Getting ThereThe track has very easy access, and is one of the most accessible tracks in the area. To get to the trailhead, you must first make your way to the town of Te Anau.
The following bus companies have daily services to Te Anau from Queenstown*.
*International callers dial international ++64-(3) before the following local numbers:
Topline Tours: 0508-832-628
Fiordland Travel: 249-7419
Southern Explorer: 249-7820
Bottom Bus: 442-9708
Once you reach Te Anau, you must check in with the Fiordlands Visitor Center located on the south side of town, on Lakefront Drive, and on the turnoff of the road to Manapouri.
To get to the start of the track from the visitor center, you can either walk or take a shuttle from many of the hotels and hostels in Te Anau. The trailhead is 4.6 kms (2.9 miles) from the visitor center. Take the Manapouri Road south to the first turn on the right, follow it past the golf course to the next right, and follow that road to the trailhead. The trailhead is located very near the Lake Te Anau Control Gates and is well signposted.
Route DescriptionThe trip up Mt. Luxmore and along the Kepler Track is normally walked in a four days and done as a loop trip. This is the recommended route, and is how this route description will be presented. The DOC recommends that the loop be walked in a counter-clockwise direction. This enables you to get the weather forcast from the hut warden at the Mt. Luxmore Hut before doing the alpine section. The loop can be shortened by one day by exiting the trail at Rainbow Reach off the Manapouri Highway, but spending the night at the Motorau Hut and completing the loop is recommended. You are given a discount for the last night's hut fee, and the setting right on the shores of Lake Manapouri makes the hut an ideal place to spend the last night. The realitively level track along the river back to the Control Gates of Lake Te Anau is a nice walk, so it seems a shame not to complete the loop.
Day 1 is 14.1 kms (8.8 miles) long and has 885 meters (2900 feet) altitude gain. From the Control Gates of Lake Te Anau, follow the well marked Kepler Track north along the lakeshore. The forest is really nice with lots of ferns and other lush vegitation along the way. You will arrive at Dock Bay 2.1 kms (1.3 miles) from the trailhead. The track soon crosses the bridge over Coal Creek and follows the lakeshore to Brod Bay which is 5.6 kms (3.5 miles) from the trailhead. This is one of the two places where camping is allowed along the Kepler Track. Now the hill climbing begins! The track up to the Mt. Luxmore Hut begins halfway along the beach at Brod Bay and climbs rather gradually to the Limestone Bluffs after 4.4 kms (2.7 miles). The steepest part of the track is just ahead. About 2/3 the way up to the hut, you will bypass some limestone cliffs partly on a metal staircase. The starecase can be slippery, so take care. The track then climbs up to the bushline at about 950 meters (3120 feet) elevation and becomes less steep. If the weather is clear, you will have some great views of Mt. Luxmore (straight ahead), The South Fiord of Lake Te Anau to the north, the Murchison Mountains just beyond the South Fiord, the Jackson Peaks to the left and beyond Mt. Luxmore, and the Kepler Mountains beyond those and to the SW. The Mt. Luxmore Hut is at 1085 meters (3560 feet), sleeps 60, and is a comfortable (and scenic!) place to spend the night.
Day 2 is 18.6 kms (11.6 miles) long and has many ups and downs. Most of the route is above the bushline. After obtaining the weather forcast from the hut warden in the morning, set off along the track towards Mt. Luxmore. This part of the track can have some adverse weather conditions and is above bushline for a long distance. There are two emergency only huts along the ridge while above bushline in case you get caught out in a storm. Follow the track to the saddle just west of Mt. Luxmore at 1400 meters (4590 feet). The summit of Mt. Luxmore at 1472 meters (4829 feet) is a short scramble from the saddle. If the weather is clear, you will enjoy the spectacular views in all directions. Return to the saddle and continue following the track along the ridge. There are many interesting alpine plants along the way. There are two emergency shelters passed along the way on the alpine section. The first is Forest Burn and the second Hanging Valley. After the Hanging Valley shelter, the track begins the long descent down to the Iris Burn Hut. There are many switchbacks. The Iris Burn Hut sleeps 60, is at 497 meters (1630 feet). It's located in a scenic and forested gorge. This is also the second location where you may camp along the Kepler Track. If you still have the energy, you can take a side trip from the Iris Burn Hut to the Iris Burn Waterfall. The trip is 1.5 kms (0.9 miles) one way and is well worth the effort. If the weather is warm, there's a great swimming hole there as well. You could visit the waterfall in the morning instead, but the water is colder for swimming in the morning!
Day 3 is 17.2 kms (10.7 miles) long and descends about 320 meters (1000 feet) with a few ups and downs. Follow the Track down along the Iris Burn (river) and through a gorge. The area is heavily forested with lush trees and vegitation. You will pass a large landslide area that slid in January 1984. The rest of the track is a pleasant walk through the forested gorge. When you near Lake Manapouri, the trail turns left and heads to Shallow Bay. The track follows the lakeshore around the bay to the Morturau Hut at 185 meters (607 feet) elevation. The hut is set along a beautiful beach and sleeps 40. There are excellent views of the Kepler Mountains across the lake from the beach.
Day 4 is 17.1 kms (10.6 miles) and involves short ups and downs, but no significant altitude gains or losses. From the Morturau Hut, take the gentle track to the Waiau River. There is a side track to the Shallow Bay Hut, but stay on the main track to the left. You will cross a bog on a bridge and then another bridge across the Forest Burn (river). The track then follows the Waiau River. The track then follows the river north. Not too far after reaching the river, it is possible to cross the bridge across the river to Rainbow Reach and end the tramp there. This is 6.2 kms (3.9 miles) from the Morutau Hut. To complete the loop (recommended), follow the scenic track along the Waiau River for another 10.9 kms (6.8 miles) to the Control Gates of Lake Te Anau. It's a nice and pleasant walk along the river with little elevation gain.