There are plenty of amazing walks in the Tararua Ranges.
Some can be done as a day walk, or you can spend a few nights bagging huts and exploring the trails deeper in this lesser-known mountain range.
If the Tararua Ranges gained NZ National Park status, I think things might be very different there given their proximity to Wellington.
This post will be all about day walks in the Tararua Ranges.
Note: some of the day walks can be broken into multiple days by staying in one of the huts.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. Kapakapanui Track (medium – hard | 5 – 7 hours)
2. Otaki Forks to Mount Hector (medium – hard | 9 – 11 hours)
3. Jumbo-Holdsworth Track (medium – hard | 6 – 9 hours)
4. More walks near the Tararuas
1. KAPAKAPANUI TRACK
The loop track takes you up through the forest on a steep climb of the western edge of the ranges until you get above the treeline. Like everywhere in the Tararua’s, the forest is stunning but that’s just the start.
Assuming there’s no cloud, you’ll get epic views of the ranges, and out towards Kapiti Island and down along the coastline. You should be able to see the South Island too.
The descent to complete the loop is steep again, so your knees won’t be happy, but it’s a great walk overall, especially for those of you planning a bigger hiking mission in the near future.
READ THE FULL POST: THE KAPAKAPANUI TRACK
2. OTAKI FORKS TO MOUNT HECTOR
Mount Hector is the highest summit in the Tararua Ranges so is by no means an easy day out. Starting from Otaki Forks, you’ve got a steep and at times rugged climb up to Field Hut through the tree line. The higher you get the more similar to a Goblin Forest it is I guess.
Emerging from the tree line you’ve still got a couple of kilometres to go until you reach the summit, up and down the valley, but the views are epic on top. As always with the Tararua Ranges, that’s weather permitting.
This is a long walk, but the best part is that many people go just up beyond Field Hut to the Table Top as a day trip which is awesome. So if you’re not moving as fast as you expected, you can turn around sooner and it’s not a major issue.
READ THE FULL POST: THE WALK TO MOUNT HECTOR
3. JUMBO-HOLDSWORTH TRACK
This is one of the most popular walks in the Tararua Ranges for those coming from Wellington for the weekend. The fancy new Powell Hut brings people here for a trip overnight.
You can do the in walk the loop in either direction, but I would recommend going via Atiwhakatu Hut/Jumbo first. Once you make your left-hand turn just after the Atiwhakatu Hut, the climb is steep up above the tree line and it’s not a highway like the track to Powell Hut.
It’s a very rooty track, so to me, it makes sense to go up this way but you can certainly do it either way.
As a day hike this is a long day out with DOC suggesting a conservative 12 hours. That’s on the higher side, you should be able to complete it in 8 hours as it’s just the Atiwhakatu to Jumbo Hut section that’s tough. That said, make sure you have a bailout plan if the going is tougher than you expect, whether that means staying at one of the huts or turning around. Especially in winter.
The traverse along the tops above the treeline is pretty awesome, with no radical climbs and a well-trodden poled route. And yes, the views are awesome.
A list of fun things to do in the capital
The walks here are a good warm-up for future adventures in the Tararua Ranges.
A nifty little day trip location while you spend time in Wellington