KEPLER TRACK, NZ
TAKE ONE HUGELY POPULAR adventure town, in the form of Te Anau, and add in a sublime multiday loop track right nearby (yes, within walking distance of town) and you have one of NZ’s trekking success stories: the Kepler Track.
Originally designed to take the load off the other two Great Walks nearby – the Milford and
Routeburn tracks – the Kepler has become hugely popular (like all Great Walks, you will need to book hut tickets). This 60km circuit offers the quintessential Fiordland Great Walks experience of majestic landscape, brilliant Department of Conservation huts, a well banked track, and the chance to spend a full day walking above the tree line, surrounded by NZ’s Southern Alps.
The Kepler can be walked in either direction,
starting at Lake Te Anau Control Gates or, if you wish to walk clockwise (our preferred route), from Rainbow Reach (this means a short shuttle bus ride from town). For most, the Kepler can be walked in three days, giving you plenty of time to really soak up this unique experience.
If you start at Rainbow Reach, the first few hours are nice and flat before you reach the beachside Moturau Hut, with its views across Lake Manapouri. If you’re keen to take four days to walk the Kepler, this is where you’d stay. Walk a further four hours, slowly making your way up, and you will reach Iris Burn Hut. Here, if you’re lucky, you might hear the elusive kiwi calling out during the night.
The “middle” day – from Iris Burn to Luxmore Hut – is the most amazing of the walk. After a steep climb of around 800m you reach the Hanging Valley Emergency Shelter (for cover in inclement weather, i.e., snowstorms) and then you’re at an altitude of 1390m, with the magic vista of Lake Te Anau and the snow-capped Southern Alps. You stay up on the ridgeline the entire day until you reach Luxmore Hut (take the sidetrack to Mt Luxmore if it is fine – it is well worth the extra effort). Luxmore is usually packed full of hikers but, as with all NZ Great Walks Huts, the atmosphere is jovial and the views out to Lake Te Anau below are fantastic.
The final day’s walk is downhill to Te Anau, so take your time. Of all the NZ Great Walks, we reckon it is the Kepler that is the one most worth savouring on the last day – and celebrated with a cold Speight’s Dark Ale back in Te Anau when you finish.