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The Kepler track is a three or four day round trip with a great variety of scenery. The track starts at the Lake Te Anau control gates and climbs from the lakeshore to Luxmore Hut. On the second day it crosses exposed alpine ridge tops and descends to the Iris Burn Hut. The third day’s walk follows the Iris Burn, a glacial valley, to Moturau Hut on the shore of Lake Manapouri.
Walkers may finish at the Rainbow Reach swingbridge, where there is road access and a shuttle bus service to Te Anau during the summer season, or continue on to the Te Anau control gates.
Camping is only permitted at Brod Bay and the Iris Burn Hut area. Great Walks passes are required to stay in the Department of Conservation huts, and are available from the Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre in Te Anau.
The Control Gates or Rainbow Reach offer good starting points for excellent short day walks. At these low levels, the paths are easy going and well-formed, suitable for family outings.
The Kepler Track is in Fiordland National Park, part of the Southwest New Zealand World Heritage Area
Length: 67 kilometres
Number of days required to walk: 3-4
Number of huts: 3
Highest point: 1478m
Can be guided: No.
Track condition: Excellent
Track popularity: High.
Rakaihautu, legendary leader of the Maori canoe Uruao, is said to have named the great lakes while exploring the interior of the South Island. During a period of wet weather his party found a large and beautiful lake which they named Te Aria Au, meaning cave of rain, and just south of it another lake which Rakaihautu named Roto Ua, the lake where rain is constant. Today we know Roto Ua as Manapouri, a corruption of Manawa Popore (lake of the sorrowing heart), the original name of North Mavora Lake.
People seeking food from the forests, lakes and rivers of the area followed these early explorers. Evidence of seasonal Maori occupation has been found around the bays of both lakes and in the valleys which provided a link to the Fiordland coast.
Assisted by Maori guides, European explorers Charles Nairn and William Stephen found the lakes in 1852.
Richard Henry, Fiordland’s first ranger, lived at the southern end of Lake Te Anau for many years and often explored the Kepler Mountains. Surveyor James McKerrow named the range after the 17th Century German astronomer Johannes Kepler.
Early tracks up onto Mt Luxmore were cut by runholder Jack Beer to provide summer grazing for his sheep. The Kepler Track was built with funding from the New Zealand Tourist and Publicity Department and opened in February 1988 in time for New Zealand’s national park centennial celebrations.
The Kepler Track starts at the Lake Te Anau outlet control gates, 45 minutes walk from the Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre in Te Anau. Te Anau itself is easily accessible by road and has a regular bus service and a full range of accommodation options.
There is a shuttle bus service to and from the track ends, and boat services from Te Anau to Brod Bay.
Control Gates to Brod Bay 1½ hours, 5.6 km.
The track follows the lakeshore through mountain and red beech with kamahi and some scattered rimu and miro. After passing an attractive grove of hard tree ferns and crown fern Dock Bay is reached. Continue on across the Coal Creek swingbridge and follow the lakeshore to Brod Bay. Brod Bay is a delightful place to swim, and to camp if you had a late start.
Brod Bay to Luxmore Hut 3½ to 4½ hours, 8.5 km.
The track to the bushline starts about halfway along the beach and climbs steadily for about two hours to limestone bluffs; an ideal lunch stop. After another hour’s climb the bush line is reached providing panoramic views of the Te Anau basin, Takitimu Mountains, and the Snowdon and Earl Mountains. The Mt Luxmore Hut is about 50 minutes’ walk from the bushline.
Mt Luxmore Hut to Iris Burn Hut 5 to 6 hours, 18.6km.
In heavy rain, strong winds or wintry weather, wait at the hut until the weather improves. From Luxmore Hut the track climbs gradually to a ridge just below the summit of Mt Luxmore (1471 metres). It then descends to a shelter close to the Forest Burn Saddle. Beware of wind gusts when crossing the saddle. The track sidles, climbs and then follows a ridge system for about two hours to the Hanging Valley Shelter. It then follows a long, open ridge toward the Iris Burn and descends via a series of zig-zags into Hanging Valley. The track continues down through forest, and provides a view of a large natural slip. The Iris Burn Hut (497 metres) is sited in a large tussock clearing with brilliant views up the valley. For a pleasant evening stroll head up the valley for 20 minutes to Iris Burn Waterfall.
Iris Burn Hut to Moturau Hut 5 to 6 hours, 17.2km.
A steady day’s tramp down through beech forest, riverside clearings and a gorge. The track climbs over a low saddle and wanders through mixed forest to the large slip formed during heavy rain in January 1984. About 2½ hours from the Iris Burn Hut the track reaches Rocky Point, a work camp for track maintenance and a good place for a lunch stop. Below Rocky Point the track sidles through a gorge to come out on river flats near the mouth of the Iris Burn. Nearing Lake Manapouri the track turns left through lowland beech and podocarp forest. It follows the lakeshore around Shallow Bay to Moturau Hut, situated beside a beautiful beach with panoramic views of Lake Manapouri.
Moturau Hut to Rainbow Reach 1.5 hours, 6.2km.
The last day is a gentle stroll through beech forest to Rainbow Reach. The track crosses a wetland and then the meandering Forest Burn just above its outlet into Balloon Loop, an old part of the Upper Waiau River. It then follows the Waiau River terrace to the swingbridge at Rainbow Reach. In summer trampers can catch a shuttle bus service from Rainbow Reach to Te Anau.
Rainbow Reach to Control Gates 3 hours, 10.9km.
The track up river from Rainbow Reach is well worth walking for the variety of forest and river views. This section provides good opportunities for trout fishing.
Huts and Campsite Passes and Bookings
In the summer season a Great Walks Hut or Campsite Pass for the Kepler must be purchased before entering the track and be displayed at all times.
There is no booking system and a hut pass does not guarantee a bunk and there is a two-night limit on staying at each hut. Passes are available from the Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre in Te Anau.
A surcharge applies to passes purchased at the huts. Outside the summer season the huts have no heating or gas for cooking.
Visitors need Backcountry Hut Tickets or an Annual Hut Pass to use the huts during this period, and should be well equipped to cope with winter conditions.
For more enquiries, please e-mail the Department of Conservation: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Kepler Track is not an easy walk. Walking on the exposed mountain tops in bad weather can lead to hypothermia if sufficient care is not taken. Refer to the Gear List for information on what you should take with you. Most important is a raincoat and warm clothing.
Camping is permitted on the Kepler Track only at the designated campsites at Brod Bay and adjacent to Iris Burn hut. Camping outside these areas is prohibited because of the fragile nature of the area and high fire risk in summer. Campers should carry a portable stove.