Trail Distance: 10.5 miles one way (21 miles total)
Elevation Gain: ~1400'
Terrain Rating: Moderate to Above Moderate if raining because of flooding
Day 1 Hike In: 11:22AM
Day 1 Arrival: 5:00PM
Day 2 Hike Out: 8:55AM
Day 2 Arrival: 1:48PM
Trailhead: 16 miles south of Fox Glacier at a well-marked car park. You need to open and close the gate.
The Copland Track is one of those recently famous tramping experiences to geothermal pools/hot springs. We had heard a lot about it and were excited to go. Unfortunately it was a big let-down and maybe one of the worst hiking experiences I have had. The hike itself is monotonous and generally with hikes like that, you want the 'reward' to be spectacular. The hot springs are not what they seem in sandfly season.
The track starts off with a big river crossing, which was an exciting moment in the day. There was heavy rain 2 days prior, so the river crossing went thigh deep in some places. The water was moving quick and was a bit unstable. We got our feet wet immediately because we knew there was no way to avoid the mud and streams for the entire 10 mile hike to the Hut. After that, you'll meander through a forest which is at first pretty! But 6 miles later with the same view, it's not as exciting.
There is a portion where you'll open up to a nice river bank. You'll want to stay at the river bank and follow the orange markers until you head back into the jungle. Then, you'll reach some fun bridges. There are two barbed wire bridges that make for an exciting 5 minutes. They're wobbly and will get your heart pumping for sure!
The trail is extremely slippery, requires a lot of scrambling, and muddy. I don't recommend hiking poles because you'll want to use your hands when getting through the crevices. I'm a big scrambler so to me this was some of the fun parts of the hike. Unfortunately when we got to the hot springs, we found that they were infested with sandflies. We went in anyway, but there immediately were 30 sandflies buzzing around my head, biting me. Even with bug spray we received 20-25 new bites. It says a lot when the 10 or so other people staying at the hut only stayed in the hot springs for 15-20 minutes max. Some people even kept their clothes on and took pictures for 2 minutes before running away into the shelter.
The hut itself is nice and has been renovated. There are flush toilets and a big kitchen space. There are no bunks but instead mattresses that you lay on the floor. We woke up at 2AM to some mice running around us. They were eating our food that we had left on the floor. Be sure to hang your food up! The hut wardens didn't mention anything to us at the 6:30pm meeting.
Overall, this hike is theoretically amazing. A hike to your own natural hot springs almost sounds too good to be true. I would go back if it wasn't sandfly season or if I brought a bug-net hat with me, but the experience we had was disappointing. Because the hike itself is so boring and there aren't many cool views, this hike is all about the hot springs. There were many other hikes we could have done in the area and we were having some FOMO about opting into Copland instead of the other ones.