Nestled in the southwestern corner of New Zealand’s South Island, Fiordland National Park is an outdoor-lover’s dream – home to lake, rainforest, and alpine ecosystems, as well as the majestic, glacier-carved fiords of Milford and Doubtful Sounds. We arrived excitedly in Te Anau, the gateway to Fiordland National Park, and were excited to spend a few days exploring the celebrated scenery. Surprisingly, it was somewhat challenging to find a reasonable day hike nearby. If you’ve got heaps of time in the area (and have made bookings for the trail huts well in advance), Fiordland is home to three of New Zealand’s “Great Walks,” the iconic multi-day Milford, Routeburn, and Kepler Tracks. Surprisingly, we found that most other ‘hikes’ in the area were less than an hour, leading to some sort of scenic lake view or the like. Unable to find a real middle ground, we ultimately settled on hiking day one of the Kepler Track (8.5 miles to the Luxmore Hut), and turning it into an out-and-back route.

The trailhead was situated on the shores of Lake Te Anau, the largest freshwater lake in Australasia. Winding around the quiet shoreline, the first four miles of the route was a flat walk leading through lush beech forests to the sands of Brod Bay. From here, the well-defined path climbed steeply through the moss-draped trees to a series of towering limestone bluffs. Just beyond the rock faces, the trail opened onto a ridge above the tree line, exposing views of Lake Te Anau, the Te Anau town center, and the surrounding peaks.

From here, it was a more gradual ascent (about 1.5 miles) to the Luxmore Hut, the stopping point for hikers completing day one of the four-day Kepler Track. The views from the hut were even more outstanding, with panoramas of verdant slopes soaring over Lake Te Anau. We could not have asked for more perfect weather for the hike – a bright, cloudless sky and 76°F.

Upon arriving at the hut, we noticed a sign pointing to Mount Luxmore. From here, it was only another couple miles to the ridge that coiled around the top of Luxmore, so we figured we’d hike on. The trail became more steep, climbing through the dry, golden grasses blanketing the bare peak. We finally reached Mount Luxmore’s ridge after 10.5 miles, 4 hours 18 minutes, and 3,955’ of elevation gain, where were rewarded with sweeping vistas overlooking the lake and the snow-capped peaks of the neighboring Kepler Mountains.

Total distance: 21 miles
Elevation gain: 4,181 feet