An alpine section of the Kepler Track
|Length||60 km (37 mi)|
|Location||Fiordland National Park, Southland, New Zealand|
|Designation||New Zealand Great Walk|
|Trailheads||Lake Te Anau control gates, Rainbow Reach, Brod Bay|
|Highest point||Luxmore Saddle 1,400 m (4,600 ft)|
|Lowest point||Lake Manapouri, 178 m (584 ft)|
|Season||Summer to Autumn|
|Months||Late October to mid April Possible to walk in winter months too, but for experienced hikers only|
|Sights||Ridgetop alpine views, lakes, wetlands, forests, rivers, waterfalls|
|Hazards||Hypothermia, sunburn, high winds|
The Kepler Track is a 60 km (37 mi) circular tramping track which travels through some spectacular scenery of the South Island of New Zealand and is situated near the town of Te Anau. The track passes through many landscapes of the Fiordland National Park such as rocky mountain ridges, tall mossy forests, lake shores, deep gorges, rare wetlands and rivers. Like the mountains it traverses, the track is named after Johannes Kepler. The track is one of the New Zealand Great Walks and is administered by New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC).
Compared with other tracks in New Zealand, this walking track is constructed to a very high standard. Most streams are bridged, boardwalks cover boggy areas and the very steep sections have steps. It is a moderate walking track that takes three to four days to complete.
The Kepler Track is also home to the Kepler Challenge, an annual running race that traverses the whole 60 kilometres, which the winners complete in less than five hours.
Māori legend has it that Rakaihautu, legendary leader of the Māori migration 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 Ana 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 Lake Manapouri. The Kepler is situated between the two lakes.
Richard Henry, Fiordland's first ranger, lived at the southern end of Lake Te Anau for many years and often explored the Kepler area. James McKerrow named the range after the 17th Century German astronomer Johannes Kepler.
Early tracks up onto Mt. Luxmore were cut by Jack Beer to provide summer grazing for his sheep. Many tracks in New Zealand have evolved from Māori trails or pioneer exploration routes. The Kepler track however was established in 1988 and opened in February of that year as a Great Walk as part of the Fiordland National Park Centennial celebrations. Funding came from New Zealand Tourist and Publicity Department. It was designed to ease the strain on the popular Milford and Routeburn Tracks. The track had a considerable contribution from the International Expedition Operation Raleigh during 1986/87, when expeditioners from around the world constructed much of the walkways and the Iris Burn and Mount Luxmore huts.
The caves at Mt Luxmore were also mapped and Mount Raleigh was named above the Iris Burn.
The track is usually recommended to be walked in this route from the Lake Te Anau Control Gates. It can be walked in either direction. If time is short, the track can be shortened to three days by exiting or entering at the Rainbow Reach swing bridge using a car or bus.
While it is possible to complete the Kepler whilst camping this requires a 10-hour hike between Brod Bay and Iris Burn campsites. A much easier option is to stay at Luxmore Hut on the first night, then continue on to Iris Burn campsite for the second night, completing the track to Rainbow Reach on day three.
The price and availability of accommodation varies considerably between the peak season (summer) and the off-season (winter).
|Place||Day (Full)||Day (Short)||Distance||Time||Description|
|Lake Te Anau Control Gates
||1||5.6 km (3.5 mi)||1.5 hours||The track follows the shores of Lake Te Anau in beech forest to sandy Brod Bay where camping is permitted, and where it is possible to enter or exit the track by an arranged shuttle boat.|
|1||8.2 km (5.1 mi)||3.5 - 4.5 hours||From Brod Bay, the track climbs up past limestone bluffs (at 747 m or 2,451 ft) to Luxmore Hut (1,085 m or 3,560 ft) on Mt Luxmore. A short walk from the hut leads to a cave, one of about 30 in the area, of which many are still unexplored.|
|2||2||14.6 km (9.1 mi)||5 – 6 hours||A gradual climb from the hut to Luxmore Saddle (1,400 m or 4,600 ft) which is the highest point on the main trail, offering extensive views of the park. There is an opportunity to climb to the peak of Mount Luxmore (1,472 m or 4,829 ft) for a 360 degree view including Lake Te Anau.
Emergency shelters are located at Forrest Burn and Hanging Valley - though overnight stays are expressly forbidden, except in an emergency.
The path then follows a long, open ridge toward the Iris Burn and descends via a series of zigzags into a hanging valley. The track descends through forest, and provides a view of a large natural landslide. The Iris Burn Hut (497 m or 1,631 ft) is sited in a large tussock clearing 1.5 km (0.93 mi) from Iris Burn waterfall.
|Iris Burn Hut|
|3||3||16.2 km (10.1 mi)||5 – 6 hours||The track climbs over a low saddle and wanders through mixed forest to the large slip formed during heavy rain in January 1984. The track sidles through a gorge to come out on river flats near the mouth of the Iris Burn. It follows the lakeshore around Shallow Bay to Moturau Hut, situated beside a beautiful beach with panoramic views of Lake Manapouri.|
|4||6 km (3.7 mi)||1.5 – 2 hours||This short section crosses many small streams, before running next to the Waiau River until it reaches the Rainbow Reach swing bridge, where there is a carpark, and tramper bus services.|
|Rainbow Reach Swing Bridge
|9.5 km (5.9 mi)||2.5 - 3.5 hours||The undulating track here traverses mixed forest and crosses many small streams, arriving back at the Control Gates.|
|Lake Te Anau Control Gates|
The Kepler Track is located in the south west of the South Island. The nearest townships of Te Anau (4.6 km or 2.9 mi away) and Manapouri have a full range of accommodation and shops catering to all tramping needs.
The Kepler Track is accessed from the Lake Te Anau Control Gates, either by road or a 50-minute walk from the Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre in Te Anau, or over the swingbridge across the Waiau River at Rainbow Reach, a ten-minute (12 km or 7.5 mi) drive from Te Anau.
Shuttle buses also operate during the summer months to entry and exit points on the track and a scheduled boat service provides access to Brod Bay.
Huts And Campsites
- Brod Bay campsite
This campsite is situated on Lake Te Anau and is the first campsite on the trail if you have started the trek from the control gates.
- Luxmore Hut
This hut sleeps 54 in bunk style rooms with mattresses and is equipped with stoves and tables inside for cooking as well as an outside deck area. There is a large bunk room and a smaller bunk room that faces Lake Te Anau and provides a spectacular view. Camping is not permitted at this site. A short 15 minute hike behind the hut and you can explore the underground Luxmore Caves.
- Iris Burn Hut
This hut sleeps 50 in 3 separate bunk rooms with mattresses and provides the same amenities as the Luxmore. The hut is situated near a small field where there is a small river. About a 20-minute walk from the hut is the Iris Burn Waterfall where swimming is possible. 
- Iris Burn campsite
There are several campsites provided in the shaded area of the trees near the hut and by the stream. It has been advised to not camp in the field as the Kea birds (forest parrots) are known to pester tents that are situated in the field. To note: If you book a campsite you are not permitted to use the facilities in the hut. Outdoor bathrooms and a picnic area are provided.
- Moturau Hut
Situated on the beautiful Lake Manapouri, this hut sleeps 40 in bunk beds with mattresses. In summer swimming in the lake and outdoor picnic tables are available.
Like most huts on New Zealand's great walks, you will need to book them with the Department Of Conservation (DOC) New Zealand in advance. Tickets can be picked up prior to your departure to the trail at the Visitor's Center in either Te Anau or Manapouri. Note that there are no showers at any of the huts. You are required to carry all your trash with you and leave no trace. It is recommended to bring bug spray in summer months as sand flies are abundant. 
Along the trail there are shelters that can be used for day time picnic and rest stop use and a few that are set up to be used in emergencies during the winter months. 
- Hosking, Gordon; Hosking, Michele; Kamp, Peter; Kamp, John (2002). Kiwi Footpaths Track Guide No.2 The Kepler. Kiwi Footpaths Limited. ISBN 0-473-08820-7.
- Kepler Track (Map) (3rd ed.). 1 : 60,000. Parkmap. Cartography by GeoSmart (NZ) Ltd. New Zealand Department of Conservation. 2003.
- DuFresne, Jim (November 2006). Tramping in New Zealand (6th ed.). Victoria, Australia: Lonely Planet Publications Ply Ltd. p. 302. ISBN 1-74059-788-5.
- "Kepler Track" (PDF). New Zealand Department of Conservation. 2006–2007. Retrieved 2007-05-18.
- Kids Restore The Kepler History (2011).
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