Welcome Flat Hut Hike (The Best Overnight Hike In The South Island?)

Tristan Balme Welcome Flat Hut Hike and Hot Springs 1

The Welcome Flat Hut hike, also known as the Copland track, is a 2-day trek that takes you through the scenic Westland Tai Poutini National Park. It follows the Copland River and winds down to the natural hot pools at Welcome Flat. The entire trip should take you 7 hours each way. 

Although it’s graded as a intermediate ‘Great Walk’ level track, it does still have its challenges including large swing bridges, narrow rocky sections and the 18km distance is a long way to walk in a day regardless.

But, of course, the hot springs at the end make it all worth it!

In this post, I’ll provide a detailed guide to make your tramping enjoyable and successful. 

Key Takeaways

  • It’s a 36 km (22 miles) return hike which takes around 7hrs each way.
  • Starts from the road end near Karangarua, about 26 km south of Fox Glacier
  • Wlcome flat hut is a 31-bunk hut with basic amenities.
  • If you’re lucky, you can book the Sierra Room, which is a private 4 bedroom room with separate access in the hut (for a more private experience) cool eh!
  • Hut costs $30 per adult per night and bookings should be made through the DOC website.
  • Natural hot pools are the major highlight of the trip

As always, for up to date track information, weather and closures, check the DOC website here

Tristan Balme Welcome Flat Hut Hike and Hot Springs 8

Tristan Balme Welcome Flat Hut Hike and Hot Springs 7
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Tristan Balme Welcome Flat Hut Hike and Hot Springs 4
Tristan Balme Welcome Flat Hut Hike and Hot Springs 2

How to Get There

The track starts on State Highway 6, 26 km south of Fox Glacier. There is a car park and a signpost at the start of the track. The carpark is down a short metal road from the state highway. This is in good condition and suitable for all vehicles (we were in a campervan and there were no problems!)

You can drive or take a bus to the trailhead. If you choose the latter, don’t forget to book in advance.

Route Options

For all intents and purposes the Copland valley and track is a one way in, and one way out.

Copland Track to Welcome Flat Hut (via Architects Creek Hut)

This is the standard trek and results in a 2 day (one night) trip. You’ll follow the Copland River valley, cross several swing bridges, and pass through beech forests, riverbeds, and alpine meadows. It takes 7 hours one way. 

Most people will stop for lunch or skip Architects Creek Hut entirely. It is however a good option in busy months if you cant get a booking at Welcome Flat Hut.

Welcome Flat Hut on to Douglas Rock Hut

This not-so-popular route adds an extra 2 days to your hike. The Copland track continues and climbs up to the Douglas Rock Hut. It’s steep and comprises even more exposed sections. You’ll take about 5 hours to get to the hut, and another 5 to get back to the Welcome Flat Hut the next day the way you came. 

This track is rugged un unmaintained – a start contrast to the welcome flat hut section. We walked the first 1 or 2km of it too see more of the flat which i’d recommend, even if you don’t plan to go all the way to douglas rock hut.

Copland Valley Track | Tramping (Hiking) Video Series | New Zealand

When Is The Best Time To Hike To Welcome Flat Hut

This hike is pretty well good to do all year round subject to a good weather window

But its the west coast after all.. so conditions can change in a heartbeat. The track can be muddy and slippery after rain, and there can be snow and ice on the higher sections in winter months.

In summer you’ll be able to enjoy more of the coasts infamous sandflies down by the river sections, and the Upper Copeland Valley Track carpark is a SHOCKER – so bring mossie repellant!

A Quick Guide To Hike to the Welcome Flat Hut

Start of the Track

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I started my trip at the large car park, just 26 km south of Fox Glacier. After removing my valuables from the car, I followed the track through the beech forest with glimpses of the mountains in the distance. 

It was a gentle, short ascent to the first swing bridge. This crosses the Karangarua River and is also an excellent spot to enjoy the views of the entire valley.

Architect Creek Bridge

Tristan Balme Welcome Flat Hut Hike and Hot Springs 6
Tristan Balme Welcome Flat Hut Hike and Hot Springs 5

Once I made it past the river, I continued along the Copland River. There were several side streams and waterfalls along the way and a few slippery rocks and tree roots I had to look out for. 

What follows is another swing bridge over Arch Creek. A couple of steps from the bridge, you’ll encounter the unserviced Architect Creek hut. If you’re exhausted from the hike, you can spend the night. It operates on a first come first serve basis, so no booking is required. 

I took a breather and then proceeded up to a terrace. This section has a better view of the Copland Valley and the Sierra Range. You’ll then descend back to the river level and cross another swing bridge over the Copland River.

When you reach the other side, follow the markers until you land on a grassy flat. From here, views of the Welcome Hut become clearer.

Welcome Flat Hut

After about an hour of climbing, I reached the apex of the trail and then descended to the Welcome Flat Hut. 

Once settled, I made my way to the main attraction–the hot pools–which are a short walk from the hut. I took my time and soaked in for as long as possible. 

It’s a fun and relaxing way to reward yourself for your efforts. 

Tristan Balme Welcome Flat Hut Hike and Hot Springs 1
Tristan Balme Welcome Flat Hut Hike and Hot Springs 3

How Much Does The Welcome Flat Hut Cost?

The Glaciers area has 3 overnighting options: hut, campsite, and the Sierra Room. Here’s what you can expect to pay for each of these. 

Huts

  • Adult (18+ years): $30 
  • Children (5–17 years): $15 per night
  • Infant (0–4 years): free

Campsite

When camping, you’ll use the hut’s facilities.

  • Adult (18+): $15 
  • Children (5–17 years): $7.50 

Sierra Room (sole occupancy) 

This room is found within the hut. 

  • $132 per night (sleeps 1–4 persons)

What To Bring

  • Sleeping bag
  • Headlamp or flashlight and spare batteries
  • Map and a compass or GPS device
  • Water filters or purification tablets
  • Cooking equipment and cutlery
  • Food (enough for at least 2 days)
  • Towel and swimwear
  • Sturdy hiking boots 
  • Waterproof clothing
  • Personal first-aid kit
  • Insect repellent
  • Sun protection: hat, sunglasses, sunscreen
  • Camera, phone, power bank, and charging cable
  • Toiletries
  • Rubbish bag
  • Dry bag

Bring a tent, sleeping mat, and sleeping bag liner if you want to camp outside the hut.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the Copland Track a great walk?

The Copland Track is not one of the 10 official Great Walks of New Zealand. But it’s still a very popular and scenic hike with a fantastic experience.

How long is the walk to Welcome Flat Hut? 

The walk to Welcome Flat Hut covers 17 km (10.5 miles) one way. It takes about 7 hours on average to complete.

What is the elevation of the Welcome Flat Hut? 

Welcome Flat Hut’s elevation is about 490 m (1600 ft) above sea level.

Are there any side trips from the hut? 

There are some side trips from the hut. These include the Douglas Rock Hut and the Copland Pass. They are dangerous and difficult to traverse and require extensive mountaineering experience.

New Zealand Travel Planning Guide

🚑 Should I buy travel insurance for New Zealand?

100% YES! — New Zealand has “free” healthcare but it’s only for citizens. Tourists need travel insurance in case anything happens on your visit. Also be aware many policies won't cover hiking as it's a high risk activity! (that's right, check the t&c's on your complimentary credit card insurance

I highly recommend World Nomads as you can get specific add-ons for the crazy activities you're doing – and starts at just $7 a day!

🚙 Do you need to rent a car in New Zealand?

I'd reccommend it — Renting a car isn't a necessity to get around in NZ with plenty of domestical flights and intercity busses. But, If you want to go on road trips or adventures outside of the major cities, you’ll need to rent a car. I always use Discover Cars for my rental bookings (it's like Skyscanner for cars!) as they compare all availible providers for the best price. 

Better yet, rent a van! This is the most cost effective way to see Aotearoa as you're getting your transport and accomodation together as one! (Checkout my reccommended van rentals here) 

📲 Will my phone work in New Zealand?

Maybe — Some American companies work in Canada, but many will not. If your phone doesn’t work in Canada, I recommend getting a Canadian SIM card so you can get around and stay in contact with loved ones. We don’t have a lot of free WIFI in Canada, so you’ll need your phone for maps.

💸How do you pay for thing in New Zealand?

Cash has gone out of fashion in New Zealand, so you'll be able to pay for almost everything with EFTPOS / Debit / Credit Card. Paywave (contactless payments) is very common, but vendors who accept American Express cards are not (so bring a backup!).

I personally use Wise for all my international money needs as they only convert the funds when you may payment and offer a much better spread (margin on the true exhange rate) than the banks do. They also provide free deibit cards for your account!

🏩 What’s the best way to book my New Zealand accommodation?

My go-to for Kiwi hotels is Booking.com. For hostels, I use Hostel World. If you want a home-y feeling, check out VRBO (which is cheaper and safer than Airbnb).

Or get free accommodations with Trusted Housesitters!

✈️ What’s the best site to buy flights to Japan?

For finding cheap flights, I recommend Skyscanner. Once you find the flight you're looking for, I'd then suggest booking directly with the carrier (even if it costs a few $$ more than with one of the agreggators/agencies).

💧Can you drink the water in New Zealand?

Yes — In all major cities in Canada, you can drink the tap water. There are very few, rural areas that you can’t. However, you should never drink river or lake water anywhere in the country! I recommend a Brita Water Bottle for long hikes and backcountry camping to stay safe and hydrated.

🎫 Do I need a visa for New Zealand?

Likely Not — US, UK, and EU passport holders don’t need New Zealand visas. However, some other countries do (check here!). And if you plan to stay for more than 4 weeks (an average tourist visa length), you will need to look into visas to live in New Zealand.

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