In August 2011 we spent two weeks in New Zealand, primarily on the South Island.
One of the tracks we did while we were there was the Copland Track to Welcome Flat. We decided on this one lured by the promise of natural hot pools at the top.
The night before we started walking we camped overnight next to a river about two hours from glacier country. The temperature dropped below -5 degrees and it was one of the coldest nights of my life! We made an early start before dawn to be able to walk the Copland Track that day.
The track starts about half an hour south of Fox Glacier. Just north of the Karangarua River bridge the Copland Valley is signposted and a small side road leads to a large parking area.
The first thing you have to do is cross Rough Creek. It was running pretty low when we were there and we easily walked across. Although there is a flood bridge 45 minutes upstream if you can't cross Rough Creek it's unlikely the other creek crossings will be safe.
After crossing Rough Creek, the track continues at the orange marker and follows a well formed path through the forest. The track is marked across open areas and river crossings by orange triangle markers on trees - they are usually pretty easy to see.
There are a couple of spots where you have to keep moving due to the risk of rock falls, and we did hear a couple while we were walking, but overall there wasn't too much srambling and it's not too difficult.
It is a long walk though, 17km, to Welcome Flat hut and the hot pools. So you need most of the day to do it.
The night we stayed there was only the volunteer hut warden, another couple and us. We were glad there was no one else, because even with so few people the hut was echoey and upstairs in the sleeping area you could hear every footstep and whisper downstairs - it must get busy and noisy in summer!
We only stayed one night and hiked out the next day. The other couple though were planning to stay a few days and do some day walks in the mountains.
We walked out on a Friday and saw three more groups walking in. Even in the midst of winter it's a popular route.