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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.

  • New Zealand Winter Adventure - Winter Rimu

    14 Days  | 

    South Island  | 

    US$4599 + tax

    ACTIVE 4
    • ACTIVE 1

      What's The Rush?

      I’m not a triathlete, but I’m in decent shape and I’m not looking to experience a place just through a bus window. I’m happy to slow down on the trail, soak it in and breathe in the fresh air.


    • ACTIVE 2

      Leg Stretcher

      Sure, I own some hiking boots, they’re even worn in, but they don’t go on long trips. I like my creature comforts and I like to give a range of activities a go.


    • ACTIVE 3

      Earn Your Lunch

      I stay active on vacation so that I can eat and drink what I like without feeling guilty. I season my trips with a little fresh exercise.


    • ACTIVE 4

      Challenge Accepted

      I’ll let my trusty guides sweat the small things, so I can focus on my goal. Getting to the top, reaching the end, achieving my dreams! Sure, it’ll be tough, but the views will be worth it.


    • ACTIVE 5

      The Ultimate

      I’ve put in the hard yards and now I get to reap the rewards. I’m a seasoned adventurer, not afraid to get my boots wet.


    • Read more about the Active Range

    4.64 out of 5 (from 565 reviews)

    Visit New Zealand from May to September to hike quiet trails under crisp blue skies. You’ll be surrounded by stunning snow-clad mountains on this multi-sport adventure.

Trip Reviews

  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16212 reviews)

    Best Guides ever!!!

    We didn't have the best weather on this trip, but Nick and Elder were able to bring out the best in all of us. Their energy was boundless, their cooking was superb, and their humor and good natures made every day a pleasure.
    Sherry Malone Review Image
    – New Mexico, United States
    Weka 13-day, January 2017
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16212 reviews)

    South Island trip of a lifetime

    An absolutely awesome adventure with fantastic guides Vanessa and Tory. Experiencing parts of the great tramps in New Zealand of Kepler, Routeburn, Mueller Hut, Inland pack track at Punakaiki and Angelus Hut are a great introduction to tramping in NZ. I will definitely be back to complete some of the tramps. The Angelus hut hike was one of the hardest I have done (I hike regularly in Western Australia) and I loved every second of it. I would do the Angelus hut Nelson lakes hike again in a heart beat. The cycle along the Hawea river was stunning. Every day was a highlight of the trip.
    Amie Culverson Review Image
    – Western Australia, Australia
    Rimu, May 2017
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16212 reviews)

    Rimu Was Extraordinary

    We have been dreaming of visiting New Zealand for a long time, we wanted to see and explore all the best sites in an active way, but doing this on our own would have been overwhelming! Active Adventures was the complete answer. They took us to the best places, sites and beautiful landscapes that we could only have dreamed about. Our group was small which allowed us all to bond, our guides Astrid and Steve could not have been better - fun, knowledgeable, organized and excellent cooks. I got the sense they really enjoyed what they do! I would strongly recommend this tour - a trip of a lifetime that words can’t describe - we will never forget it.
    Colleen Clark Review Image
    – Ontario, Canada
    Rimu, February 2018
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16212 reviews)

    Melissa's Weka Adventure

    I knew from pictures taken by family that New Zealand is a beautiful place but the beauty is much deeper than the eye can see. Everyone we came in contact with was wonderful and I can't think of enough superlatives to describe our guides, Nick and Elder. The trip was above our expectations. The biking was varied and interesting and the hikes worth every step. The food was too good and we enjoyed the variation in accommodations. We would go back and do it again.
    Melissa Contos Review Image
    – Virginia, United States
    Weka, February 2018
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16212 reviews)

    Wonderful Choice!

    A trip to New Zealand was on my "bucket list" and my husband chose this trip for the south island. I think this is a wonderful way to see the outstanding scenery of the south island. We will be back!
    Lissa Jackson Review Image
    – Tennessee, United States
    Tui, April 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.

We're VERY picky about who we select to work in our team, and we have people from all over the world lining up to guide our trips. So we get to hire the absolute BEST in the business.

As soon as you get off the plane, we've got all the details of your vacation covered – top notch meals, comfortable transport & accommodation, amazing guides and INCREDIBLE service.

Whether you’re new to adventure travel, or you’ve never travelled in a group before, you’ll find yourself arriving home positively different from when you left.

With our small groups (no more than 14), you'll get to know our team, your fellow travellers, and have the flexibility and freedom to do as much (or as little!) as you like.

It's all about getting there under your own steam – on foot, in a sea kayak, or by bike. What better way is there to experience mind blowing scenery? If it's your first time, no worries – our expert guides have got you covered.

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