The Copland track is a not so well known track in the West Coast of the south island which holds a nice surprise at the end of the day for weary hikers.
The track is technical and in poorer weather conditions quite dangerous, as DOC mentions the track will often close after bad weather due to the dangers of slips.
It is not a leisurely and well-maintained track like the Abel Tasman but it certainly holds a lot of beauty with some amazing landscapes and photo opportunities along the way.
Be prepared and have a good level of fitness and if you manage some good weather its well worth the hike, especially with the Hot pools at the end of the day, along with the crystal clear skies.
A great time to wish on all those shooting stars you’ll be seeing.
It is, however, an amazing track with some amazing scenery to boot.
Read our adventure of the Copland Track below!
Copland Track – Day 1
(By Ev) Team Goatz took on the rugged and raw beauty of the Copeland track.
This adventure took place in our traditional New Years hiking spot in the last breath of December and first breath in January of the new year.
A proud tradition we have established.
Certainly, no better way to kick start the year exploring a beautiful natural environment.
The Mission began with the drive through from Christchurch over the Arthurs Pass and down the West Coast. Beauty road trip.
Its worth 6 hours of your time and that doesn’t include stops. Which you will make even if just to grab a bite and take some pictures.
The track was going through a historic dry spell on our visit.
The hut warden reported in his time working on the track it was by far the longest streak without rain.
The streak to that point was 12 days.
New Zealand’s West Coast is renowned for the quality of perpetration along with its frequency.
Where traditionally The Copeland track begins with a river crossing across a decent wide network of water.
This crossing is typically above knee height on your average adult.
Then there is times that this crossing is unsafe to attempt where the track can be closed.
We started this famed river crossing by walking through the rock garden where the river would typically be.
There was a small section where we took of the shoes and made our crossing.
The shoes went back on and feeling fortune we didn’t start the hike with wet feet.
Once across the river, one finds themselves immediately surrounded by lush West Coast forest.
The signs of where the water would normally be were everywhere, as we walked through dry creek beds.
When its wet you would be getting your feet wet.
For the first hour, it is a gentle climb with the forest opening a couple of times to green pasture with the hills of the valley on either side.
Pretty easy going.
As a rule on the Copeland Track, the river is never far away.
There are some beautiful periods in the walk spend walking in the sand beside the river.
Other parts are rock hoping beside the river.
Some of the exciting sections of the trail we found ourselves twisting our way up quite steep sections where slips have come through.
These parts require an engaged mind.
A slip here would not be the type of start to a new year or for that matter a week for any mammal.
After the first couple of hours, the gradient of the track became consistently steeper.
Swing bridges became a feature as we weaved up the valley across the river at times.
The track its self is technical in nature.
Not ironed out and slick like a highway.
Roots stick out, rocks, rises and dips are constant.
Climbs up rock and tree root stairs.
The trail is obvious.
The trail is technical.
I kept thinking if there had been a lot of rain this would raise the challenge significantly.
An athlete would have to be very focused on each step for a lot of the track.
Even in dry conditions, I could hear the water flowing behind many of the sheer faces.
I could imagine a time where large sections of the track would have to be redeveloped as the great mother makes some adjustments to her landscape.
We pushed in at a decent rate of knots as we made it to Welcome Hut.
She’s 18K’s walking in a straight line but this isn’t a straight line.
Took us GoatZ 5 – 5.5 hours.
DOC reckons 7 hours.
It’s up to the individual really.
DOC times on the trails of NZ are guidelines and subjective.
Welcome Hut likely called ‘Welcome Hut’ due to the fact it is welcomed by weary hikers.
Nice feeling to put the bag down.
The hut is big.
Plenty of cooking spots to get that backcountry cuisine in ya.
The hot pools are great.
Only a 2-minute walk from the hut.
There is something about putting one’s body into a muddy bubbly pit that brings the zen out.
A just reward for efforts made.
The vista of the mountains all around, the birds. Super stuff.
If you indulging during the day I would suggest bug spray is a must.
A Mosquito head net would be advised also.
You will thank me for saying this.
In fact, I’m going to go ahead and say it now.
If you don’t take a supply of bug spray to the West Coast of NZ. You don’t love your self.
The little insects will love you, however.
Start loving your self.
Copland Track – Day 2
After a restful night in the recovery position in our little puffy sacks, the lads sprung outta the sack ready for another day of adventure, banter, and photography.
Today was day packs (light pack with food and water bottles) only as we were returning to the Welcome Hut.
This due to the fact there is nothing quite like the site of a welcome hut.
The trail of the Copeland track above the Welcome Hut is not as popular as that up to Welcome Hut.
We did a day walk up to Douglas Hut is approximately 2 1/2 hour hike from Welcome Hut.
Now this trail is not kept like the trail up to Welcome Hut.
If you found the hike up to Welcome hut tough going then I wouldn’t recommend going far past it.
We found the trail easy to follow.
Though there are sections being reclaimed by nature and some significant slips where you will feel quite small amongst the giant rocks all around you.
Certainly a healthy reminder of the power of nature.
If you were at one of these spots when the earth moves it just means it was your time.
So beautiful up here.
It will be you and whoever you within the Southern Alps of New Zealand.
Remember we were here at New Years.
The busiest time for domestic travel in NZ.
We meet one other person that day who was staying at Douglas Hut out hunting.
We hiked a further 30 minutes past the hut on this day.
To some epic views back down the Copeland Valley.
You can continue right up to Copeland Pass.
This connects to Mount Cook National Park the valley on the other side.
Things could get real out here.
Unless you are a mountaineer with all your gears you don’t continue beyond the pass.
There have been a number of mountaineers who have perished attempting this crossing.
Back at Welcome Hut food, hot pools and this night in the tent with the hut being fully booked.
Beautiful sleeping under the stars.
Same goes with laying in the hot pools just looking up.
Zero light pollution out here. #billionstarhotel
Copland Track – Day 3
The hike out took us some time.
We also misevaluated our hike time on the way up by an hour (aforementioned time is correct).
This was physiologically damaging for the weary body of the man. = )
We made it.
I swam naked in the icy cool water to refresh and feel both the pain and the joy of shrinkage.
Fox Glacier is a small Wear Coast town about a 30-minute drive from the trail start/finish car park.
We enjoyed a great feed at a pub there which really refreshed spirits.
Much like a naked swim in a freezing river.
Here are some steps to take to be great and enjoy the experience.
Get your ass fit.
Book the hut.
Pack a good sleeping bag, food and snacks.
Drink bottle (we drunk the water from all the rivers).
If its inflow its a go.
Better than bottled water.
Check the weather, check the track conditions.
Do not forget your insect spray and a head net would be recommended also.
They are savage little beasts and they will destroy you.
Map / Topography / Distances
Provided you hit the track on a good day and everything is open then the estimated time from the beginning to the Welcome Hut is 7 hours.
The distance is 18km to the Welcome Hut and there is another 2 bunk hut call ‘Architect Creek’ hut which is approximately 10 km into the track.
If you plan to travel further, be sure to take all the safety precautions recommended by DOC.
Should you plan to go, you are in for a treat, there is some amazing backcountry.
It is a further 7km from Welcome Hut to Douglas Rock hut.
As mentioned, the train is well weathered with slips and growth.
Copeland Track Details
As mentioned in our account of the track, the track would be very susceptible to the elements.
The first half of the track would be extremely slippery with a little bit of rain and to the Welcome Hut, there are a couple of landslide warnings.
If you intend to delve further up to the Douglas Hut, there are a number of places which have had large rockslides.
You will spend a lot of time along the base of the mountains with a lot of rock sitting very unstable above.
In the wrong conditions, it would be pretty dangerous.
Be sure to do your weather and track condition homework before you go.
The Copland track is on the West Coast, and if you don’t know anything about the West Coast I can tell you there is a good chance it is going to rain.
Getting there and back.
We did this probably the easiest way – by driving. You are able to park at the beginning of the track and as you will likely return back this way this are pretty simple.
It is a bit of a drive from major centres, for example from Christchurch it will take around 5 hours 40 by car.
There are flights to Fox Glacier from Christchurch.
You could choose to stay in Franz Josef and there are 3 options to get to the track from there, which are a bus (from Frans Josef to Queenstown), Taxi or by Car.
This website gives a good break down of approximate costs along with bookings.
Booking the Copland
You will need to book the hut before you go, and likely if you are wanting to go when there is nice weather, it will be peak season so be sure you book early.
Although it’s not as popular as the great walks, it is still popular.
You can make your bookings with DOC.
Leave a comment and give us your thoughts!