Hiking the Kepler Track in January

By Ziggy Dukes

5 minute read

Get hold of your free New Zealand Trails brochure here

January is heralded as a time for new beginnings, new goals and new experiences. 

Whether you’ve done a Great Walk of New Zealand before, or you’re considering attempting your first, hiking the Kepler Track couldn’t be a better start to the year.

It’s one of three Great Walks that can be hiked in a circuit, meaning there are fewer logistics, and you’re free to enjoy the 60km (37 miles) hike, without worrying about how you’ll get home at the end!

Clear blue skies play backdrop to sharp mountain vistas, and lush beech forest shades you from the sun before releasing you onto some stunning shorelines, inviting you to take a cooling swim. 

1. Lake Manapouri Kepler Track

Lake Manapouri, Kepler Track


While you should always be prepared for rain, especially in Fiordland National Park, you can expect the season’s hottest temperatures in January making it one of the track’s most popular months. 

With that said, you’re still entering an alpine environment, which can get as low as 1°C (34°F) so don’t forget those base layers!

January Weather Guide

January Weather Guide

It’s easy to bask in the sunny days, just be sure not to misjudge the impact of those rays. It’s super important to bring LOTS of water. You can top up at each hut, just remember, DoC recommends you boil water first before use.

Insider tip: Supermarkets will often sell small powdered drink sachets containing electrolytes, which can be a welcome boost if you’re feeling dehydrated.

We also recommend hats, sunblock and some sunglasses.

Crowd levels and booking

January is peak summer in New Zealand and tends to be the busiest time on the Kepler Track.

During the month, you can expect to meet our international manuhiri (visitors) who have escaped their winter for our summer, as well as Kiwis who are still lucky enough to be on vacation.

Through the month, huts are hives of activity and a great place to meet kindred spirits, who love hiking as much as you do!

Hut and campsite bookings are required and the huts are often full through January and February so it’s a good idea to think ahead. Hut bookings for Great Walks usually open in early May each year, this is the best time to book if you want to take your pick of slots.

Campsites are usually still available at short notice, however, there are only two campsites on the entire track, so if there’s no hut availability, you’re in for a couple of big days hiking.

Check out January booking costs here:

January price guide - Kepler Track

January price guide.

The hut/campsite booking system is run by the Department of Conservation (DoC) - they’re also responsible for maintaining the track and its facilities.

Insider’s tip: If you can’t get a spot at the hut or campsite that you want, try checking a couple of nights before as there are often last-minute cancellations!

Transport and off-track accommodation in Te Anau

Te Anau is the last town before the track and is close by, taking less than 10 minutes to get to either starting points: Rainbow Reach or Kepler Carpark.

There are daily shuttles to entry and exit points from Te Anau as well as an option to take a water taxi from Te Anau to Brod Bay and vice versa.

Shuttle prices start from about $20 return, from Te Anau, for an adult and the water taxi is $40. There are also options to bus from Queenstown which cost upwards of about $125.

Before or after your hike, Te Anau has a range of places to stay, from cheap and cheerful to a bit of luxury after a few days “in the bush” as we might say. Prices range from $50 to $250.

If you’re hanging around town, be sure to check out Te Anau’s glowworm caves, just a short boat ride across the lake, for an astonishing display of nature’s shining wonders!

Te Anau’s also the gateway to the Milford Sound, and between the two are a myriad of wonderful day hikes if you’re that way inclined after completing the Kepler Track.

Here’s five awesome day hikes between Te Anau and Milford:

  • Key Summit (on the Routeburn track)
  • Humboldt Falls
  • Lake Marian track
  • Gertrude’s Saddle
  • Lake Gunn nature walk

If you’re on the Kepler Track or in Te Anau during January, you’ll likely also come across some of our super-guides, leading one of many New Zealand Trails tours out on the road during summer.

Our Masterpiece, Kiwi Classic, Pure South, trips all spend some time on the Kepler Track, and are a great option if you’d like to hike on the Kepler and explore the food, accommodation and other activities in the South Island, without having to plan a thing!


What will the weather be like?

January is the height of summer in New Zealand, so there can be some scorching hot days on the track. It’s typically a dry heat in the South Island (where the track is located), with temperatures reaching up to 25°C (77°F). Rain is not uncommon in summer, so always come prepared for that. It’s a great idea to check the weather forecast beforehand, we use metvuw for long-range forecasts.

What should I pack?

It’s always a good idea to check the weather and prepare for everything. Even though temperatures are high in January, you’ll still want to pack a good rain jacket and warm base layers just in case. Go heavy on the sun protection and water, we’re talking sunblock, a hat and some sunnies! Remember, a large portion of the track is an alpine environment, where you’re completely exposed to whatever the weather decides to do on your trip!

How hard is the walk?

The Kepler track is for intermediate hikers, meaning it’s well-formed (with some slipping hazards), it’s well marked and suits people with limited backcountry/remote area experience. Across the whole track you can expect just over 2000m in elevation gain, with most of the elevation in the section between Kepler Carpark and Luxmore Hut.

How do I get to and from the track?

If you’re driving yourself, there’s plenty of parking at Rainbow Reach and Kepler Carpark. There are also daily shuttles available from Te Anau, starting at about NZD$20 adult return, and water taxis from NZD$40. There are also transport options from Queenstown.

Interested in having your own adventure on the Kepler Track and exploring the natural beauty of New Zealand? Find out more about the trips we run by requesting a copy of your FREE BROCHURE HERE


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