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Copland Track, West Coast of the South Island

The Copland Track is located south of Fox Glacier on the West Coast in the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area. It’s a 7 to 8 hour walk (17 km / 10.5 miles) into Welcome Flat Hut and an absolute highlight of our Winter Rimu trip that runs from May until September.

Copland Track, West Coast

Very popular amongst local Kiwis, the Copland Track has experienced a boost in popularity in recent years and is now also becoming well known on the international hiking circuit. This is partly thanks to the Department of Conservation (DoC), who has poured considerable resources into improving the track to make it wider and safer, including the installation of modern swing bridges (don’t worry – they’re perfectly safe and not as scary as they may look!). This newfound popularity is also thanks in part to the increased spotlight on natural hot springs dotted around the country, lots of which are only accessible on foot! Another sign of its growing popularity is the fact that DoC now supports a permanent hut volunteer over the summer months to make sure people are paying their hut fees and generally looking after the hut.

Description of the Copland Track

There’s no easing into the Copland Track. It’s an onslaught of the senses from the moment you step off the bus at the start of the track. From the get-go, you’ll be greeted by the local sandflies that celebrate when you stand still to get your pack ready. Leaving those little, um… nuisances behind and heading into the bush, it’s easy going for the first hour or so, over a nice, forgiving forest floor and across long open patches of grass. The fun really begins when the track joins back up with the Copland River, providing a fun challenge to the hiker navigating the mossy boulder field. You'll also see “Dog Rock” (it looks just like the head of an Irish Setter) which is about 1 hour short of the half-way point on the track.

A little later, respite comes in the form of the ironically named “Architect Hut” – four simple walls, a roof, 2 bunks, 2 mattresses and a wee potbelly stove sum up this hut. But it’s the smaller touches that capture the imagination here. The hut visitor book is always a good read and the empty bottles of wine conjure up telltale images of warmth and rosy cheeks. Hopefully, you haven’t delved too far into your packed lunch already, but if you have, your guide is always a miraculous source of further snacks. After lunch, the track continues winding its way up the valley with some memorable swing bridges to cross and views of the Southern Alps. It’s a long tramp that is challenging for most, but as our 'Winter Rimu' travelers always comment – it’s well worth it!

Copland Track swing bridge

Should I walk the Copland Track?

Walking this fairly demanding track all day – albeit pleasantly distracted by the stunning views – is a challenge for most, but the rewards are well worth it. Here’s a typical scenario that may help you paint a picture of what it might be like to hike the Copland Track on the 'Winter Rimu':

1) You’re 6 ½ hours in and you wonder if you’ve taken a wrong turn. You chastise yourself for not listening more carefully to your trip leader giving important directions earlier. Whilst eating the yummy lunch your guide packed for you earlier, you adjust your balance to take the pressure off your sore knee.
2) Someone behind you, probably with the same self-reprimanding thoughts, suddenly yells out, ‘The hut! We've made it!’ You'd think by the edge in their voice that it was a matter of life and death. Maybe it is for them…
3) You reach the hut, drop your backpack and wonder how you're already sitting in front of the fire with your boots off – they must have a life of their own those boots…
4) Your hot-springs-radar is on, you’ve stripped off to the bare essentials and you're grabbing a mug of mulled wine to keep you warm on the way for the complete experience. It’s only now, whilst half-naked, that you realize your group is sharing the hut with other hikers! But not to worry, they give you knowing looks and remind you to take a water bottle too.
5) As you slip into the soothing pools with squelching mud underfoot, all the aches melt away and you realize with a grin: this is why we came to NZ!

The Copland Track and its mountaineering legacy

The Copland Track was once the tail end of a favorite alpine route across the main divide of the Southern Alps known as the Copland Pass. It linked the grandeur of Mt Cook on the Eastern side with the contrasting beauty of the West Coast Bush. Experienced climbers with ice axes, crampons and other mountaineering gear would start in the Aoraki/Mt Cook village, making their way along the Hooker Valley track and then up the moraine covered glacier for 5-6 hours of steep climbing, careful to avoid crevasses. They could then take a rest or overnight stop in the Copland shelter before crossing the mountain pass and making their way down the western side.

Unfortunately, this route is no longer accessible due to a rock slip on the eastern slopes, but there is an alternative route nearby for mountaineers called Fitzgerald Pass.

Trip Reviews

  •   4.64 out of 5 (from 565 reviews)

    Thank You Active Adventures

    Active Adventures' Winter Rimu trip allowed me to experience many things for the first time. Coming from an island of Guam, I was able to see something so different than what I normally see in my backyard. It was my first time to climb up to 1,100 meters. The climb was at Sealy Tarns which overlooked a lake, Mt. Cook village and most especially a fantastic view of Mt. Cook. It was my first time doing an overnight hike as well. We trekked through the scenic landscape towards Mt. Aspiring hut and was rewarded at night with an unspoilt sky of the Southern Hemisphere. It was so clear that we were able to see the Milky Way (another first). We also did a hike up Alex Knobb to get a good view of Franz Glacier and on the way up, we experienced so much elements in one day. We experienced hail and snow (both for the first time) and enjoyed some picturesque views the more higher we climbed.

    From the beginning of the trip, Lynette and Miriam were wonderful at helping to book my trip with Active Adventures. During the trip, Mel and Gary were so hospitable and helped make the trip memorable. Mel and Gary understood that we haven't hiked at this capacity or weren't seasoned hikers, yet they remained with us at the back and encouraged us every step of the way. They helped to show the true essence of New Zealand's natural beauty as well as the friendliness and hospitality of Kiwis. This trip has been amazing and thanks to Active Adventures, New Zealand has become my favorite place in the world.

    Thank you for the memories and for these experiences. <3
    Analyn Palugod Review Image
    – GUAM, Guam
    Winter Rimu, July 2016
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 4984 reviews)

    Outstanding Locations. Outstanding Service

    We have always wanted to see New Zealand, but we didn't know how to select the best and organize a trip around these. Active Adventures gave us an answer, and on the trip, AA gave us much more than we expected. We saw amazing locations, did lots of fun activities, and had amazing service... with the guides providing great information, assistance, service and various options. Terrific!
    Rick Lent Review Image
    – Massachusetts, United States
    Rimu, December 2017
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 4984 reviews)

    Perfect Trip for anyone who loves Nature!

    If you enjoy being outdoors and like to challenge yourself this trip is for you. I wasn't an avid hiker before signing up for the Rimu trip but after reading the itinerary I knew I couldn't pass up this amazing opportunity. You never know what you are capable of until you try and that is how I feel after climbing up to the Angelus Hut and hiking to Mueller ridge. I had never climbed a mountain before (since there are no mountains where I live) but the views are more than worth the climb.
    This trip is the best way to see all that the South Island has to offer, it is the perfect balance between adventure, relaxation, self-exploration, and cultural immersion. Anyone can go to New Zealand and rent a car and go hiking, biking, and Kayaking; however, they will miss out on the best parts of traveling to a new place and that is the knowledge and culture that only someone who lives there would know. The guides (Tory and Vanessa) were awesome! Tory is an amazing cook, and Ness was great at making jokes and keeping the atmosphere cheery during the longer drives. I loved listening to the guides tell us about the Maori people and the local legends or folklore. I actually thought Ness was lying to me when she would tell me that the views get better after being left speechless by the scenery, but every day was better than the previous!
    I have to mention the FOOD!!! The food alone is enough for me to sign up for this trip again. When I travel I don’t always know what the local food is or would be but with this trip the guides cook you all sorts of local food and all the food is fresh and delicious. If you don’t like something they will make sure to accommodate you.
    Ness and Tory made you feel like this was a trip among friends and family, not strangers. I will come back to New Zealand again!
    Brian Heinz Review Image
    – Wisconsin, United States
    Rimu, May 2017
  •   4.60 out of 5 (from 1887 reviews)

    Amazing Tui Trip

    We had an amazing time in New Zealand and enjoyed our Tui trip of the South Island! It was an excellent way to travel and see so many different places in one trip. Our guides, Eve and Katie, were great! They were extremely knowledgeable and very attentive to our needs, and always made sure we were well fed. We would definitely recommend the Tui trip to anyone traveling to New Zealand!
    Dana Pasini Review Image
    – Pennsylvania, United States
    Tui, November 2017
  •   4.44 out of 5 (from 908 reviews)

    One Honey Sweet of an Adventure

    Outstanding tramping with superior guides
    Jim Crookston Review Image
    – Pennsylvania, United States
    Manuka, February 2017



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Why travel with Active Adventures?

Above all, we aim to be amazing hosts. We're proud of our kiwi roots, and our professional, warm and relaxed style of running trips around the world is unforgettable.

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