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Hiking The Kepler Track In New Zealand (Trip Report)

Hiking (tramping) the Kepler Track in New Zealand is one of those journeys that stays in your mind.

Sometimes you just find the perfect environment, weather, location, and luck to have an outdoor experience that can be hard to describe in words.

It was magical.


The Kepler Track Hike

New Zealand hiking Kepler track

The track begins just below beautiful Lake Te Anau and can be hiked in two different directions.

The first direction follows the mountains first and then into the forest, and the second direction, well, does it the other way around.

Kepler track river

I chose the first direction. Hiking through the forested area in the beginning it took around six hours to reach the first campsite for the night.

During those six hours, you walk along the side of an impressive lake before heading up into a deep mossy forest, occasionally following a river that then opens up onto an area surrounded by mountains with waterfalls cascading down.

forest New Zealand
forest river New Zealand
waterfalls New Zealand

The first campsite is Iris Burn (they have huts as well). At camp, you will sleep with the sound of kiwi birds in the surrounding bushes and water flowing down from the mountains.

camping New Zealand

The second day has a very hard start to it as you have to hike upwards for two hours, passing through the forest until it opens up to mountain views.

forest New Zealand hiking

The climb is worth it as you ascend onto a mountain ridge and are presented with views across snowy mountain peaks.

kepler track mountains

If you have a lucky day you will have clear skies to see all the mountain tops. I had a mix of some clouds with clear skies, but very strong winds as well.

mountains New Zealand

A further climb along the ridge took me up into the snow level where it had to be traversed in sometimes knee-deep snow. Fun, but hard.

Hopefully, you will have less snowy conditions.

hiking Kepler track New Zealand

There is a lake in the area and again if you’re lucky you will be able to see it on a clear day or a break in the clouds.

lake Kepler track

Now to the best views of the Kepler Track the ascent to the mountain peak of Mount Luxmore.

To reach the peak you need to take a side trail from the main one and scramble up sometimes knee-deep in snow.

Reaching the top you will be surrounded by mountain views on all sides (again on a clear day).

snow Kepler Track hike

With the clouds still around me they drifted between the mountains. Beautiful.

Happy to get clear sky for the views one smiles away!

hiking New Zealand

In the strong wind, I headed back down through the clouds to reach the main trail again to continue.

Leaving the snow line and clouds behind I reached the dryer parts of the mountain range, with Lake Te Anau appearing below and more mountain peaks far in the distance.

lake te Anau

Having spent too much time in the mountains and with the light fading fast there was no time to reach the official campsite by the lake for the night that I had booked, leading to the decision to freedom camp up by the mountain at the forest edge.

Although freedom camping is not allowed near the trail I managed to get far enough away to not be of disturbance. 

Officially though you should book the campsite/huts before going. You can do that through the official website for booking campsites.

Waking at sunrise I lifted myself up from my bivy and wondered if I was still still dreaming as one of the best sunrises I had ever seen was coming up.

With the lake below covered in clouds, the sun shone through the mountain peaks in the distance.

The trail had now certainly become a magical feeling land.

Having reached near freezing point during the night all of the camping gear was covered in frost.

With the sun now warming things up the backpack was packed and I began the walk down into the tree line to hike the four hours to the other beginning of the Kepler Track, where my hike ended.

But not before one last look at the view.

sunrise Kepler Track

Walking down through the forest is similar to the start of the walk at the beginning with moss everywhere.

After a few hours, you break out of the trees and onto the shore of Lake Te Anau.

lake te Anau

Walking a while more I reached the outskirts of the nearby town and taking a look back at the Kepler Track felt like doing it all over again!

Go Hike The Kepler Track in New Zealand!

As you can see from the photos the Kepler Track is one of the most beautiful hikes in New Zealand and a must-do if you have the time when on the South Island.

You can reach the Kepler Track easily from Queenstown in around three hours’ driving time to the town of Te Anau (by Lake Te Anau). 

So you could start early from Queenstown and drive there and start the hike.

Or stay closer to the start of the hike in Te Anau which is in a beautiful location near the lake.

For more inspiration for New Zealand take a look at the 10 best documentaries about New Zealand.

I recommend using SafetyWing Travel Insurance for your trip, just in case, it’s best to be prepared.

Check out my post on hiking the Routeburn Track which is also in the same region.

You can get the Lonely Planet New Zealand (Travel Guide) to help plan your trip to New Zealand more.


6 thoughts on “Hiking The Kepler Track In New Zealand (Trip Report)”

  1. Thinking of doing this in early September, would you say ice axes and crampons are mandatory/essential? Thanks

  2. Hey Nico, I’m unfortunately not the best to answer this as I did the hike in April and September will be right after winter and I’m sure different conditions so you may well need a crampon and ice axe. Check out a website called backpackingmatt, a fellow traveller who is an expert in New Zealand travel.

  3. Pingback: 10 Of The Best Hikes In The World (You Can Do) - Backpackingman

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