing your walking experience to life. Browse through the business listings below to find the walking experience that is right for you.
If you want to do a Great Walk independently, you will need to book the DOC accommodation on the trails. The fee for this varies between each Great Walk. It is recommended that you book in advance for this popular walk.
For vehicle relocation and full independent hiking packages (including food and equipment), you can contact EasyHike.