Of the three Great Walks in Fiordland, the Milford and Routeburn Tracks are the most celebrated but the Kepler Track actually may win on scenery. At the very least, the Kepler’s alpine section from the Luxmore Hut to Iris Burns cannot be topped. The Fiordland views span high over Lake Ta Anau encompassing the Murchison and Kepler Mountain Ranges, among others. The hike is challenging, in particular when the conditions are tough, but the Kepler Track is favorite among the true outdoors crowd.
Track Summary and Information
Distance: 60 km loop
Difficulty: Moderate to challenging
Time: 3–4 days
When to Go: Peak hiking season runs from November through April; January and February are the busiest months. The Kepler Track remains open during the winter but snowy conditions and avalanches are common—proper equipment and backcountry experience are required.
Conditions: Average high temperatures during the peak season range from 15°C to 20°C with rain throughout the year. Much of the trail is exposed with alpine conditions including high winds and cold temperatures. Hikers should be prepared for mountainous terrain and inclement weather.
Starting Points: The Kepler Track is a 60 km loop and can be walked in either direction. The two main entry/exit points are the Kepler Carpark and Rainbow Reach; both are close to the town of Te Anau.
Transportation: Tracknet provides round-trip transportation to and from Te Anau. Parking is available at the Kepler Carpark (be careful with your belongings as break-ins do occur).
Guiding: Unlike the Milford and Routeburn Tracks, the Kepler Track is not serviced by guiding companies. Completing the Kepler Track without a guide is relatively straightforward—the trail is well-marked and easy to follow with rangers on duty during the peak season. Make sure to stop by the Department of Conservation (DOC) visitor center in Te Anau for maps and information.
Accommodation: Hikers stay at the 3 DOC huts (Luxmore, Iris Burn, and Moturau) and 2 DOC campsites (Brod Bay and Iris Burn) along the route.
Cost: For the 2012-13 peak season, DOC huts on the Kepler Track are $45 USD per person and campsites are $15 USD per person. Day hiking is free.
Reservations: All huts and campsites should be booked as early as possible (the Kepler Track often fills up during peak season). Bookings can be made online or at any DOC visitor center.
Services: Huts are equipped with gas cookers, running water, and flush toilets (no showers). Camping areas have water, established tent sites, a covered shelter for cooking, and pit toilets.
Inside Scoop: For those not completing the full circuit, the section of the Kepler Track from Te Anau to the Luxmore Hut is one of New Zealand’s best day hikes. Camping is available at Brod Bay on Lake Te Anau and strong hikers should be able to make it past the hut and back.