Tramping Track – From Piha Road, the Ian Wells Track follows an old access road to the (now empty) Nihotupu Auxiliary Dam, before it narrows and continues with some muddy patches and stream crossings to Cutty Grass Track, 2.4km. (Source).
I’ve negotiated a small section of this track from the Cutty Grass entrance (as I’ve run the Cutty Grass numerous times) but I’d never gone any further than the water crossing, so when I turned up to the Upper Nihotupu Track to find workmen relaying the trail it seemed like the perfect time to head across the road to run along the Ian Wells Track.
From the Upper Nihotupu Track car parking area, Ian Wells track is on the opposite side of the road approximately 100m further along Piha Road. There is a large off street area near the gated entrance so you could (should you wish too), park here instead of at the main car park of the Upper Nihotupu Dam, which would save you walking on Piha Road and crossing a bridge (both of which have no footpath).
The first section of trail is a wide grassy driveway which I imagine was originally intended to service the now disused dam. It’s still used (possibly by DOC) as I saw fresh tyre tracks on the afternoon I was there. After about 5 minutes you’ll reach a fork, one path heads down the hill (to the right) and the other heads up the hill (veering slightly to the left), there is no signage at this point, so I used my powers of deduction to realise that the disused dam would probably be at the lowest point, so I headed down the hill. At the bottom you’ll reach a clearing bordering a stream on one side of the dam (although you’d really have to look for it, it’s not as large as you’d imagine a dam to be), the other side of the dam can be reached by heading into the bush not far from where the track initially headed down the hill at the fork. This is also not marked but there is a random wooden post and if you you’re looking for it, you can see a narrow trail of sorts heading down the hill to a set of muddy steps leading down the other side of the dam.
Once you’ve finished exploring head back up the hill and continue along the other trail which after a short distance narrows significantly and is sign posted “Caution for experienced trampers only”. This section of trail is basically the same until you reach it’s end at Cutty Grass Track.
It’s a narrow, muddy, deeply rutted, and steeply undulating trail some sections of which are extremely swamp like, honestly I took one photo where if you didn’t know it was supposed to be a trail you’d have thought I’d taken yet another photo of a pretty stream ..
I will however say that after the major swamp section (which is was probably the third swamp you reach if you start from Piha Road) the next part of the trail is perhaps one of THE nicest pieces of track I have ever run along, it’s a little like the top part of Andersons (which is one of my all time faves) but this particular piece of trail is much harder going to get too.
All in all it’s probably one of those “one and done” tracks, I may give it another go in the height of summer just to see if it’s still a major swamp, but otherwise it’s not particularly runnable and the scenery isn’t special enough to make up for that.
Till next time