All you need to know about conquering the Kepler Track!

22 Nov 2022

So, the Kepler Track is on your bucket list of to-do hikes.  Here is everything we think you need to know before heading out on the trail to ensure a safe and fun experience.

Kepler Track – The basics

The Kepler Track is a New Zealand Great Walk, located right next to Te Anau in Fiordland National Park.  Purpose built; it is a loop track 60 km in length.  Passing through the beech-forested waterways of the Waiau River and alongside the shores of Lakes Te Anau and Manapouri, it climbs along the alpine ridgelines and tussock herb fields of Mt Luxmore and Jackson Peaks. From expansive mountain and lake views to ancient forests of ferns and mature trees, this trail has a bit of everything.

Accommodation is available in 3 huts Luxmore, Iris Burn and Motorau, and 2 camping sites located at Brod Bay and Iris Burn (note there is no camping in the alpine area).  These are managed by the Department of Conservation and must be booked.  Hut facilities have bunks, mattresses, heating, toilets, basic cooking facilities, solar-powered lighting, and cold running water. A DOC ranger is in residence. Huts do not have food, cooking utensils or showers. Campsites have basic facilities including toilets, sinks and a water supply. Campers can't use the hut facilities. Limited spaces are available, so the first step in successfully walking this track is securing a booking! There is no guided option or private huts around the full Kepler Track, so this is the only option for people wanting to walk the full trail. 

Allow 3 or 4 days to complete the track.  Most people will walk it in an anti-clockwise direction, spending the first night at Luxmore Hut. This way is generally considered easier; however, you can walk in either direction.  Access points are available along the trail to make it shorter, for example you can catch the water taxi to Brod Bay to cut off 6 km of the trail, and skip out at Rainbow Reach to cut off the final 9 km. 

For the full track description and online bookings see the DOC website Kepler Track.

person walking on trail above lake and mountains

On a fine day the views as you hike over the alpine area are incredible.

Fitness requirements

The Kepler Track is part of the Great Walk network.  These trails are suitable for people with limited experience. The track is well formed, with steeper sections navigated by well graded ‘zig zags’ or steps.  There are no drop offs (any are protected by handrails), and all major streams and river crossings are bridged.  The track is well marked. However, the experience should never be underestimated.  Weather can play a huge role in the comfort of your tramp or hike. This can never be easily predicted in Fiordland, whatever the time of year. The better prepared you are, the more you will enjoy the experience.

Top tips for preparing yourself and increase your fitness for the Kepler Track.

  1. Wear a backpack to get used to it, gradually add weight to the pack as your fitness increases. Most people will carry around 10 kg of gear and food so it’s a good idea to get some training in with this weight on your back prior to heading out.
  2. Walk on uneven terrain to develop balance and the different muscle group needed.
  3. Incorporate weight training to build strength in your legs and core, alongside hill and stair work. An all-round fitness programme will ensure a balanced approach to improve your fitness and stamina. Short workouts are always better than nothing at all, and after a few months of training, you’ll be surprised by how much upping the frequency can improve your overall fitness.
  4. Endurance is important, so do try and get out for a few longer walks (3+ hours).
  5. Build mental toughness and get comfortable with pushing yourself.  From my experience the more comfortable you get with being uncomfortable, the more it’ll help you when you’re put in a tough situation out on the trail. Hiking in the rain or other less-than-ideal conditions can also prepare you. Knowing you can push past your limits and overcome hardships will help you improve your Kepler Track experience.
guided walks kepler track luxmore hut

Luxmore Hut sits in the alpine area and offer a great location to stay year round.

Weather and ‘Great Walk’ Seasons on the Kepler Track

The Great Walk season runs from late October to the end of April each year.  Generally, this is the best time to walk the track. Typically, you will have longer day light hours, warmer temperatures, and more sunshine.  However, you need to be aware the weather conditions can change quickly too, and it is not uncommon to be experience ‘4 seasons’ in one day. Cold temperatures, snow, strong winds and heavy rain may be encountered at any time of the year.  Heat is generally not a factor in Fiordland, with maximum temperatures of 30 degrees Celsius, but the UV factor is real, so a hat and sunscreen is a must. The only thing I can guarantee on the Kepler Track is you will have weather! Ensure you are preprepared and embrace the awesomeness of it all.

Outside the Great Walk season from 01 May through to early October extreme caution must be advised.  It is only recommended for fit, experienced, and well-equipped people, avalanche danger may also be present, as the trail passes underneath some known avalanche zones.  During the winter months access to the huts is still available, and Mt Luxmore can be quite beautiful for an overnight experience (if you don’t mind the cold), just go up, then return the same way. Huts are not required to be booked at this time of the year, however just outside the great walk season you can find the huts quite crowded if the weather is favourable.

sun shining through the forest with a mossy floor

The mossy forest floor and ancient trees offer quite the contrast to the open ridgelines of the alpine area.

Other ways to conquer the Kepler Track

Maybe you are unable to get a booking during the time you want, are really fit (or not), short on time, or just not sure if the full trail is the right for you.  Here are some alternatives we can suggest to tick this bucket list track off.

  • Kepler Challenge or Luxmore Grunt – knock the whole 60 km off in one day in this original kiwi iconic run, or smash out 27 km to Luxmore Hut and return. This event is run annually the first Saturday of December and not for the faint hearted.
  • Day walk – there are plenty of options for all abilities, from family friendly strolls to full day epics. Check out our blog for inspiration here - Top 4 Kepler Track Day Walks.
  • Guided Kepler Heli Hike – Cover up to 16 km or as little at 8 km on a guided day with us. We begin your awe-inspiring experience with a spectacular flight to Luxmore Hut from Te Anau by helicopter. Explore the expansive alpine tussock field and enjoy mountain views. Then hike down the mountain on a well-formed track, descending through native beech forest and passing under towering limestone bluffs to reach the sandy lake shore for a short water taxi ride back to Te Anau. The Trips & Tramps team will ensure your experience is second to none!

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