The Copland Track in Westland, New Zealand

Copland Track Westland New Zealand
Frigid waters make for stunning colours on the Copland Track

This is the most incredible weekend trip to do with a group of mates; or an unforgettable addition to your New Zealand adventure. The challenging but scenic Copland Track will take you to Welcome Flat Hut. From lush tropical vegetation to an electric blue glacial river, wicked rocks that show evidence of years of glacial movement and most notably the natural hot springs in clay pools at the end of the track, this route has it all. I was lucky enough to share my Copland Track experience with almost a dozen other students. One ambitious character actually managed to schlep an entire keg of beer up and back: the way back, of course, was much easier having drank the keg dry while relaxing in the hot pools 🙂

Where: Westland Tai Poutini National Park, South Island, New Zealand
Closest City: Greymouth, NZ (2.5h drive) – nearest airport is Christchurch, NZ (5h drive)
When: Summer through Autumn (December through May)
Length: 18km each way (36km round trip)
Hiking Trip Base Cost: $15/night at Welcome Flat Hut + ~$10/day for food  = ~$50 for two days and one night
Additional Variable Costs: any new hiking gear, a flight, accommodation off the trail, gas/a rental car to get to the trail, etc.

Copland Track Itinerary and Route

Haast to Welcome Flat Hut (18km) and back (18km)

Our group stayed at a friend’s place in Haast, which was a quick 1.5h away from the parking lot in the Tai Poutini National Park. As per the DOC website, “Access is off State Highway 6, 26 km south of Fox Glacier. The turn-off to the car park is well signposted on the northern side of the Karangarua River bridge”.

River in a valley in Westland NZ on the Copland Track
Blues and greens from the glacial waters against lush

The route to Welcome Flat Hut on the Copland Track is dynamic and exciting, keeping you on your toes. You cross rivers (be careful!), streams, and swing bridges.

Swing bridge on the Copland Track New Zealand
A single-track swing bridge over rushing water

Roses n Thorns

Rose (the best part)

So. Many. Fun. Friends. And a keg. This was the biggest group I went with during my time in NZ. I don’t recall exactly how many, but it was over 10, and everyone was great. I knew a few people on this trip but no one well, so it was a bet that ended up paying out big time. A true student experience, we all huffed beers and booze kilometre over kilometre, with one true hero carrying a keg. The evening was chock full of excellent banter between new friends, cold beers enjoyed in a hot spring, a bright and full moon, and a midnight polar bear dip into the frigid glacial river – which was remedied, of course, by more time in the hot springs and a bit more beer.

Thorn (the worst or most hilarious part)

Does anyone know the averse affects on one’s health for staying in a hot tub for too long? Asking for a friend…

Bud (the new friend)

As mentioned, this trip was really about the people. The greatest connection I made, however, was with the girl whose car I joined. A kiwi studying dentistry, she had beautiful red curly hair and an incredibly approachable demeanour. We got talking about my past adventures and her family, and we discovered that I had actually been hiking with her mother on the Abel Tasman Coast Track the weekend prior! Triathletes and passionate trampers, it was wonderful to share my time with this family of explorers. I hope you’re practicing and enjoying your life as a dentist, wherever you may be!

Gear and Food List

Gear

The Copland Track is an easy trip to pack for, since it’s just one night and you will stay in a hut. Thus, no need to bring a tent or sleeping mat – nice! Just bring your sleeping bag and some camp clothes along with food and your cookset.

Food

Again, New Zealand grocery stores are great for all things camping and backpacking. You will have no issue whatsoever finding good eats for this trip.

Breakfast: Oats, granola and powdered milk, and/or granola bars
Lunch: Snacks throughout the day including canned tuna, more granola bars, and peanut butter on bread. You could even do perishables such as deli meats and cheeses – yum!
Dinner: Cook up a big pot of pasta to share with everyone! Load it up with perishables, enjoying the fact that you can bring them on those rare occasions you can afford it.

River on the Copland Track in New Zealand
Scenery changes constantly and quickly from waterfalls to rivers and trees to mud on the Copland Track

Make it Happen

  1. Understand the Copland Track and pick a time of year you want to go.
  2. Choose your itinerary. You may choose to stay in any of the nearby towns, so just figure out where they are and how to get there! Of course, as another short trip, this is ideally part of a grand New Zealand adventure.
  3. Once that is locked in, book your flights
    • If flying, fly into Christchurch and rent a car. It’s nearly impossible to get a bus without hitchiking, which you can do using your own judgement.
  4. Book your spot in the Welcome Flat Hut ($15)
  5. The fun begins! Get your (minimal) gear in order, and get ready to experience the rugged and untouched Westland of the South Island
  6. Get outside and do the thing
Copland Track views at the trailhead
Even the view from the parking lot is excellent

How awesome is New Zealand?? If the Copland Track and hut life sounds great, then you will most definitely love the trips to Mueller Hut and Brewster Hut on the South Island, too!

Hike the Copland Track in New Zealand

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