The Copland Track
Westcoast of New Zealands’ south island
Ca. 36 km
Ca. 400 metres in altitude
Easy, but demanding with heavy backpacks
Swim suits and towel
Water, food and gas cooker
The parking lot is directly at Haast Highway, ca. 25 km south of Fox Glacier. To get there you have to pass a wooden gate. Be careful: Depending on season and weather, the area might be swarming with sand flies.
From the parking lot your first task will be to cross the river. This is a good clue if the conditions are good enough for the hike all together. If you can’t pass the river easily, you should think about going on another day – there’s a good chance you won’t be able to pass other sections further upstream. Who doesn’t want to get his feet wet, can take a small detour (roundabout 2 km) to get to a swinging bridge. We were fine with just taking our boots off and lifting our pants up.
In general almost the whole track follows the river valley and passes some swinging bridges. But there are a few ups and downs to overcome. At two points, where rock falls happened, you have to cross rubble. But for the better part the track leads even through ferns and mossy forest. Almost halfway you’ll come across the “Architect Creek” hut, which you don’t need to book but only has one bunk bed. A comfy little house – but if you only have 2 days for the tour, you should consider spending the night in the “Welcome Flat” hut. Because this is where the hot pools are! Only minutes from the hut, warm to hot water is waiting for you in slightly muddy, natural pools. After hiking for up to 7 hours, laying in the pools at night with snow-capped mountains around and stars above you is a feeling without comparison!
The return route is the same way you came in. Beds in the “Welcome Flat” can be booked over the DOC website. In main season you should book a good while ahead. But if the hut is full you can also book a space on the campground nearby. For true outdoor people there’s also a dry place under a big rock – we call it “Boofe” in German.
The DOC will also know the current conditions on the track – ask in an office or per E-Mail. In main season, there will be a ranger in the “Welcome Flat”, who can give you the weather report – useful if you’re planning to hike higher up into the mountains where another hut awaits you. This is for experienced hikers only – as far as we heard. But you’ll definitely earned your hot bath after that…
At least the start of the path into the mountains is worth a detour – an impressive, old swinging bridge crosses the river and leads down to the river bed where you can collect fire wood. It starts only a few meters downstream of the Welcome Flat.
And of course: There’s no waste collection at the huts, so brings plastic bags to take your rubbish back with you.