I’m going to get this little “rant” out of the way first ..
I research the tracks I plan to run along pretty thoroughly before turning up. Not only do I check the Council and DOC websites but also NZ Tramper and all private blogs I come across that have either walked or run the track previously and not ONE person thought it noteworthy to state that between the start (at Haighs Access Road) and Dacre Cottage (where I turned around) there are over 600 stairs! Not ONE .. !
So I’ll be “that person” who will tell you straight up – there are a total of 670 stairs in the 4.2 kilometers between the Haigh Access Road Entrance and Dacre Cottage. (Give or take a couple as I counted the stairs on the return journey and my brain was pretty fried by then). 😉
Now that’s out of the way …
The track is pretty easy to find, Haigh Access Road is a dead end and the on road marked parking spaces start a good 500 or so metres before you reach the end. You can’t miss the track entrance as there is a large noticeboard and rubbish bins. One thing to note is that the shoe cleaning station isn’t located here, but another 100m (or so) down the track just before the bridge, so if you plan on timing yourself, you may want to use the start of the track as a warm up and then turn your tracking device on after that point.
The first kilometer is pretty much a straight climb with large sections of stairs and quite frankly I ended up walking most of it (which is kind of depressing when you’ve turned up for a trail run). I almost thought about turning off my Garmin but meh, I was here to do my 5k training run and all I could do, was give it my best attempt. I was just hoping it flattened out somewhere!
It did somewhat flatten after the track descended down to follow the river. The track also narrows significantly during this section but widens again when it moves away from the waters edge. Apart from this section where the view is “coastal” the majority of the track is akin to being in the Waitakere Ranges (without the constant dampness).
However the best views of all don’t come until you come out of the darkness of the forest and into the sunshine as you traverse along the headland high above Karepiro Bay with 180 degree water views (well if you look above the gorse) lolol.
I knew about the final 100 steps down to Dacre Point, but I will mention that this set of stairs are near vertical and each step is extremely narrow, my foot barely fit in each “tread” sideways, there is gorse growing on both sides and there isn’t anything to hold onto, so be careful.
The last section to Dacre Cottage is a soft sand beach run. Large portions of the beach are roped off to protect the nesting birds, so watch where you are stepping and stick to the track even though it isn’t the most direct route to the cottage however I’m guessing you could run along the waterline on the beach should you wish too.
Dacre Cottage is not only a restored historic building but more importantly for me had toilet facilities! (Because I’d be busting for a wee from the very start). 😉
In summary the first 1 kilometer is by far the hardest section on the track, it’s steep with a tonne of stairs, but then (thankfully) it becomes much more undulating and the very last section before the cottage is flat (albiet on soft sand).
The surface underfoot was generally firm right the way along the 4.2k but I did navigate a section that must be continuously water logged as it had a pile of palm leaves on the ground to help people cross and apart from the section following the water (where the track is noticeably narrow), the path is nice and wide with very few hazards of note.
I ran the track at 2.30pm on a Monday afternoon and although there were four cars parked near the entrance I only saw a young couple (with a child in a pram) returning before I reached the bridge and a man coming up the big hill near the 2k mark and although the inland section of forest where it was quite dark wouldn’t be somewhere I’d want to be near sunset it was otherwise fine, although I did carry my go-pro on my return journey “just in case I had to bash someone over the head”. 😉
As a bonus I had cellphone coverage the entire way – I always feel safer when I have cellphone coverage.
Till next time (I’ll keep exploring)