Majestic views await you on this challenging day walk, with stunning 360 degree views, including the highest peaks in the Tararua Forest Park.
Mt Holdsworth is definitely one of the hiking gems of the Tararua Forest Park. This challenging day walk can be climbed from a number of different routes, the most popular is via Powell Hut, it’s more gradual and perhaps the easier route to climb. Another is via The East Holdsworth Track which I’m going to describe here. If you’re looking for a circuit rather than the up and down walk this is an excellent choice. Time wise it’s roughly the same, 7 to 8 hours and the distance is 17.5 kilometres.
Mt Holdsworth Car Park to Holdsworth Creek 1 hour 4 Kilometre’s
The first stage of this walk is the same as the Atiwhakatu Hut walk, an easy to follow track which follows the beautiful Atiwhakatu Valley to Holdsworth Creek. There are a number of signpost junctions on this section, with tracks heading off to other areas. Carrying a map is essential, particularly further into the walk when you are climbing above the bushline to the top of Mt Holdsworth.
From the carpark follow the gravel track to Holdsworth Lodge, 2 minutes. From the lodge continue on and take the footbridge across the Atiwhakatu Stream, this is a great spot for a photo. Once across follow the track through the towering Rimu and Northern Rata trees, there’s a nice mixture of trees and ferns here, also prominent are the Red and Silver Beech. 15 minutes of walking brings you to the first track junction. Stay on the Atiwhakatu Valley Track and follow to Donnelly Flats, there are camping spots and places to picnic here. At the end of the flats the track climbs to another junction, turn right and continue the short climb as the track sidles a gorgy area of the Atiwhakatu Stream. Views of the valley and the peaks above will begin to emerge with a couple of footbridges over side streams and then another track junction. Continue along the valley for 10 minutes brings you to the Holdsworth Creek Bridge, the track junction is a 1 minute or 2 further along the track. This is the last chance to refill drink bottles until you reach Powell Hut.
Holdsworth Creek to Mt Holdsworth 3-4hours 4 Kilometre’s
With just over 1000 metres of climbing this section will test your fitness and why it’s considered a hard walk. Enjoy the views as you climb through mixed beech and podocarp forest, with native birds chirping and buzzing about. When you reach the bushline the views of the Wairarapa are even better and the top of Mt Holdsworth will be seen in the distance. Parallel to the East Holdsworth Ridge is the Ridge from Powell Hut and the one you will decent once you’ve reached the top of Mt Holdsworth. Follow the rock cairns up the tussock slopes to the main ridge which runs between Holdsworth and Jumbo. Head south along the ridge and then the final climb onto Mt Holdsworth (1470m). Holdsworth is marked with a trig. Take sometime to enjoy the views, take some photo’s, have a bite to eat and drink. Hopefully you’ve chosen a nice day, it can get very cold and windy up there, so taking the right gear is extremely important. To the north is Mitre Peak (Tararua’s highest) and to the south Mt Hector. The Main Range is to the west and you would be familiar with the Wairarapa view which you will see more of on your descent.
Mt Holdsworth to Powell Hut 30 minutes 2 Kilometre’s
The descent to Powell Hut is reasonably gentle and the route is well worn, marked by rock cairns, it makes a nice change from the long steep climb of the East Holdsworth Track.
Powell Hut to Holdsworth Car Park 2-2.5 hours 7.5 Kilometre’s
Powell Hut offers great views and a nice spot to spend the night if you were thinking of staying or a great idea for another trip. Follow the track to the bush edge and re-enter the bush, its a steep descent to the Mountain House Shelter and just beyond is a track junction. Keep on the ridge and head across Pig Flat to the Totara Flats and the Gentle Annie junction, this section of the track is quite flat. Take the Gentle Annie track to the left and continue down towards Holdsworth Lodge and the carpark. Stop off at the Rocky look-out on your way and check-out what you’ve done. There’s great views looking back towards Mt Holdsworth and if your eye sight is good, see if you can spot Powell Hut.
Turn off State Highway 2, just south of Masterton onto Norfolk Road. This eventually becomes Mt Holdsworth Road and follow for about 15 kilometres to the road end. There are camping sites and toilet facilities here. For more information on camping fees, check-out Holdsworth Camping. For hot showers and a little more comfort Holdsworth Lodge offers good facilities.
What to Take
Take plenty of food and water; Holdsworth Creek is your last chance to refill drink bottles until you reach Powell Hut. There is a sizable section of this walk above the bushline, if the weather turns nasty you need to have the right gear to keep dry and warm, this is what I recommend you take:
- Food and drink
- Waterproof raincoat/over-trousers
- Sturdy footwear
- Warm clothing: thermals and fleece
- Hat and gloves
- Sunscreen and sunglasses
- First Aid Kit
This walk and any of the Day Walks in New Zealand can be tough, so for important information on what to bring check-out my blog on what to take hiking.
To print the above map, click on mapometer.com at the top of the map. The printing and PDF option at the bottom of this page will print or download the post except the map. Once you’ve clicked on mapometer, the link will take you to the printing or export option. If mapometer asks for your location decline, otherwise it will take you to your location and not the above map. This map gives great information for getting to the start of the track, however it’s only a guide of the route, for more detail on the track click on the topomap below, and this can also be printed.
Expect some variation in times depending on conditions and personal fitness levels. I’ve graded this a hard walk, so a good level of fitness is required. This walk has a long steep climb of over 1000 metres, good navigational and route finding skills are required for the sections above the bushline. I would recommend at least one experienced walker in your group and you climb Mt Holdsworth in the summer months on a fine day.
Have a great walk 🙂