Tramping NZ

I have a passion for the great outdoors and in particular tramping. This page details some of the tramps that I have done and would recommend to others (or not recommend in the case of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing – see the bottom of the page for why).

Essential Equipment

The following list is my recommended bare essentials for any form of hiking in New Zealand.

  • Water – Never ever go hiking without a bottle of water, no matter how short the walk is
  • Food – Take food that is high energy and high sugar. In particular when you are climbing you are burning a lot of sugar very quickly and you need to replace it. If you do not like eating lots of food take a Poweraide or other form of sports drink.
  • Pack – When hiking make sure you pack is suitable to the conditions, it needs to fit well and be comfortable on the back.
  • Rain Jacket – No matter how sunny it is outside always carry a rain jacket, New Zealand weather can change very rapidly.
  • First Aid Kit – Including Sunscreen
  • Map – NZMS 260 series 1:50,000 topographical is recommended.
  • Tramping Boots – You can get away with sport shoes on some trails but tramping boots will be a lot nicer on your feet at the end of the day. When purchasing tramping boots do not be fooled into paying more for boots that are more waterproof or breathable it is most important that the boots fit well, are comfortable and will not cause blisters. Also make sure you wear proper tramping socks as this will take a lot of pressure off the feet.
  • Sweatshirt or pullover – Like a rain jacket always carry a pullover when the wind picks up the apparent air temperature can drop very fast also if some gets hurt or goes into shock you need to keep them warm.
  • Shorts or 3/4 pants – Never go tramping in Jeans or Long Pants when they are dry they take a lot of energy to pull over the knee at the every step, when they are wet they are even worse. If your lower legs are cold wear bigger and thicker socks or some gaiters.
  • Non-Cotton Baselayer – It is best to get something with a little bit of lycra or similar material that will breathe. Cotton gets hot and sweaty very quickly and does not regulate your body temperture like other fabrics can.

Often you need to adjust what you take depending on the length of the track and the seasonal weather conditions. There is a fine balance between taking too little and taking too much. Often when you enter any form of tramping store (Kathmandu, Bivouac, Snowgum) the sales people will try to sell you a wide array of items you simply do not need (I know I worked in two different outdoors stores during my university studies), the best thing you can do is take what you have, make do with what you have and observe what other trampers are using, also talk to other trampers about their gear – what they like and do not like.

Before You Begin

You should always check the weather forecast immediately before you depart on any tramp. There are a number of different weather forecasters in New Zealand and it is a good idea to check a number of them because they quite often have different forecasts:

A few days before you head off on any tramp you should endeavour to find out the track conditions. Both the DOC and ARC websites list important track condition information on the main pages of each tramp. Also if there is a information centre at the start of any park check in there to find out any late breaking information.

Always tell someone where you are going, and when you will be back. Many tramps in New Zealand are out of range of cellphone coverage and if something happens and you don’t come out on time someone needs to know. Also never go tramping solo it is very tempting when you can’t find anyone else to go with but unless you know the track inside out it is a very risky idea. It is also highly recommended to attempt new tracks with at least one person who has already done the track before. Each track has its own little unexpected and challenging bits and having someone with some inside knowledge on these can help a lot.

North Auckland

Dome Forest Walkway

Location: The walkway is signposted by the cafe at the top of Dome Hill, 6km from Walkworth on State Highway One to Wellsford

Time: 1 hour return to summit (2km), 3 hours return if you continue on to Waiwhiu Grove (8km)

This track is a nice half day side tour if you are heading north out of Auckland. It is not particularly exciting or unique and the majority of the time you are in reasonably thick bush so there is little chance to see much scenery. However, the walk is challenging enough to leave you satisfied at the end especially as it is a little more off the well beaten trails.

DOC Track information:

Other Links:

View from summit of Dome Valley looking south
View from summit of Dome Valley looking south
Okura River at High Tide
Okura River at High Tide

Okura Bush Walkway

Location:Haighs Access Rd, off East Coast Rd.

Time: 3 hours return (9.6km)

This walk is certainly not a walk in the park. Allow yourself at least half a day and take some decent shoes or boots the track is muddy in places. The walk to the river mouth, bay and Dacre Cottage roughly follows the Okura River out to sea but it also cuts inland twice up and over two quite large hills. Make sure you take lunch to have on the beach. A great day out just north of Auckland.

DOC Track information:

Okura River at Low Tide
Okura River at Low Tide

Long Bay to Okura River Coastal Walk

Location:Long Bay – the start of the track is at the end of the carpark at the northern end of the beach.

Time: 3 hours return (6km)

This walk is great on a lazy Sunday afternoon. The walkway climbs up a cliff at the northern end of long bay and then continues on farmland along the coast until you reach the mouth of the Okura River. At low tide you can walk out on the mud flats at the mouth however be careful as this is very muddy and the tide can rise very quickly.

ARC Track information:


Auckland City Walk: Cascades Kauri Regional Park

Location: Take Te Henga Road which runs off Scenic Drive (turn off for Bethells Beach), after a few kilometers turn left into Falls Road (unsealed). Drive down the road, through the golf course to to the carpark at the end of the road.

Time: 1 hour (1.5km)

The Auckland City Walk is a good short walk which is very popular with families. The walk itself is mostly over gravel/metal so good sports/walking shoes are fine. If you have guests from out of town it is a good way of showing them the Waitakere bush without going overboard.

ARC Track information:

Mid-section of Fairy Falls

Fairy Falls/Old Coach Road Track

Location: Scenic Drive between Mountain Road and Piha Road

Time: 2.5 – 3 hours (5.6km)

The first part of this track (Fairy Falls) is a well formed track that leads down the side of the Fairy Falls waterfall. There are wooden steps most of the way down. At this point you can turn around and climb back up, or you can walk down the stream a bit before the track cuts into the forest and continues in a loop back up to the start. If you just do the Fairy Falls track you can get away with sport shoes however if you do the complete loop you will need tramping boots as the track can be very muddy.

ARC Track information:

Mercer Bay Loop

Location:Log Race Road, off Piha Road

Time: 1 hour

Mercer Bay Loop is a great walk to stretch the legs and get some fresh air while taking in fantastic views looking both north and south along the West Auckland coastline. The loop starts about 200m above the sea and walks along the cliff edge between Piha and Mercer Bay. The track descends a little as it approaches Mercer Bay and then directly overlooks it. The bay itself is completely inaccessible from land and can only be accessed from a boat, however, the sight of such untouched wilderness is breathe taking. Beware the steep climb back to the carpark though.

ARC Track information:

Mokora Falls and Goldie Bush

Location:You can start the track at either Horseman Road or Constable Road.

Time: 3 – 4 hours (7km)

The Mokora Falls (Goldie Bush) loop has to be one of the best tramps in the Auckland region. Although the the tramp should only take half a day it is best to allow a full day for it as the many river crossings can really slow you down, especially if you have people with little experience. Do not attempt the track in rain, immediately aftewards, or when the river level is high. Also take extreme care when climbing over the rocks they are very slippery.

DOC Track information:

Waitakere Dam Circuit

Location: Take Te Henga Road which runs off Scenic Drive (turn off for Bethells Beach), after a few kilometers turn left into Falls Road (unsealed). Drive down the road, through the golf course to to the carpark at the end of the road.

Time: 3 hours (6km)

This track combines all or parts of many shorter tracks in the Cascades area. The track climbs steeply up to the Waitakere Dam which you walk across and before descending back to the Cascades carpark. The loop itself is easy enough to follow:

  • Take the Auckland City Walk until you reach Fence Line Track
  • Follow Fence Line Track until it meets the Waitakere Dam Walk turn left and walk across the dam
  • At the end of the dam turn left onto Waitakere Tramline Walk
  • Follow this track onto the West Tunnel Mouth Track until you reach the Anderson Track
  • The Anderson Track meets back with the Auckland City Walk

ARC Track information:


Collins Drive

Location: Broken Hills is 19 km from Tairua and 27 km from Whangamata. Turn off State Highway 25 at Hikuai onto Morrison’s Road then onto Puketui Valley Road. It is 6 km to the Puketui Valley roadend carpark.

Time: 2 – 3 hr return

This track is awesome for being able to travel 500m through a old underground mine shaft. You do need a torch it is very dark in the mine and in the middle you cannot see either end of the tunnel. It is also very wet inside the mine. Although a little of the beaten track a few days camping at Broken Hills is an awesome experience. You are close enough to Pauanui to pick up essentials is needed but far enough from humanity to have no cellphone coverage.

DOC Track information:

The Pinnacles

Location: 2km south of Thames on State Highway 25 turn onto the Kaueranga Valley Road. Follow the road (22km – first 10km sealed, last 12km unsealed/metal) to the carpark at the end of the road.

Time: 1 – 2 days (3 hours from carpark to Pinnacles Hut, 1.5 hours Pinnacles Hut to Pinnacles Summit return, 4 hours from Pinnacles Hut to carpark via Billygoat Track)

The Pinnacles Tramp should be made compulsory for all New Zealanders to do at some point in their lives. The track is easy enough to be done in a pair of sports shoes (although boots are highly recommended) but leaves you with a good sense of achievement at the end. The Pinnacles hut is one of the best huts in New Zealand. The time from the carpark to the hut varies depending on how much you are carrying in your pack and the speed of your group. If you are travelling light and attempting the full tramp in one day you can reach the hut in a little over an hour, however, if you are carrying food and sleeping gear expect it to take the full three hours.

DOC Track information:

Other Links:

Tarawaere Dam – Billygoat Circuit

Location: 2km south of Thames on State Highway 25 turn onto the Kaueranga Valley Road. Follow the road to the Totara Flat campground (almost at the end of the road).

Time: 4 hours

This track is a good challenge in the Kauaeranga Valley rising from the valley floor the track climbs to a ridge at 500m vertical. Boots are highly recommended as you cross the Tarawaere Stream many times. The track becomes very muddy after rain and is not recommended for beginners.

DOC Track information:

Central North Island

View from summit of Ngauruhoe looking across at Tongariro
View from summit of Ngauruhoe looking across at Tongariro

Mount Ngauruhoe Summit

Location: Mangatepopo Roadend, 6km off State Highway 47

Time: 7 hours return

The DOC website suggests completing Ngaurauhoe summit as a 3 hour addition to the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, however, from experience it is better to do it as a separate trip. Start out from the same location as the Tongariro Crossing and climb to the Mangatepopo Saddle between Mount’s Ngauruhoe and Tongariro (2 hours) from here climb straight up Ngauruhoe and walk around the rim of the crater. Climb down the same way you came up and walk back to the Mangatepopo Roadend. Make sure you take care both climbing up and down the mountain as the terrain is loose scree and in the past many climbers have slipped and fallen or had rocks knocked down onto them from climbers above them.

DOC Track information:

Other Links:

Mt Ruapehu Crater Climb

Location: Top O’ Bruce, Bruce Road, Whakapapa, off State Highway 47

Time: 5 – 7 hours (7 – 10km)

This is my favourite tramp. The climb to the Ruapehu Summit is incredibly challenging but is very rewarding. From the carpark at the Top O’ Bruce you can get a chairlift to the top of the Waterfall or you can walk the same route up the lift lines. From here follow the Knoll Ridge T-Bar pylons to the top of Knoll Ridge. From here climb up the Whakapapa Glacier to Restful Ridge, follow the ridge along to the Dome Shelter and the Crater Lake. If you do not take the chairlift expect it to take 5 hours to reach the summit and depending on snow conditions around 3 hours to come down. On the way up be careful to make sure the snow underfoot is stable where possible walk on the solid rocks. On the descent if there is enough snow you can slide down a large portion of the Whakapapa Glacier which saves a lot of time (and is a lot of fun).

DOC Track information:

Other Links:

Silica Rapids

Location: Whakapapa Village, off State Highway 47

Time: 2.5 hours (4.5km + 2.5km if you walk back down Bruce Road)

The Silica Rapids are a great walk to do the day after a big tramp in the Tongariro National Park. The track takes around 2 hours to complete and you pass by some spectacular geological formations. You can either be dropped off at the start of the track (2.5km above the Whakapapa Village) and be picked up at the village upon completion or just walk back up the road.

DOC Track information:

Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Location: Mangatepopo Roadend, 6km off State Highway 47

Time: 6 – 8 hours (19.4km)

My personal opinion of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is not very high. I believe it is it the number one most overrated tramp in New Zealand. It is long and for the most part very boring. The key issue I have with the tramp is the number of people on it. Over the years this has worn down the surface of the terrain and instead of being clean green untouched New Zealand it is full of rubbish and people acting stupidly. It is also one of the most deadly tramps in New Zealand; this is mainly due to many people attempting the crossing completely unprepared. As a result of this DOC has improved certain “hard” sections of the track to speed people up, however, this means more people are doing the track who are not prepared for what is a very long 19.4km in a very exposed alpine environment.

DOC Track information:

Sweatshirt or pullover – Like a rain jacket always carry a pullover when the wind picks up the apparent air temperature can drop very fast also if some gets hurt or goes into shock you need to keep them warm.