Trail Distance: 10.5 Miles one-way (21 miles total). Elevation Gain: 1400
Terrain Rating: Moderate-Higher Moderate in the event of flooding.
Day 1 Hike in: 11:22AM
Day 1: Arrival at 5:00PM
Day 2 Hike out: 8:55 AM
Day 2 Arrival at 1:48 PM
Trailhead: At a marked car park, 16 miles south from Fox Glacier. The gate must be opened and closed.
One of the most famous tramping routes to hot springs/geothermal pools is The Copland Track. It was something we had heard so much about that we were eager to visit. It was disappointing and one of my worst hiking experiences. The hike is boring and you expect the’rewards’ to be breathtaking. Hot springs can be more than they appear in sandfly seasons.
The track begins with a river crossing that was a highlight of the day. The river crossing was thigh-deep in places due to heavy rain two days earlier. The water was swift and unstable, and it was moving quickly. Because we knew we couldn’t avoid the mud and streams on the 10 mile hike to Hut, we got our feet wet right away. You’ll then meander through a forest that is beautiful at first. It’s not so exciting 6 miles later.
You’ll find a section that opens up to a river bank. Then, you’ll want stay at the river bank. Follow the orange markers to the jungle. You’ll then reach some fun bridges. Two barbed wire bridges span the river for a thrilling 5 minutes. They are wobbly and sure to get your heart pumping!
It is very slippery and requires a lot more scrambling. Hiking poles are not recommended as you will need to use your hands to get through the crevices. This was a part of my favorite parts of the hike. We discovered that the hot springs were infested by sandflies when we reached them. We decided to go in anyway and found that there were 30 sandflies crawling around my head, biting us. We still got 20-25 bites despite spraying bug spray. It is quite remarkable that the other 10 people who stayed at the hut only stayed for 15-20 minutes in the hot springs. Some even wore their clothes and took photos for two minutes before running into the shelter.
The hut is in good condition and has been renovated. The hut has a large kitchen area and flush toilets. You can lay your mattress on the floor, not on top of it. At 2 AM, we woke up to find mice running around. We left food on the ground for them to eat. Make sure you hang all your food! At the 6:30pm meeting, the hut wardens did not mention anything.
This hike is, in theory, quite amazing. It almost seems too good to be true that you can hike to your natural hot springs. If it weren’t sandfly and I had a bug-net cap, I would have gone back. However, the experience was not what I expected. The hike itself is boring and doesn’t offer many views. This hike is all about the hotsprings. We could do many other hikes in the area, and we felt FOMO about choosing Copland over the others.