Copland Track

One of New Zealand’s early tourist attractions, the Copland Track was developed around the turn of the 20th century for intrepid hikers to travel from the West Coast over the Southern Alps to Mount Cook. It is now better known as the home of Welcome Flat Hut, and its accompanying natural hot pools.

Its an 18km hike from the car park on State Highway 6, about half an hour south of Fox Glacier, to Welcome Flat Hut. As soon as I got out of the car I was surrounded by a thick cloud of sandflies, an annoyingly persistent feature of the track (and the West Coast in general).

The first challenge is to cross Rough Creek, a wide area which had four streams running through it on a dry day, three just about crossable by rock hopping, one wasn’t without getting wet feet. There is a bridge but it’s 30-45 minutes walk each way to cross so is little used unless the creek is flooded. This can happen quite often, the track is easily flooded and DOC will close it in advance and during periods of heavy rain. Even on a fine day it could be tricky in places to keep your feet dry.

Soon after crossing there were views of the beautiful glacial blue waters of the Copland River, along which the track runs.

The early sections of track were among the most managed I’ve seen in New Zealand, with rock marked edges and a smooth grading. I thought it would be fast but dull walking along this.

After 45 minutes walk it started to become more interesting though with mud, rocks, and tree roots, much more familiar terrain.

The bush, particularly in the morning light, was some of the loveliest I’ve seen.

As were the views coming out in the open for a stretch.

Water is a common feature along the track, making it particularly wet / riskier in the rain.

A short detour from the track offered a view of where the Copland and Karangarua rivers meet.

Getting closer to the Copland River offered great views but the pace slowed considerably with fields of boulders to carefully cross.

Back into the exquisite bush.

It took much longer than hoped to reach Architect Creek Hut, which was a welcome if not particularly appealing place to finish lunch. Inside offered shelter from the ever present sandflies but little else…

Architect Creek itself was crossed by a lengthy suspension bridge, wobbly but safer than crossing the waters below.

The track climbed steadily up for most of the next three hours, offering some views.

There was a small detour around this huge fall tree, now home to a hive of bees.

The longest bridge was at Shiels Creek, offering huge views.

After a tougher than expected walk in it was a huge relief to finally reach the wonderful Welcome Flat Hut and hot pools, which I’ll cover in a separate post.

I spent two nights there, highly recommended given the length of the walk in and things to do at and around the hut. The weather for the walk back wasn’t a patch on the walk in but thankfully was drier than forecast.

Author: jontycrane

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