The Caples Track

The Caples Track

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Additional Information Image Type(s): Hiking, Scenery

It's a threesome

Map of the Routeburn, Caples and Greenstone Tracks
All the tracks connected. Click for a more detailed description.
There are three tramping routes all leading from the Glenorchy area to The Devide: The Routeburn Track, the Caples Track and the Greenstone Track. Most trampers come to the area just for the Routeburn Track, but you can connect two of them to make it a circuit. Each of these can be tramped in two or three days.

Firns and old man s beard
Firns and old man's beard in the rain forest where the Greenstone and Caples tracks meet
On the western end, the tracks join near The Divide, the shared trailhead for all three. On the eastern end, near Glenorchy, the connection is not quite as good. The Caples and Greenstone share the same trailhead, but along the road it's about 30km to that of the Routeburn Track. You could walk that in a day, or use the shuttle services between the nearby town of Glenorchy and the respective trailheads.

The Caples Track

Mount Christina
Mount Christina from McKellar Saddle
None of the three are difficult, but the Caples is arguably the hardest one. Not really hard, just still the hardest of the three. The first reason for that is that the route over McKellar Saddle is rough and, unlike on the Routeburn, there might be nobody else on the track to help you in case of trouble. At just over 1000m, the saddle isn't all that high, but there is no shelter (like on Harris Saddle on the Routeburn Track). It's best to have reasonable weather when crossing it.

After I had a foggy experience on the Routeburn Track, the weather improved quickly. I carried plenty of food, and so I continued along the Caples track. It was beautiful, and, unlike on Harris Saddle, I had views this time!

Alpenglow over the Humboldt Mountains
Alpenglow over the Humboldt Mountains, from Mid Caples hut

The second big difference was the solitude. While I met dozens of people on the Routeburn Track every day, on the Caples Track there were only a handful. And when I spent the night at Mid Caples Hut, I was almost alone: besides me, there was a DOC park ranger, who had his own private quarters. As it happened, it was his birthday and he actually had cake :)


Below Earland Falls
Below Earland Falls on the Routeburn Track
Sundown at Greenstone Hut
Sundown at Greenstone Hut on the Greenstone Track

Previously ...

Before the Caples Track, I tramped the Routeburn Track.

The conclusion

After coming down the Caples Valley, I headed back up along the Greenstone Track.


The New Zealand Department of Conservation, or DOC for short, does a great job in preserving the outdoors. And for all oudoor enthousiasts, their site has an enormous wealth of information, including many route descriptions such as the Greenstone and Caples Tracks.


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