Camping at the Luxmore Hut is possible if you know where to go and if you are prepared. Remember that this guide is only suitable for those who are prepared with alpine equipment and experience and only suitable in appropriate weather.
New Zealand’s Great Walks are amongst some of the best in the world. Amongst them, the Kepler Track is ranked as one of the best in all of New Zealand. However, if you’re a budget traveler, then the $130 hut fee will limit many from being able to get out on the trail.
So, is it possible to hike the Kepler without staying in huts? The answer is yes. This guide will detail one of the most popular ways to avoid the exorbitant hut costs; camping at the Luxmore Hut.
About the Kepler Track
The Kepler Track is one of my favourite hikes in New Zealand. What makes it so intriguing is that you get to experience the best of New Zealand’s natural wonders in one single hike.
The track beings along lakeside beech forest and and ascends up into vast tussock planes, following alpine ridgelines and even offering opportunities to climb the nearby Luxmore Summit.
If you’re on the fence about hiking the Kepler, then I hope that this article will convince you to get out there and hit the trail!
For a full guide to the Kepler Track, including tips for camping and a route itinerary, check out the full Kepler guide here. Alternatively, if you’d like to visit the Luxmore Hut and even summit Mount Luxmore, then it’s possible to do this hike in one day.
Can I Camp for Free on the Kepler Track?
Here’s the $130 question. Can I camp for free on the Kepler Track? Technically, the answer is no. However, you are able to camp “near” the track. Let me break it down.
While there are several overlapping and confusing laws surrounding freedom camping, the DOC’s general consensus is that you CAN freedom camp in any of New Zealand’s National Parks as long as you are 200 metres from any track and 500 metres from any Great Walks Tracks.
So, in regards to the Kepler Track, you can camp near the Luxmore Hut, as long as you are 500 metres from the track. This applies to the main track AND the Luxmore Caves track.
So, if you have your own alpine tent, you can hike the entire Kepler Track for $20 (kiwis) or $40 (foreigners). This is because you will have to pay for a site at the Iris Burn campsite, there’s just no way around it.
Besides, your money is going to the DOC, who do a great job of protecting New Zealand’s natural biodiversity and maintaining the trails for everyone. If you can afford $40 for the entire 3-4 day Kepler Hike, then pay the fee.
Camping at Luxmore Hut
Now, this is probably what you came here for.
The area around Luxmore Hut is classed as an alpine area. The DOC recommends that you do not try to freedom camp here because the tussock plains are completely exposed and there is little to no dry, flat ground.
However, if you are experienced, have your own 100KM-proof alpine tent and are willing to take a calculated personal risk, then I can show you where I camped to help you find a spot.
Remember, if you are freedom camping near the Luxmore Hut, you shouldn’t use any of their facilities. This includes water refills and toilets. Basically, if you’re going to freedom camp, do so responsibly. This means leaving no trace and even packing out your own human waste. If you’re not prepared to do this, don’t try to freedom camp.
Best Camping Spot With GPS Coordinates
There are a few blogs and guides online with limited information on where to actually camp at the Luxmore Hut. However, none actually provide exact directions or locations.
So, after arriving at the hut, most people try to find a freedom camping spot just past the track to the Luxmore Caves. Remember, this track is also considered a Great Walks track, so you’ll have to camp 500 metres from this too.
Following the tracks already carved out by other freedom campers, head west for 80 meters and then follow the edge of the hill southwest until you round the bend where you’ll see a mostly-flat (although bumpy) plain.
This area is best because you are out-of-sight from the Luxmore Caves track. Which is what the warden will ask you to do if you are freedom camping.
This area is far from perfect since the little flat ground that exists is usually either too wet or rocky. However, there are a few “goldilocks” spots. The GPS coordinates below is most likely going to be your best bet in the area.
Fresh-water Source near the Camping Spot
Of course, since you can’t use the hut facilities to fill up your water bottles, you’ll need to either pack up extra water or rely on the availability of fresh water from the nearby stream.
When I camped here in March, there was a healthy, flowing clear stream just 100 meters behind the camping spot above. You’ll hear it from the GPS coordinates.
I’d imagine that this stream will be flowing during most of the Great Walks Season. However, pack extra water just in case.
What Will I Need?
So, what will you need to freedom camp near the Luxmore Hut? Here’s a quick list of essentials.
- Waterproof alpine tent rated to 100KM+
- Warm sleeping bag (-10°C)
- Sleeping mat
- Means of packing out your own waste (including human waste)
When I camped, we were pretty lucky to have fairly calm conditions. However, this alpine area is exposed and is known to cop some very strong wind and frequent rains.
One camper had brought up a non-waterproof $15 “pop-up” tent. These guys were very lucky that the weather didn’t turn on us. Don’t be like them.
More South Island Hikes and Travel Guides
I hope this guide has been useful for planning your camping at the Luxmore Hut. If you have any more questions or updates from a recent trip, help out other travelers by writing a comment below.
If you’re interested in more free travel guides and articles for New Zealand’s South Island, you’ll find them in the links below. More hikes? Don’t miss this list of the Best Hikes on the South Island!
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