Hiking the Kepler Track in December
December is a month of excitement on the Kepler track, especially if you’re a mountain runner or keen to spend Christmas in one of the most beautiful DoC huts in New Zealand.
The track is a treasure trove of stunning mountain vistas, lake views and moss-covered beech forest. Keen to give it a go in December? Here’s what you need to know!
Generally, you can expect crowd levels to start to grow compared to the spring months as December is the much anticipated first month of summer! Woohoo! However, given a lot of people like to be home for Christmas, or have other plans, the track doesn’t tend to hit peak numbers until January or February.
With that said, the first weekend of December is particularly busy as the track plays host to The Kepler Challenge - described as New Zealand’s premier mountain running event. Introduced in 1988, three years after the Kepler Track was completed, the event has soared in popularity and entices large crowds of spectators to the track.
Limited to a field of 450 runners, competitors run the entire 60km/37mi loop, with the very elite completing it in around five hours or under. While the crowds are cheering the runners on, you can also expect a few claps and cheers as you walk past various checkpoints along the track, the good vibes are plentiful over this weekend, for sure!
As far as huts go, bookings are required for December, and it’s best you get them done a few months in advance as there don’t tend to be too many last minute spots available as December creeps up.
Hut bookings for Great Walks open in early May each year - exact dates are usually announced by the Department of Conservation in March.
Lots of people forget campsites are also available for booking! There’s usually HEAPS of space in December, and some spots are truly glorious.
Just imagine waking up to sunrise at the gorgeous Brod Bay
One thing to note about Kepler Track campsites is that they’re quite spread apart. It’s 5.6km/3.5mi from Kepler Carpark to Brod Bay campsite, then another 22.8km/14.2 to Iris Burn campsite - which is the only other campsite on the track. From Iris Burn campsite, it’s 31.7km/19.7mi back to Kepler Carpark.
If you’re going to book campsites, be prepared for some good days’ hiking, or try to book a mixture of campsites and huts to space out the walk.
Your main costs for this track will be your transport to and from the track, DoC hut/campsite fees, hotel/motel fees if you choose to stay in Te Anau before and/or after, and food.
Check out December's DoC hut/campsite pricing below (per person, per night):
And here’s our estimates for everything else (per person)!
Getting there, and getting out
Te Anau (2.5 hours from Queenstown) is the last town before the Kepler track starts at either Kepler Carpark or Rainbow Reach. Both starting points are less than 10 minutes from Te Anau by car, just follow the Manapouri-Te Anau highway and the signage will be obvious!
The actual trail is a loop, so you can park at either Rainbow Reach or the Kepler Carpark and walk straight back around to your vehicle, however there are options like getting a water taxi from the Te Anau Lakefront to Brod Bay and getting a water taxi out or taking a shuttle from Rainbow Reach.
Kepler Track Weather
December is the first month of Kiwi summer! Even though it’s heating up, it’s always advisable to come prepared for any weather, with highest and lowest temperatures ranging from 22°C/72°F and 0°C/32°F respectively. It’s rare, but not unheard of for it to snow in Fiordland in December!
Below is a quick breakdown of what expected temperatures, rainfall and sunlight hours.
What to bring for December weather
In Fiordland, you should always prepare for any weather - you are neighbouring Milford Sound - the wettest inhabited place in New Zealand, after all!
Our Ultimate New Zealand Packing List will tell you everything you need to know about packing for our climate, and here are some basics to get you started:
- Hiking boots - firm and comfortable
- Shirt (wool or polypropylene)
- Socks (wool or polypropylene)
- Quick-dry shorts and t-shirts
- Under layers, top and bottom (wool or polypropylene)
- Mid-layers (wool or polar fleece)
- Waterproof and windproof raincoat and overtrousers
- Personal locator beacon
- LOTS of water!
Have we convinced you yet? Of course we have! We’ll see you out there! However if you’re keen to tag along with us, we do day hikes on the Kepler on our Pure South, Masterpiece, Kiwi Classic and Great Walk Adventure trips. Let us take care of the details while you enjoy the glorious sights and sounds of Kepler Track.
If you'd like to find out more about the trips we run and start your own Kiwi adventure then request a copy of your free brochure HERE.