How to Hike the Kepler Track for Only $20
How to hike the Kepler Track for as little as $20
The Kepler Track is one of New Zealand’s nine great walks. Out of those 9, it is also one of the most scenic and a favourite among many. However, as the 2018 season kicked off so did the Department of Conservations (the people who look after the trails) new pricing for tourists on 4 of the Great Walks. For both huts and campsites on the 4 hikes affected it has double the price. For many, these new prices have made visiting and walking these 4 Great Walks inaccessible.
Both Bailey and I had lived in New Zealand for longer than 6 months when it came to hiking the Kepler Track and as such were eligible for the local pricing. This made the walk affordable for us and the reason we decided we couldn’t miss out. What we found out though, while hiking the Kepler Track was that there is actually a completely legitimate way of hiking the trail for a lot less money than you think.
Although Bailey and I had already paid and were now on the trail, we decided to investigate this further and come up with a plan for others on how you can hike the trail for as little as $20 for locals, or $40 for tourist. The best part is it only involves one booking. Here’s how it’s done!
We will be writing this blog as if you were walking in a counterclockwise direction. The main reason for this is that if you hike the other way you will be faced with a really hard day that had someone during our hike get an emergency helicopter off the trail due to exhaustion and dehydration.
Day 1 – Control Gates to Luxmore Hut
This first night is the biggest challenge and hiking the Kepler Track the way mentioned here is not for those without hiking experience. If you do experience any problems go straight to the Luxmore Hut for help.
Your first day will involve hiking to the most beautiful hut on the trail – the Luxmore Hut. This hut has no camping spots and costs $65 (local) and $130 (tourist). However, what we found out after arriving at the hut is you can actually camp here for free – there’s just one catch, you must hike 500m off the trail (we found this information in the Luxmore Hut.) In other areas on the Kepler Track getting this far off the track is actually impossible due to thick bushlands. However, at the Luxmore Hut, it is actually pretty easy.
We did a little investigating while there and believe the best place would be near the caves. Near the Luxmore Hut, there are a few caves you can explore. There is a path that leads to them and if you follow it to the end but continue a little further you will be around (I don’t think anyone is going to come up and measure your distance) the 500m mark. At the caves which will be a few hundred meters from your campsite, you have clean water that is good enough to be boiled for cooking. As for drinking water, you can actually use the Luxmore Huts outside overflow tap for free.
What you need to camp here
The area around the Luxmore Hut has no shelter from the weather. This means if you plan on staying in a tent up here you need to have a good quality tent built for alpine conditions and warm sleeping bags (at least -5 Celsius comfort zone). Along with that, you will need good quality warm clothes and waterproof gear. It would also be a good idea to have a tent big enough to fit your bags to shelter them from both the weather and Kea’s (this is a real problem and they will take your stuff).
Day 2 – Luxmore Hut to Iris Burn Campsite
This is by far the most beautiful day of the hike but also the only night you’re going to need a reservation. You can reserve and campsite at the Iris Burn Hut for $20 (local) $40 (tourist). You must book your campsite through the Department of Conservation here.
The reason you must pay to camp here is that it would be very difficult to get 500m off the track to camp for free. This section of the Kepler Track is through a thick rainforest where it would be impossible to find a clearing to set up your tent.
What you need to camp here
Since this is a paid campsite there are toilets, a shelter for cooking, and cleaning drinking water available. The campsite is much lower in altitude than the Luxmore Hut and in a valley sheltered from the weather. You really just need a standard tent, sleeping bag, and cooking equipment to camp here.
Day 3 – Iris Burn Hut to Shallow Bay Hut
This next day is to a little-known hut called the Shallow Bay Hut. This small hut a few kilometres past the Moturua Hut (the recommended paid hut for the walk.) Shallow Bay Hut is a non-serviced, unmanned hut on the edge of Lake Manapouri. The hut has 6 beds at a first come first serve basis and plenty of room for camping. To stay in the hut, you should buy a $5 hut pass from the Department of Conservation in Te Anau before starting the hike.
To find this hut you must walk for around 25minutes past Moturua Hut until you see the sign for Shallow Bay Hut. Follow this path along the lake’s edge then turn right along the beach. Walk up a 100 meters till you see the large orange trail marker and follow these to the hut.
What you need to camp here
I would suggest carrying extra water for cooking here and be sure to arrive with filled water bottles. You can fill your bottle at the Moturua Hut. This is because the lake here has freshwater algae called Didymo. I don’t know much about it and am unsure if after boiling its safe to drink this water.
Day 4 – Shallow Bay Hut to Control Gates
This last day you will walk 16km to the end of the trail back to where you started!
We can not stress enough the importance to be prepared mainly on the first night. If you plan on hiking this way then wait until you get good weather conditions and consider hiking in the middle and end of summer when temperatures are warmer at the Luxmore Hut.
If you do give this route a go, please let us know how you went so we can share it with other travelers!
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November 17, 2018