Hiking the Copland Track

What’s better than a nice, long, hike up a gorgeous valley through untouched native forests? A nice, long, hike up a gorgeous valley through untouched native forests that ends at NATURAL HOT SPRINGS!


That’s right folks, we just returned from our latest adventure, a two-day, 36km walk to Welcome Flat Hut on the western end of the Copland Track. The full track connects the Fox Glacier area with Mount Cook Village, via Copland Pass over the Southern Alps. Copland Pass is notoriously dangerous and difficult, but the trek up the valley approaching the pass is quite easy and stunningly beautiful. Simply turn around and hike out after a night at Welcome Flat, avoiding the pass and any need for connecting transportation.

Oh and did I mention there are NATURAL HOT SPRINGS at the hut? And when I say natural, I mean natural: no concrete in sight. Bubbling, gaseous water is literally seeping out of the ground mere feet from the hut and pouring into several pools ranging from bathwater warm to “perhaps I’ll poach an egg in here” hot. A strange soft green mud lines the bottom of the pools, with which we promptly and thoroughly exfoliated. Who needs a spa? Nature’s got it sorted.

To top it off, the glacial Copland River flows steps away from the pools, so if you’re game you can easily go back and forth between sizzling and shivering. Sensory overload? Check.

A few words to the wise: bring some sandals for the path back and forth from the springs to the river and hut, unless your Kiwi Feet are well-trained. My tender dogs were a bit sore after jogging between the river and pools a few times in bare feet, and I paid for it on the six hour walk out the next day. Speaking of the next day, take a leisurely start and another wake-up dunk in the river/pools, then head up the valley past the hut (leaving your packs behind) toward Douglas Rock for about an hour. The views of Mt. Sefton and the rest of the craggy Southern Alps only get better and the track is often empty. Plus, now you’ll have the majority of the crowd well in front of you for the walk out.

Photos by Robyn Wilson. Thanks Robyn!

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