Situated at the base of the Coromandel Range, the Karangahake Gorge Historic Walkway follows the old railway line between Paeroa and Waihi, giving access to impressive remains from the mining and railway eras. 7km. (Source).
The Karangahake Gorge Historic Walkway is a small section of the 82km long Hauraki Rail Trail which starts in Paeroa. Although we were based in Paeroa on the weekend we went, that section of the Hauraki Rail Trail is a wide gravel pathway that weaves it’s way through the countryside to reach the Karangahake Gorge, whereas the Karangahake Gorge to Waikino section not only passes by large historic ruins and two waterfalls it also goes through a 1.1km underground railway tunnel (which was a major highlight and perhaps the main reason we settled on running this section).
Starting from the car park on State Highway 2 we crossed over the main suspension bridge and turned right to follow the path to the Crown Battery before climbing up onto the Western Portal bridge to reach the 1.1km underground railway tunnel on the other side of the river. The tunnel has overhead lighting but it’s still dark (so dark that you can’t see where your foot is going to land when you run) and although James and I both carried torches they didn’t make a huge dent into the darkness but they did ensure that we could be seen by any cyclists also using the tunnel.
Without a shadow of a doubt this is the nicest section of the trail to run along (even if you can’t actually see where you are running), the tunnel is wide and cool and the surface of compacted earth is forgiving on the joints but still firm underfoot and although it’s a slight uphill climb in this direction, I barely noticed (James said it was probably because it’s dark and you can’t see the incline). That being said, I probably wouldn’t run it alone unless it was quite late in the day when it gets quite busy.
On the other side of the bridge you reach what I would call the bike trail “proper” being that it looks like your typical bike path – a wide flat gravel “road.” This section of trail follows the river, basically State Highway 2 is on one side of the river and we (on the trail) are on the other.
James loved running along the flat and winding bike track (because he could run fast – in fact he ran his fastest (in a really long time) 1km of 3:30 along here on our way back). I on the other hand dislike running on gravel roads and I found it quite a monotonous run, in both surface and scenery.
That being said the “side trips” were amazing.
The first waterfall you reach, which is not named so J and I referred to it as the Quarry Waterfall is approximately 300 metres away from the main track. This side track is what trail runners would call “technical” – it’s damp, muddy and there is shit everywhere to clamber over or under (and that includes at the waterfall itself). 😉
Approximately 2.5km from “Quarry Waterfall” the Karangahake Historic Walk crosses Falls Road. It’s at this point you can take a side trip to your second waterfall of the day as the Owharoa Falls are located on Falls Road. To get to them you turn right and head up Falls Road for about 100m and it’s well worth the effort because (in my opinion) Owharoa Falls are even more stunning than the Hunua Falls and they took my breathe away. The morning we ran the trail we got to Owharoa Falls just before 10am and it was us and a family of ducks however when we returned later on that afternoon it was jam packed with families sitting on the banks or wading in the water (with the aforementioned ducks).
Back on the trail it’s only another kilometer until you reach the Victoria Battery. As I’d seen various ruins along the way (and on the Windows Walk) I didn’t expect the Victoria Battery to be so extensive! It’s actually really really cool, while we were there we took time out to do the “Victoria Loop Walk” – which is basically a grass mown strip that circles the site and James stopped to read all of the information boards. We both agreed that the kidlets would love this site (Elias would explore all the ruins and Isabelle would read all of the information boards).
On a side note – if you have kids, you can drive all the way down to the battery along the path or you can park at the Falls Road end and walk (or cycle) down which is probably the option we would select if we had the kids in tow ..
From the Battery it’s only a quick 500 m jaunt to get to the Waikino Train Station Cafe which is located on the other side of the river. Here you can get something to eat or drink and freshen up before your return trip.
On (yet another) side note – The Goldfields Historic Railway runs a service between here and Waihi and I’ve put it onto my must do this next time I down there list.
The other stuff;
Location – The Karangahake Gorge is on SH2 between Waihi and Paeroa, at the southern limits of the Coromandel Peninsula
Parking? – Yes at Karangahake Gorge or there is a DOC car park opposite the Waikino Train Station Cafe
Toilet Facilities? – Yes, at Karangahake Gorge car park, Waikino Visitor Center and the Victoria Battery site.
Kid Friendly? – Yes although I’d only do the entire route with my kidlets if they were on a bike.
My tip of the day – Watch out for cyclists especially those on group tours because from experience, they won’t look out for you.
Till next time