Kaimanawa Forest Day Walk
Roving Tongariro reporter JimTim on assignment to find the amazing alternatives to the (admittedly awesome) Tongariro Crossing.
The locals know about the amazing bush above Treetrunk Gorge (15 mins drive north from Turangi) and I’ve heard hunters and even bikers venture there often. But the ordinary hiker/walker/outdoors person who comes to Turangi for fishing, hiking or (in winter skiing) doesn’t know if there is anywhere else to go once the Tongariro Crossing is closed – which is more often than we’d like.
The Umukarikari Track (which leads to the well known Urchin Track and a couple of huts for overnighters) was great and it only took me 2 hours up walking and 1.5 hours down walking. So a half day trip although you climb just under 1,000m to get to the treeline/snowline, so glad I took plenty of water.
The beech forest you climb through is gorgeous and with ferns lining a leaf covered track it feels more like a South Island tramp. The alpine forest feels almost surreal in places like you could encounter elves and hobbits around the next corner. It is proper Lord of the Rings territory with plenty of tree roots for hobbits to hide under. Truly beautiful and serene bush.
Once you break through the treeline you can follow the Kaimanawa Ridge line around either eventually to the hut or to a couple of other ridge and high points – all with phenomenal views of Mt Ruapehu, Mt Ngauruhoe and further round Lake Taupo and in between Lake O. Having made the climb I was on some of the highest terrain short of the Tongariro National Park itself – in fact looking over the National Park.
Overall a great half day walk in a beautiful part of the world that nobody really knows about. You don’t need to worry about hunters. I saw two but they took off along a distant ridge as soon as they could to get away from the main track. I only saw 7 people the whole time – a far cry from the 1,000’s surging along the Tongariro Crossing. So if you want an amazing track away from the masses – try the Kaimanawa Forest Park for a day or even overnight walk.