After the eventful and fun wedding of our friends Tim and Corinne we, meaning my PCT friends Megan “l-train” Leedom, Zephyr “Hefty” Zink and myself, were ready to explore New Zealand’s beautiful South Island wilderness. Originally we were planning on doing the 5 Passes Route, a wilderness/backcountry tramp in the Glenorchy area close to Queenstown. Sadly the weather wasn’t playing along as around 150 mm of rain over a 24 hour period were forecasted for the area. We therefore decided that we didn’t wanna deal with possibly hard river crossings and camping in the open during a heavy storm.
An alternative was quickly found. The Greenstone and Caples track seemed like a perfect bad weather alternatives as it entails several huts and comparatively easy hiking on it’s 61 km of trail. For anyone interested in general trail info, maps or similar: NZ’s Department of Conservation has a good overview of the track.
To make it a bit easier for us, we decided to start our tramp in the late afternoon to get the first couple of miles under our belts and camp at the first hut just about 2 hours into the hike.
Even the carpark greeted us with a beautiful view of the mountains surrounding Lake Wakatipu:
Sadly the track quickly lead us away from these views into a forest:
At least both Megan and Hefty were keen to pose for some pictures:
After about 30 minutes of ups and downs in the forest we got back onto and open field and subsequently entered the absolutely stunning Caples valley:
We also passed this beautiful gorge on our way towards the hut:
With the day coming towards an end, the weather started getting worst: Just as we arrived at the Mid-Caples hut the rain started pouring on us. But at least the rain washed away all the sweat we’ve been accumulating over the last 2 hours.
Megan and Hefty decided to set up their tents during a small rain brake, while I decided to stay in the hut and use the bunks. Hefty was also proudly showing his new Dollar store acquisition: A small umbrella fixed to his head.
It rained throughout our second day and while the trail did lead us back into the forest we still got decently wet. After a continuous but very gradual uphill we reached a small pass called McKellar saddle. Sadly, the storm was too vigorous for me to take any pictures, but on a less crappy day the views from the saddle would probably be staggering.
After a steep but comparatively brief downhill we arrived at lake Mckellar. The hut just about an hour away at the other end of the lake, we decided to do a lunch brake. The pouring rain made sure that it wouldn’t last too long though.
After a total of about 5 1/2 hours of hiking we arrived at McKellar hut, which is nicely situated in an open field and offers good shelter from the rain. Despite our early arrival the hut was already full of people as quite a few had chosen to take a rest day and wait out the rain for a day. This was further exacerbated with even more hikers coming in as the extremely popular Milford Track was closed due to the severe weather. Luckily, the hut is big enough and everyone was able to find a bunk.
Luckily our third day on trail had some better weather in store for us, with the sun already peaking thru the mountains when we left the hut in the morning. The trail was pretty muddy from all the rain that had persisted over the last 24 hours, especially once we reached the open valley. This didn’t stop us though and we had a mostly easy hike to Greenstone hut, our designated lunch stop.
After a quick lunch at Greenstone hut we continued to hike towards the car park, determined to get their early so we could get out of the Queenstown area for the night. This did not stop as tough from appreciating the beautiful scenery that this trail provided in it’s last couple of kilometers.
Overall the Greenstone-Caples Track is a beautiful hike with enjoyable sceneries in both the forest and the open valley. Ultimately it’s a rather short hike that easily could be completed in 2 days with an overall well developed and mainly flat trail. It’s a perfect bead weather alternative that even in stormy conditions is mostly fun to walk. This trail is also perfect for folks new to hiking or if you’re looking for a short and easy first hike of the season.