Caples Track | New Zealand


Greenstone River

Distance:  18.6 miles (30 km)

Average Time:  1 or 2 days

Difficulty:  Easy

Start / Finish:

  • Greenstone Carpark – The Divide


  • November to April.
  • To avoid the crowds, probably best in February/March after the kids have gone back to school.

Maps / Info:

  • Online Information: See the DOC website for a basic map, trekking notes, and logistical details for the hike (free downloadable brochure available).
  • Guidebook: The Lonely Planet guide Tramping in New Zealand also has a map and trekking notes (available in Kindle format).
  • GPS: See AllTrails for GPX data for the Caples Track.

Greenstone River

Route / Conditions:

  • The Caples Track is well marked and easy to follow.
  • The only section which is remotely difficult is the ascent and descent of McKellar saddle. Good views from the top in clear weather.
  • Most people link the Caples with the Greenstone track, thereby completing a loop back to the Greenstone car park.

Greenstone and Caples Track / Note the position of Howden Hut and the junction with the Routeburn Track at the top of the map (Map from Department of Conservation (DOC) website).

  • As a more spectacular alternative, I would recommend combining the Caples with the Routeburn via Howden Hut. By doing so, you would finish your walk at Routeburn shelter, from where there is regular transport back to Queenstown.
  • If you are really feeling energetic, consider continuing on past the Routeburn shelter to link up with the Cascade Saddle Route. This can be done via the Rockburn Track, which begins at Lake Sylvan car park (5km past the finish of the Routeburn).
  • Combining all four (Caples, Routeburn, Rockburn, and Cascade Saddle) tracks makes for a challenging 133km route through some of the most spectacular mountain scenery on the South Island. See the Greenstone to Rasberry Creek Route for more details.

McKellar Saddle

Sleeping :

  • Huts or camping. No reservations are necessary.
  • Nice views from Mid Caples hut. An hour away is Upper Caples hut, which is larger, less scenic, and can be inundated with sandflies.

Overview :

  • A short walk that can easily be combined with the Greenstone or Routeburn Tracks.