Tramping Track. The Wairoa Loop Track climbs steeply from the south side of the Wairoa picnic site (off Moumoukai Road) to a lookout platform 1.5km from the entrance. The lookout is a short distance from the main track and provides magnificent views of the Wairoa Reservoir. 6.5km. (Source.)
Although the map makes it seem as if both the Wairoa Loop and Suspension Bridge tracks start at the same point – they do not.
Otau Valley Road (which is basically the driveway) is the lowest section of the Wairoa Loop and from here you can ascend the hill from either the unmarked trail to the right of the information board or you can continue another 10-15 minutes up the wide and mostly flat gravel driveway passing both the suspension bridge and picnic area en route to the (at the time we visited) clearly signposted entrance on your right.
This is where we chose to ascend the hill (mostly because we didn’t realise the unmarked trail near where we parked our car was part of the Wairoa Loop). Having said that, it turns out that circumnavigating the loop in a clockwise direction made for a much easier running route.
Although this section starts with a climb (boo) the trail itself is in great condition with minimal mud or obstacles blocking the way (yay). It’s also very picturesque, it reminded me a lot of being in the Waitakere Ranges but without the aforementioned mud or kereru’s scaring the bejesus out of me.
There is (as noted above) a look out about 2/3rds of the way up and although the sign states it’s a 15 minute return trip I really think you’d have to amble for it to take that long, it took us a couple of minutes to get there and slightly longer to get back (as it’s uphill on the return). Although, next time I wouldn’t bother as it’s pretty run down and the vegetation is so overgrown that you can’t see much, however there was a load of scoria at the look out so I can only assume that they are currently upgrading this area.
Once back on the Wairoa Loop Track it’s only a short 5 minute climb till you come out of the bush onto a large 4WD track which passes the Radio Repeater Station – it was this point that James nearly wet himself with excitement and set off at a sprint.
I on the other hand was disappointed. In theory a wide 4WD track with a slight downhill gradient would make for a great run, but I find it extremely monotonous and the constant thumping (because I run like an elephant) does “wonders for my bung knee” so I was anything but sad when after 15 minutes or so we turned back into the forest.
I might add that we could have continued along the 4WD track to the Mangatawhiri Lookout (30 minute return) but I was more keen to get off the road and back into the bush than I was to visit yet another look out, especially after taking time out to visit the last one with less than stellar results.
Unlike James, single tracks through the bush are my all time favorite so it was my turn to get excited when we finally turned off the 4WD track and this section was worth the wait ..
It was worth the steep climb, the meh look out and the monotony of the 4WD track in fact if the only way I could have been happier is if there was a way to get dropped off at this point so I could skip all the meh parts and just run happy along this single track through the bush.
Even the stairs didn’t diminish my happiness (and there were a fair few sets – even really randomly placed ones) lolol
It’s worth mentioning that this section of trail gets more technical (and overgrown) as it goes along and the second half of the trail follows a waterway so it’s reasonably damp (but not muddy) underfoot. There are also a number of bridge crossings.
The trail comes to an end quite abruptly – one minute you’re running happily along next to a stream then next you round a corner and bam! The driveway ..
All in all if this trail was closer to home it would be in my top 3 but even if I factor in having to sit on the abomination that is the Southern Motorway I’d still rate it top 10.
The other stuff;
Location – Moumoukai Road, Hunua.
Directions (from the CBD) – Travel south on State Highway 1 and take the Papakura exit. Follow Beach Road across Great South Road and along Settlement Road. Turn right by Edmund Hillary School into Hunua Road. Follow Hunua Road through the Hunua Gorge to the Hunua village. Drive through Hunua village, continue for 8km and turn left into Moumoukai Road. Wairoa Dam is on the left about 1km along this road.
Parking? – Yes. One immediately to your left upon entering (before the gate) and one further along.
Toilet Facilities? – Yes near the picnic area (10-15 minute walk from the gate/information board).
Kid Friendly? – My kids wouldn’t even last the car journey to get there. 😉
Till next time