Mt McKerrow Walk: Rimutaka Forest Park: Wellington Day Walks

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. 

Mt McKerrow Walk, Rimutaka Forest Park, Wellington Day Walks
The Clay Ridge Track


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. 



Mt McKerrow Walk, Rimutaka Forest Park, Wellington Day Walks
The Orongorongo Valley
Mt McKerrow Walk, Rimutaka Forest Park, Wellington Day Walks
Walking amongst the Black Beech Forest
Mt McKerrow Walk, Rimutaka Forest Park, Wellington Day Walks
The Orongorongo Track

Getting There

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
    • Map
    • Camera

For more information on what to bring check-out my blog on what to take hiking.


To print the above map, click on 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.

View Larger Topographic Map

Walking Times 

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 ?

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8 thoughts on “Mt McKerrow Walk: Rimutaka Forest Park: Wellington Day Walks

  1. I’ve always wanted to visit New Zealand. My number one activity when I do will be hiking and backpacking so I’m glad I found your site 😀 I only wish I was faster at converting km to miles … and also knew how often pronounce all of the locations!

    Do you have any suggestions for multi-day treks? I’ll have to look around your site to find some. Cheers!

    1. Hi Jenny
      There’s plenty of great multi day walks in New Zealand. The most popular for oversea travelers are our great walks. The Routeburn track is a particular favourite of mine. Check out the DOC website for more information
      You’ve probably discovered, my website is a guide to day walking in New Zealand. I have 2 day walks on the Routeburn Track…both at either end of the walk. and
      Feel free to contact me if you need more information.


  2. Hi Murray,
    This is a beautiful website you have here! You are so lucky to live in New Zealand and enjoying this unique scenery! I must say your post is very informative, a 16 kms long track is pretty impressive. Is it safe for someone to go alone or would you advise this activity to be done in a group?

    1. Hi Tasleen,
      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. Yes the track is safe to walk alone. We have no wild animals to speak of, apart from deer, goats and bird life. I would recommend letting someone know where you’re walking…carry a map and take what I have suggested and you will be fine.


  3. Completed this walk yesterday, awesome views and loved being under the canopy for most of it. Glad you set me clockwise as the downhill was hairy at times and would have been daunting to be going up. Thanks for the amazing amount of knowledge you gave on here. Will be ticking off many more.

    1. Hey Fiona
      Thanks for your comments. Yeah that descent is a goodie…perhaps someone with dodgie knees may prefer the climb. The Orongorongo Track is always a great track to finish on. Pleased you enjoyed ☺


  4. Hey Murray!
    Met you in Arthur’s Pass about 3 months ago. Finally made it to Wellington! Was wondering if you have any tips with how to get to nice hiking in Wellington with public transportation as I have sold my car in Christchurch. Thanks in advance!!

    1. Hi Sindy
      Nice to hear you made it to Wellington. All our blogs have transport links to all the walks. There are a few exceptions with the Rimutaka and Tararua Forest Parks. Joining a walking group or tramping club would be another option. Check-out our facebook page for the video of Avalanche Peak, I’m sure you’ll find that interesting. Nice to hear from you, if you have any further questions or need anymore info don’t hesitate to contact me.

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