Hiking the Kepler Track in 3 Days: Tips | What to Pack | What You’ll See
The Kepler Track is one of the easier Great Walks to plan and walk, making it a great option for anyone looking to get into some multi-day hiking in New Zealand. There’s still a lot of planning involved, and some big decisions to make, and that’s where I come in! We hiked the Kepler Track in 3 days recently (October 2020) and it was an awesome (but very rainy) experience. Keep reading for everything you need to know about planning your hike on the Kepler Track.
Which Way Should You Walk?
You can walk the Kepler Track in either direction (Control Gates – Luxmore Hut – Iris Burn Hut, or the reverse of that). The best way to do it is the “normal way”, staying at Luxmore Hut the first night. If you do it in the opposite direction it’ll be harder, because the 2nd (or 3rd) day takes you from Iris Burn Hut to Luxmore Hut and it’s almost directly uphill. I reckon about 90% of people do it in typical direction, so do it that way if you can.
Kepler Track in 3 Days..?
The next big choice to make is whether you want to hike the Kepler Track in 3 days or 4. It’s pretty easy to do it in 3 days, especially if you arrange a pickup at Rainbow Reach. If you do it in 4 days, you’ll have a very easy last day (Moterau Hut to Rainbow Reach is only 90 minutes, or it’ll be around 5 hours if you walk all the way to the control gates). The decision was easy for us – we organised a pickup at Rainbow Reach and easily (well, maybe not that easily) completed the Kepler Track in 3 days.
Should You Arrange a Drop-off / Pickup?
Yes! Unless you’re on a tight budget, it’s worth shaving off a few hours of forest hiking. The sections you can skip with transport are mostly just through the same forest you’ll see heaps of anyway, so you’re not missing much. We arranged transport with Tracknet (we paid our own way) and got dropped off at the Control Gates and picked up on the last day at Rainbow Reach. You could of course walk from Te Anau or drive to the control gates and leave your car there, but we decided to leave the car at the camping ground we stayed at and it was a good option in the end.
Can You Leave Your Car at the Carpark?
You can, and it’s likely to be safe, but apparently the occasional car does get broken into. It cost us $10 to leave our car at the camping ground in Te Anau (we got picked up from there) and it was nice to know it was safe there. If you leave your car for in the public car park for a few days, it’s obviously at your own risk.
When Can You Hike the Kepler Track?
The “season” for the Kepler Track (this year at least) is from October 27 til’ April 30, 2021. During this time the huts are staffed, the weather is warmer and apparently it’s just a lot easier. Outside of those dates the hut experience will be a bit more basic (it’s cheaper though, and easier to find space). It’s a mountain area and some parts of prone to avalanches, so I’d think twice about doing it in the middle of winter. No matter what time of year you do it you’ll likely encounter plenty of rain!
Booking Kepler Track Huts
You’ll need to book ahead if you want to hike the Kepler Track, and spots fill up fast (especially over the summer holidays). In 2020, bookings opened on the June 11th, so I expect it to be around that date in 2021. Get in early if you can, although we booked a month or so after that and managed to find a window (we were flexible though). If you miss out on booking the huts but still want to see some of the best views in Fiordland National Park, consider a day walk instead (more on that below). Check out the DOC website to book the hut tickets.
Kepler Track Packing Tips
Packing the right gear is a key component in having a good time on the Kepler Track. It rains a lot in Fiordland, so your first priority should be making sure you have the appropriate wet weather gear. I’d recommend some light, rain proof layers as well as some warmer things to wear underneath. I bought two pairs of pants (neither of which was 100% waterproof), a softshell jacket, a light hoody and a light, rainproof jacket. It rained for most of the first two days and that gear did the job. If I did it again I’d bring a pair of waterproof pants as well. Also, make sure to bring a cover for your pack – you don’t want all your gear getting wet while walking!
You’ll also need to bring a sleeping bag and food for your time on the track (plus a little extra in case of emergencies). We ate a lot of tuna, some rice and noodle dishes and tin fruit, but lots of people had those fancy looking dehydrated meals. They looked pretty good, but we were happy enough with our budget options. Also bring a light pot thing so you can boil water / cook your food. You’ll also want to bring a first aid kit (bandages, pain killers etc), insect repellent (lots of sand flies on the Kepler Track) a pair of jandals or light shoes to wear at the huts and maybe a pack of cards.
Carrying a Heavy Bag
If you haven’t done a lot of multi-day hiking you might struggle carrying a big pack for all that time. It can be tough, so make sure to pack as lightly as possible. I think I was probably carrying 8-10 kgs (with Gia probably carrying 5kg) and it was manageable. Pack weight is another good reason to try and do it in 3 days – it means you’ll be carrying a bit less food etc.
Staying in a hut in New Zealand is a great experience. You’ll meet people from all around the world (not so much in 2020 I guess) and it’s just exciting to be out in the wild like this from time to time. The huts are basic but comfortable and have places (and gas) to cook your food. You can dry out your wet clothes by the fire, but unfortunately there are no showers or hot water. There are warnings that state you need to boil any water you’re going to drink, although I didn’t see anyone do it. Apparently DOC are just covering themselves with those warnings, so I’ll cover myself and say boil the water too!
Do You Really Want to Do a Multi-Day Hike?
This kind of walk isn’t for everyone, but I do think everyone should try it at least once. If you’re just looking for great views and don’t want to bother with all the gear, hut booking etc there are plenty of day walks nearby that have equally as impressive views. If you want an adventure, to get out of your comfort zone or are generally interested in multi-day hikes, definitely do it! Check out these awesome day walks in Fiordland National Park: The Lake Hauroko Track, Key Summit, Gertrude Saddle, Lake Marian.
What You’ll See on the Kepler Track
I’ll keep this section short, because I’ve already written a post about each of the 3 days. Check them out by clicking the links below!
- Day 1: The first day takes you from the Control Gates to Luxmore Hut. The first part is flat but then gradually climbs to the bushline, where the views really open up.
- Day 2: From Luxmore Hut you’ll head up towards the summit of Mount Luxmore and then down to Iris Burn Hut. You’ll see some of the most iconic Kepler Track views on day 2, but it’s probably the hardest day of walking.
- Day 3: From Iris Burn Hut you’ll walk through a beautiful valley and then it’s bush pretty much all the way to the end.
And that’s the end of our Kepler Track guide! I’m pretty sure I’ve covered everything, but if you have any questions don’t hesitate to leave a comment or get in touch!
Are you planning a road-trip around New Zealand? Check out our South Island itinerary!