There’s no denying the natural beauty that surrounds the Great Walks of New Zealand, all 9 of them have something unique that none of the others have. In my mind, there is no doubt that the Kepler Track is worthy of the designation “Great Walk”. It's so well set up, signage and accommodation of a totally accepted acceptable standard, you can just concentrate on the experience, while tying to avoid simply dashing to the next objective.
So what is there to know about the Kepler track?
The Kepler covers all sorts of different terrain, flat beech forest, Alpine tussock ridge lines and lakeside views of Lake Te Anau and Lake Manapouri. I enjoyed this one so much purely because every few kilometres the setting completely changes. The tussock ridge tops remind me some what of the Tararua Forest park, except on a much larger even more stunning scale; the Kepler really is a must-do.
On a more precautionary note, we are talking about Fiordland here which probably has one of the most changeable weather patterns of anywhere in New Zealand. The Kepler Track is an exposed walk, there is a considerable length undulating along at 1400 m, partly along ridgetops, and it is regularly majorly breezy up there, so even in the height of summer, it is essential to bring gear/equipment to prepare for the worst. For the majority of winter the ridge tops are lined with snow, increasing the risk of Avalanches between Luxmore and Iris burn hut.
For me I think the best about the Kepler was both the serenity of it yet the convenience of it. Being just out of Te Anau and a circuit rather than a route, the logistics are a lost easier yet, the track leads you into the heart of Fiordland National park. The views over the South fiords and Lake Te Anau are unparalleled, simply mind-blowing whilst surrounded by peaks and mountain ranges all-around. I say this a lot, but of the 6 great walks I have now done, this would have to be my favourite.
After completing my 5th great walk of the Routeburn track, I decided I would go straight on back to Te Anau where I would gather supplies and set off the next day walking the Kepler track. It made sense, although a bit more strenuous, when you think of how much it costs to get here initially, may as well tick off as many walks as possible whilst being in the area.
A stayed at the Te Anau Lakeview holiday park, a stones throw away from both Lake Te Anau and also the Fiordland Doc Visitor centre where you pick up your Great walk tickets which is what you'll need to get before staying in any of the huts.
After a good nights rest, I organised a shuttle to pick me up (Tracknet) and take me to the Lake the Anau control gate, the start and end of the Kepler track. The track from here can be walked in either direction depending on your booking. From here i set off along the flat track through winding beech forest until reaching Brod Bay, a little camp site sitting on the side of Lake Te Anau giving you sublime across the stretch of the lake. Although an amazing spot to rest, it wasn't long before the sand flies found me and forced me to keep moving; the 750m ascent up to Luxmore hut would begin.
The track from here comprises of several switch backs under limestone bluffs and forests of Tree ferns until eventually breaking out of the bush line to panoramic views of both Lake Te Anau and the ranges that lay ahead. Onward from here you'll walk along easy flat track lined with tussock until eventually arriving at Luxmore, a spacious lay out an a saddle beneath Mt Luxmore. The views from the hut are mind-blowing, giving you full view of the South Fiords, I highly advise going for a stroll once reaching here as there are several off-the-track spots to get even better views from.
Luxmore caves are worth a visit, only 10 minutes from the hut which consist of impressive stalactite formations, a head torch is a necessity. If you're lucky enough to receive good weather on this day of your walk, then an evening stroll above the hut is a must as the sunset rolls in, providing you with epic scenery across the ranges.
Unfortunately the next morning, I wasn't given such great conditions as the first day and the drizzling rain and high winds came rolling in. As expected, the temperature dropped quite significantly when I began to sidle round Mt Luxmore. The visibility was non-existent, and so I opted not to climb to the top Mt Luxmore and decided to carry on to Forest Burn shelter. The terrain in this area is very susceptible to avalanches and described as "complex" when the track was graded for it's Avalanche risk. Between Luxmore and Iris Burn Hut, as well as the forest burn shelter there is also the Hanging valley shelter, providing some comfort for the alpine section when the weather threatens to turn in. Upon reaching the Hanging valley shelter I hadn't any such luck of a view the whole way across from Luxmore which I'd been looking forward to the most upon setting out on this track. However, just as I left the shelter, the weather slowly began to change and I could spot blue skies up ahead, it looked promising! Id reached the last section of the ridge top and I could make out ranges and valleys on both sides which was amazing!
I enjoyed the view from the ridge tops for as long as I could, before making the inevitable knee-destroying 900 metre drop down to Iris Burn hut. Nestled in amongst the bush, Iris Burn was an amazing spot to stay for the night, with the Iris Burn falls just a 20 metre walk away which are well worth a visit.
It had been a big walk that day, and so I didn't feel guilty whatsoever about having an early night so I could wake earlier and hit the track at first light. With not many ascents nor descents left, the track here on in would remain reasonably flat, taking me along the Iris burn river lined by high peaks on both sides. With the weather coming good once again, I couldn't be happier to be walking this track on a day like this!
The 16.2km journey from Iris Burn to Moturau hut begins to wind through lowland beech and podocarp forest, with stunning ferns across the forest floors before reaching Moturau hut and the grand shores of Lake Manapouri. With fantastic views of the lake and the surrounding ranges, this really is a view you could never get bored of seeing. The expansive lake ranks in as New Zealand's 2nd deepest lake at 444metres and is lined with various beaches and bays giving you the impression you're by the ocean!
I pretty much spent the evening laying on the beach and swimming in the surprisingly warm waters of the lake, on a hot day like it was I couldn't think of anything better! It's a pretty diverse terrain when thinking I was walking along tussock ridge lines and now laying on a beach beside lake Manapouri, the Kepler really does provide!
The next day would be my last day on the track, where i'd walking through marshland and beech forest until making itRainbow reach road end where I would be picked up by shuttle to go back to Te Anau and eventually Queenstown.
Upon finishing at the Rainbow Reach swing bridge, I couldn't have been more happier with the way i'd spent the last week in one of New Zealand's most scenic National parks. I had ticked off 2 of the 9 Great walks and experienced 2 of the most recognised and popular walks New Zealand has to offer; I wish I could do them all over again!
I'd highly recommend the Kepler as logistically it is the easiest to organise of the Southern Great walks and for the sheer diversity of the track. With only 3 Great walks to go until completing the 9, I'll be sure to organise those soon and keep you up to date with how they go!
For any questions/queries on any of the walks/trips I've done to date, don't hestitate to drop me a message and I'll be sure to answer any of your questions you may have the best I can.
For more adventure imagery and content, follow my Instagram page : @austinsadventures_ where I'll be posting my latest up to dates to where I've been taking my camera!
Happy adventures everyone!
Thanks for reading,
Below is a list of gear I used for this trip as well as recommendations for doing this walk!
Meindl Island Boots
This fabulous boot is superbly comfortable and has what it takes for those who want to explore the
countryside whether on or off trail. This 100% waterproof, Gore-Tex lined boot has integrated pronation and supination zones which promote correct posture and support. I found this boot to be super supportive which definitely helps for the winding trails we found on the circuit. An amazing back country standard boot which could tackle a number of terrains; I honestly don't think i've tried a boot more comfortable. The Meindl Island MFS Active is the most awarded boot in history and has received a Gold Medal Award at the 2009 European Outdoor Expo - voted by a panel of independent experts as the most technically advanced, correctly supportive, and proven outdoor footwear for the last 20 years.
Jetboil stove kit
Since taking on a lot more adventures of late, I
feel investing in good, quality equipment is
always a good investment; it makes life in the outdoors that bit easier. Jetboil, produce a variety of different stove kits, different sizes and shapes, ones adapted for cold weather etc. These stove kits boil water at an insanely fast speed, which is definitely handy if your on top of a cold, windy ridge line and in need of a hot cuppa. I wouldn't go on a trip without one of these in my pack now, so take a look at their website www.jetboil.com and see which stove kit best suits you. I opted for the "Mini-mo" set-up which is rated for below freezing temperatures and even has simmer control.
Marmot Featherless Jacket
Insulation in alpine environments is key. Even in the height of summer, you should always take an insulation jacket for up on the tops as the weather can change quickly; look no further than the Marmot featherless Jacket. In the Marmot Featherless Jacket, there are no feathers to ruffle. They designed this layerable jacket, ideal for a variety of cold-weather activities when constant warmth is a must, with the revolutionary new 3M Thinsulate Featherless , a water-resistant, loose-fill synthetic insulation that matches the warmth and pillowy feel of 700-power-fill down, yet maintain warmth when wet better than down. The state-of-the-art materials and functional design make this jacket a jet setter in thermal technology's upward flight, I highly recommend it!