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New Zealand hikesNew Zealand Kepler Track Route Guide

Discover Kepler Track, one of Fiordland National parks top destinations for tramping and hiking track adventures - the Kepler Track, Te Anau, New Zealand. Kepler Track is a 4 day walking route through the Kepler Mountains in Fiordland National Park, the largest proected national area in New Zealand ( 1 210 000 ha). Officially opened in February 1988 as part of the National Park Centennial Year Celebrations. Kepler Track passes through landscapes ranging from tall mossy forest to rocky mountain ridges, from lake shores to deep gorges. Kepler Track rivals any other New Zealand walking track for scenery and variety of natural history. 

Facts
Loop Track Brief Road Section
Time 4 - 5 days
From Te Anau Outlet , Brod Bay via Mount Luxmore
To Lake Te Anau
Distance 67 km
Huts 3 Great Walks Huts, 2 Great Walks Campsites, 1 category 3 hut, 1 free camping area
Grade medium
Highest Point
1270m, Luxmore Saddle
Maps Map 260 C43 Manapouri
Map 260 D43 Te Anau
 
Route Guide Kepler Track

Kepler Track is approximately 67 km long and may be walked both ways. This Route Guide will describe the journey from Control Gates, Lake Te Anau to Rainbow Beach Carpark.

Location
Distance
Times
Te Anau Outlet to Mt Luxmore Hut
14 km
6 hours
Control Gates to Brod Bay
5.6 km
1 - 1.5 hours
Brod Bay to Luxmore Hut
8.5 km
2 - 2.5 hours
Luxmore Hut to Iris Burn Hut
18.6 km
6 hours
Iris Burn Hut to Moturau Hut
17.2 km
5 - 6 hours
Moturau Hut to Rainbow Reach Carpark
17.1 km
5 hours

Take 5 days and 4 nights for the Kepler track walk. Kepler track is a loop track. The most common pattern for walking the Kepler Track is:

 
Brod Bay
Brod Bay Lake Te Anau
Mt Luxmore View
Mt Luxmore View
Mt Luxmore Hut
Mt Luxmore Hut
 
Day 1 : Te Anau Outlet Control Gates to Mt Luxmore Hut

Approx 14 km. Walking Time: 6 hours. *These are average walking times and include rest periods.

Walking beside Lake Te Anau is a flat easy introduction to the Kepler Track. Te Anau is the second largest lake in New Zealand, 35 000 hectares, with one of the largest shorelines. From the control gates to Dock Bay and Brod Bay, the Kepler Track follows along beaches and terraces beside the lake. Storm beach ridges of gravel, formed by waves during high lake levels, can be seen in places. Tall forest growing on the terraces is generally made up of three southern beeches - red, silver and mountain beeech. They are easily distinguished by their different leaf shapes and bark.

At Brod Bay the kepler track turns away from the beach ( and the sandflies), and climbs a series of terraces left by glaciers and streams. Where the Kepler Track begins to zigzag, a new rock type appears in the trackside ditches: soft, blue-grey mudstone with microscopic fossils too small to be seen with the naked eye.

Just past a small saddle on the Kepler Track, the pale grey limestone bluffs come into view through the bush. However the outcrops beside the track at this point are not limestone but a hard, dark green rock known as gabbro. Soon the Kepler Track climbs up to the base of the steep limestone bluffs. Above the limstone bluffs the trees are short and gnarled, and birdlife is scarce. At around 1000m altitude the forest suddenly ends, and you have reached "the tops" of golden tussock grassland.

Above the treeline you can see a panoramic view of the region, from the Eglinton Valley in the north, to Foveaux Strait and Stewart Island in the far southern distance. The Livingstone Mountains to the northeast hide lake Wakatipu and the Queenstowns Area.

Kepler Track covers several alpine peat bogs, which began forming soon after the last glaciers retreated and are many thousands of years old. Boardwalks protect these fragile places from our footprints. From the Luyxmore Hut you look down on Hidden Lakes and South Fiord. Across South Fiord are the Murchison Mountains, where one of New Zealand's endangered birds, the takahe, lives in protected areas.

Hut: Mt Luxmore Hut, 40 bunks

 
Forest Burn Track
Forest Burn
Forest Burn Saddle
Forest Burn Saddle
Mt Luxmore Hut
Mt Luxmore Hut
 
Mt Luxmore Hut to Iris Burn Hut
Approx 18.6 km. Walking Time: 6 hours

From Mount Luxmore hut, the Kepler track zigzags up onto the upper slopes of Mount Luxmore, towards the eastern peak. Now the Kepler track follows a main ridge, giving ' roof of the world' views of SOuth Fiord and the valleys which flow toward Lake Manapouri. The Forest Burn ( on your left) is a typical glacial valley with a cirque and hanging valleyat the head and steep side walls. Exposure to wind and snow limits the growth of tall shrubs and there are well-developed grasslands of nearly pure curly snowgrass. Kea may follow you along this seciton of the Kepler track and you may see footprints where deer have crossed at night from feeding groundds in the bush.

From the Hanging Valley shelter the Kepler Track follows a narrio ridge down towards the Iris Burn. Everywhere the work of glaciers is obvious: the cirques and hanging valleys of Jackson Peaks, the deep trough of the Iris Burn, and the narrow arete you are walking on. Because the sides are so steep, the ridge has partly collapsed in places, forming smaller ridges parallel to the main ridge crest. Small tarns are ponded behind these 'ridge rents'.

Just before the Kepler track zigzags down into the bush of the Hanging Valley, a side track leads to a spectacular viewpoint above the Iris Burn. On a clear day the whole valleyis visible, from the waterfall and tussock flats at the Iris Burn hut, downstream past the Big Slip, to Rocky Point and the mouth of the Burn at Lake Manapouri.

At the start of the zigzags, the Kepler Track passes through subalpine scrub down towards the beech forest. Several of the shrub species are resinous and sweet smelling on a warm day. The subalpine mountain and silver beech forest is particularly rich in lichens. As you drop down into the Hanging Valley, the Kepler Track crosses back and forth as it zigzags down. The stream itself is the best place to see these colour changes.

From the lookout below the lip of the valley, the Big Slip in the Iris Burn can be seen clearly beyond a knob of bush-covered moraine in the middle of the valley. Old, healed-over scars from other landslides across the the valley show that the landscape is continually chaning. The forest hills in each gap made by avalanche, windthrow or slip, with a patch of young trees creating a mosaic.

Just above the Iris Burn Hut, the kepler track crosses the rocky debris of an old landlside. Cold air lies on the valley floor and cold-tolerant deciduous trees are common - ribbonwood and the papery-barked fuchsia, which bears red flowers with blue pollen in spring.

Iris Burn Hut is the standard 40-bunk model.

Hut: Iris Burn Hut, 40 bunks

 
Alpine Plants
Alpine Plants
Hanging Valley Shelter
Hanging Valley Shelter
Iris Burn Hut
Iris Burn Hut
 
Iris Burn Hut to Moturau Hut
Approx. 17.2 km. Walking time: 5- 6 hours

Big Slip and Rocky Point. Before leaving Iris Burn Hut, you should read the display panels explaining the origins of the Big Slip and the glaciation processes which have created much of the Fiordland landscape.

Most of day 3's walk is downhill, but just after leaving Iris Burn Hut there is a moraine hill to cross. As the Kepler Track climbs you can see the unsorted till, and on the downstream side of the saddle, large glacier-carried boulders poke through beech forest floor. The next 16 km of Kepler Track to Lake Manapouri is a gentle descent from 500m altitude to around 200m at the lake. Vegetation on this section is mostly tall forest. Ribbonwood and fuchsia occur in a few cold sites in the upper part of the valley, but most of the forest is dominated by silver and mountain beech. Down-valley towards Rocky Point, prickly shield fern gives way to crown fern as the major ground cover, but in areas of mountain beech forest, ferns in general are sparse. Widespread along the Kepler Track are the hook grasses.

A huge clearing formed by the Big Slip allows you to appreciate the steepness of the valley walls, which is typical of a glacier-carved valley. Soon after leaving this clearing, the Kepler Track crosses a hummocky areas in the bush which is another old glacial moraine. In the river bed below the Kepler track, you can see some very large boulders ( up to 10 m across) which have been eroded out of the moraine. Small open patches close to the base of bluffs ( on the left of the track) are caused by poor drainage and local cold spots.

Red tussock with scattered bog pine grows in several of these gaps in the forest. A large number of highly palatable tree species make these forests attractive to deer. Older landslide scars support large widely spaced silver beech trees.

Next large clearing is Rocky Point, which is not a landslide but an actively building stream fan. On the fresh gravel and silt there are thick stands of highly poisonous woody shrub tutu (Coriaria species).

Lower Valley, from the Rocky Point fan, the Kepler Track climbs onto terraces of glacial outwash gravels. In several places it corsses active landslides, shown by fallen trees and large cracks in the ground. At a small bridge past the catwalk you can make a detour off the track to the bed of the Iris Burn, and hunt for plant fossils ( in boulders of sandstone and mudstone) and blocks of coal.

On this section of the Kepler Track you may hear yellowheads, New Zealand's "bush canaries". A harsh screech you may also hear will belong to the long-tailed cuckoo, which visits these forests in the summer time.

At last the Kepler Track emerges onto the the delta of the Iris Burn. The delta is formed where the river water spreads out and slows as it enters the late, dropping all the sediment it carries. This is a good fishing spot where trout rise up and down to see what food the river has available.

From the delta the Kepler Track turns east to follow the shore of Lake Manapouri to Moturau Hhut ( another half hour). Great views across Lake Manapouri with its many islands to Mt Titiroa whose summit stands out clearly in the distance. Further towards Moturau Hut, Beehive and Pomona Island come into view.

 
Lake Manapouri
Lake Manapouri
Avalanche Zone Iris Burn
Avalanche Zone Iris Burn
Shallow Bay Lake Manapouri
Shallow Bay Lake Manapouri
 

Hut: Moturau Hut, 40 bunk

 
Moturau Hut to Rainbow Beach Carpark
Approx. 17.1 km. Walking time: 5 hours

Loweland Forests. This stretch of Kepler Track passes across moraine ridges, bogs and lakes, and around huge loops of the Waiau River. However, the first rock outcrops along the way way are of dark green gabbro similar to Mount Luxmore Rocks. A short distance on, a side track to the south leads to Shallow Bay Hut at the mouth of the Waiau River - this is another excellent fishing spot, and one of the few places on the Kepler Track where camping is allowed.

Large conifers, 25 - 30m tall -kahikatea, rimu, Hall's totaara and matai - occur in the lowland beech forest on boggy soils. Trees over a thousand years old grow amongst the younger beech trees, and often the only parts seen are the massive trunk bases with their distinctively flaky or hammer-marked bark.

Finely layered silt and sand are exposed in the bank where the Kepler Track crosses a small stream. Deposits such as these formed in old lakes, ponded behind the moraine ridges which create an abstract pattern between Manapouri and the Waiau River. From the boardwalk across this Sphagnum bog, you can see tall confiers rising above the main canopy of beech forest. These trees are important to the lowland forest birds as roosts and as a source of food for fruit-eaters.

From the Forest Burn Swing Bridge to the Waiau River, the Kepler Track is built on outwash gravel terraces. Layering in the gravels is clearly visible from the steep bank with the "DANGER" sign beside the track. Careful! These gravels are uncemented and unstable. From the bank above Balloon Loop there is an excellent view of plant succession along the banks of the Waiau River: low herbs near the current water course, manuka shrubland further back; young beech and then mature beech forest.

Shortly after Balloon Loop, the Rainbow Reach Bridge crosses the Waiau River to the Te Anau-Manapouri road. This is the end of the Kepler Track for those with transport arranged.

 
Murchison Range
Murchison Range
Shallow Bay
Shallow Bay
Wild Carrot
Wild Carrot
 
 
More>> Kepler Track Photos & DOC Kepler Track Brochure
 
Related
 

Further Information

Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre, Lakefront Drive, Te Anau
Phone: (03) 249 8514 or (03) 249 7924
Email: greatwalksbooking@doc.govt.nz or fiordlandvc@doc.govt.nz
Web: www.doc.govt.nz
 

 

 

 

 
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