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Greenstone-Caples Track, Greenstone and Caples Conservation Areas

McKellar Hut. Photo: Robyn Goldsmith
Distance
61km
Total Ascent
2758m
Time
3-4 days
Grade
Easy/Moderate
Accom.
Greenstone Hut, McKellar Hut, Mid Caples Hut
Access
Start via Greenstone car park (86km from Queenstown) or from Howden Hut on the Routeburn
Map
CC09, CB09
GPX File
Greenstone-Caples Track (gpx, yo 494 KB)
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For a slower paced four-day trip, walk the loop clockwise by heading into the Greenstone valley to Greenstone Hut on the first day, north-west up the Greenstone River to McKellar Hut on the second, up and over McKellar Saddle to the Caples River valley to Mid Caples Hut on the third, and back to the car park on the fourth.

It’s a wide, easy-going path for the three hours it takes to get to Greenstone Hut. The track largely follows the Greenstone River, which, while narrow at times, opens up into sweeping valley views, punctuated by stunning views of the sparkling blue-green river.

Following the true left, the trail mostly sidles along the northern valley slope, with impressive waterfalls dropping steeply from the upper reaches of the Ailsa Mountains, offering several opportunities to refill water bottles.

There’s a split in the main track to a side trail that leads to Greenstone Hut. It crosses over a sharply cut gorge in the Greenstone, with mammoth boulders and a roar of water cutting through the limestone below.

The 20-bunk Greenstone Hut lies on the edge of a wide clearing, offering stunning views to the south-east.

From Greenstone Hut, it’s another relatively easy walk to McKellar Hut. The track heads straight up the Greenstone valley for much of the 18km, leading through flat grasslands.

McKellar Hut lies on the border of Fiordland National Park, and just south from Lake McKellar. From the hut, the track leads up and over McKellar Saddle and down the Caples River, a 22km trip to Mid Caples Hut.

The track follows the southern edge of Lake McKellar, with a side trail leading to the lake’s shore. Just past the lake, the trail leads across the narrow head of the valley, rising up a gently graded climb to the saddle.

On the climb to the saddle, appreciate the stunning views of Mt Christina to the south-west. Once on the saddle, a raised boardwalk leads over boggy wetland before dropping into the Caples River gorge.

It’s then a steady but gentle descent through beech forest for nearly two hours, the Caples River occasionally visible to the left.

Mid Caples Hut is in an exquisite location, with incredible views up the Caples Valley.

It’s just 9km from the hut back to the road end, but the peace of the Caples Valley still offers a distinct sense of remoteness.

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