This challenging Wellington Day walk has stunning views and scenic terrain.
The Rimutaka Forest Park has a number of great day walks with Mt McKerrow up there with the best of them. If you’re looking for a longer walk and a bit more of a challenge, then Mt McKerrow is the walk for you. This popular Wellington Day Walk heads up Clay Ridge to Mt McKerrow and then descends to the Orongorongo track.
Mt McKerrow at 706 metres can be climbed from a number of different routes; the one I described below is the most popular and can be walked in either direction.
Situated 10 kilometres south of Wainuiomata in the Catchpool Valley, this stunning walk is 16 kilometres in distance. There is an ascent of 650 metres so a good level of fitness is required. Allow 5 to 7 hours to complete this circuit.
Catchpool carpark to Mt McKerrow: 6 km, 1.5 to 3 hours
Starting from the Catchpool carpark there are 2 tracks that lead to the Clay Ridge junction; the middle ridge track and the 5 mile loop track. The 5 mile loop track is the nicer of the two tracks and the one I suggest for this walk.
The track starts on the left side of the carpark. Don’t take the Orongorongo Track at the far end of the carpark; this is where your walk will finish. The 5 mile loop track has a nice mixture of podocarp and black beech forest. Allow 30 to 45 minutes to reach the Clay Ridge junction.
Take the track to the left and follow Clay Ridge to the McKerrow track junction. The ridge starts out gently and climbs gradually with one steep section about 30 minutes along the ridge. Clay Ridge is the easier way to walk as the climb up from the Orongorongo Track is steep. Watch for the views through the trees as you climb. Just before the track junction there is a clearing which offers spectacular views of the Wellington Harbour, Catchpool Valley and Wainuiomata area. This is the best view point on the entire walk and worth stopping for photos and a bite to eat. Both the McKerrow Track Junction and Mt McKerrow are in bush so there are no views. Allow 1 to 2 hours for this section.
Mt McKerrow to the Orongorongo River: 5 km, 1 to 2 hours
Mt McKerrow is a 5 minute walk from the junction, when you see a metal pole in the middle of the track that’s the top. From there the track descends along the ridge to the Whakanui Track and Sunny Grove, Wainuiomata.
Return to the junction and descend to the Orongorongo Track. The track is steep in places; allow 1 to 2 hours for the descent. There are some nice views looking into the Orongorongo Valley, if time allows take the Orongorongo Track to the river. This track is very scenic and a nice way to finish your walk. Allow 15 minutes to reach the river. At the river there are toilets available. Take a break by the river before returning to the carpark. The Orongorongo River is the main river of the Rimutaka Range. It runs for 32 kilometres along the south-western slopes of the park
The Orongorongo River to Catchpool Car Park: 5 km, 1 to 2 hours
Return to Catchpool on the Orongorongo Track, as I said this is a very scenic track. DOC (The Department of Conservation) has done a great job in building and maintaining this track. Enjoy the beauty of the area as you make your way back to the carpark.
The Catchpool Valley is reached from Wainuiomata. A 45 minute drive from Wellington City, follow the Coast Road for 10 kilometres south of Wainuiomata. The Rimutaka Forest Park and Catchpool Valley entrance is to the left. If you’re not familiar with the area look at the map below. Click on the map and drag until you see the roads, use the + or – button if needed.
There are camping sites here. For more information on facilities and camping fees, check-out Catchpool Valley Campsite.
For those that wish to extend their walk to an overnight trip, there are 6 DOC huts in the Orongorongo Valley. These are locked and only available by booking. They have great facilities including; gas cooking, crockery, pots and cooking utensils. Some of the huts have hot showers and flushing toilets. Click here for more information.
What to Take
Take food and water; there is nowhere to refill drink bottles on Clay Ridge and the McKerrow track until the Orongorongo River. If the weather turns nasty, you do have the protection of the bush as there is no alpine walking on this walk. However, I do recommend carrying warm clothing, raincoat and wearing a sturdy pair of tramping boots. Below is a list of things to take:
- Food and drink
- Waterproof raincoat
- Sturdy footwear
- Warm clothing: thermals and fleece
- Hat and gloves
- Sunscreen and sunglasses
- First Aid Kit
For more 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 medium/hard walk as there are some steep climbs. However the tracks are well defined and well-marked, the stream crossings are bridged and the duration of this walk is boarding the 6 hour mark. Technically it’s not a hard walk; however any thing over 6 hours requires a good level of fitness. Walks that I regard as hard are generally over 6 hours, have longer steeper climbs, have river crossings and requires good navigational skills.
Enjoy your walk and feel free to leave any suggestions or comments ?