Imagine this. You've been walking for seven hours, your legs are tired, your feet sore, and your shoulders tight. How would a nice, hot relaxing bath sound? The Welcome Flat hot pools on New Zealand’s west coast offer just what you need!
Here is why you need to check out one of the best hikes on New Zealand’s South Island!
THE COPLAND VALLEY TRACK HIKE
Starting from the carpark, you need to cross Rough creek (not so rough-unless it rains!) so save lacing your boots properly until you have crossed.
Heading straight into lush rainforest, the sounds of the creek disappear and you head into classic West Coast forest. You are in a new world now. Ferns, standing tall, moss carpets soft and lush, it’s an incredible sight.
As you weave back and forth through the rain forest, you glimpse the Copland river and eventually reach the open beach which is a perfect spot for a break.
The water is amazing in Spring and Summer!
The track is well graded and maintained, with bridges across the large gaping creeks that are pouring off the mountain sides. These bridges are common in New Zealand and can often be exciting experiences, giving new perspectives to the creeks as you pass over them.
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THE WELCOME FLAT HOT POOLS
Just as you wonder how much further you have to go, the hot pools are there!
You get the feeling they are about to appear as the track opens and the terrain changes. The Weka birds live around here and can be quite mischievous, but it’s OK, they don’t hurt you.
It’s a fact, 8/10 hikers go to the hot pools before even walking to the hut which is a stone's throw away. OK that’s not 100% true, but you will be drawn to them before even thinking about going to the hut, trust me, they are irresistible!
I mean, look at it! It’s a stunning view with just what you want after a hike!
Be careful getting in as some of the pools can be quite hot! At various times, people may divert the water into pools to adjust the temperature. You can see the water bubbling up straight out of the ground nearby!
If you have a little energy left, a trip of 15-30 minutes a little further past the Welcome flat hut, over the Copland river bridge, and onto the grassy flats is well worth it. You get mind blowing views of the epic mountains and valleys!
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO DO THE WELCOME FLAT HOT POOLS HIKE?
Winter is a spectacular time to hike to the Welcome flat hot pools. Less crowds, less chance of heavy downpours, less sandflies. It’s a winner season for sure. The standard season is Spring, Summer and Autumn, but winter has to be my favourite time.
Snow only occasionally makes it to the ground level, and even if it does, the hike never strays from the river so remains at low elevations- meaning no special gear is required to travel. And if it does snow, it can be pretty amazing anyway!
WELCOME FLAT HUT- RESERVATIONS AND THINGS TO KNOW!
The Welcome flat hut is a spacious 31 bunk hut that needs to be booked. It can get very busy in peak periods (summer).
You must bring all your own cooking equipment but mattresses are provided. There are toilets and the hut is maintained by hut wardens who also check your booking and take care of general hut maintenance. There are no showers, but that’s what the hot pools are for, right?
► Hut fees are $15NZD ($7.50 youth) per person, per night. Book online with DOC HERE.
► You must carry out all your rubbish. There are no bins. Leave no trace so others can enjoy this place.
► You can tent camp there with 8 sites available, but with the sandflies this is not recommended. You cannot use hut facilities (apart from toilet) unless you book a space in the hut.
If you haven't stayed in a hut in New Zealand, I recommend you read my guide on staying in them and the etiquette that's good to show.
COPLAND TRACK AND WELCOME FLAT HOT POOL HIKE DETAILS
Ready to check out the Welcome flat hot pools? Here is what you need to know:
DIFFICULTY: Moderate (basic hiking fitness required)
TIMES/LENGTH: 7 hours one way/ 18km (11 Miles) one way.
START LOCATION: Car park located HERE.
EQUIPMENT: Get your (FREE) hiking gear checklists HERE!
SEASON: All year.
WEATHER: Avoid this trip in heavy rain as creek crossings become dangerous and bridges can be damaged.
OTHER COMMENTS / TIPS:
► Get the latest DOC updates on the track and conditions HERE.
► Getting a head net is well worthwhile in spring and summer for the nasty sandflies which can be super annoying. You might think you look silly with it but if anyone’s looking at you, its with pure envy!
► A trip to Douglas Rock hut can be worth it when the Welcome flat hut is booked out. Just keep in mind it’s an extra 4 hours walk one way!
► Always LEAVE NO TRACE and take ALL YOUR RUBBISH WITH YOU. Keep the outdoors beautiful!
Doing the Copland Valley hike to the Welcome Flat hot pools is a must do for any New Zealand trip! There’s not many places in the world you can have a hike and relax in natural hot pools in the pristine backcountry. And with the amazing scenery of New Zealand, it's a perfect hike to add on your to do list!