Discover the beauty of Lake Waikaremoana with spectacular views from the Panekire Bluffs.
This magical day walk offers stunning views and a great option if you don’t have the time for the 3-4 day trek. Lake Waikaremoana is one of New Zealand’s Great Walks; hopefully, this walk will inspire you to return for the multi-day tramp.
Lake Waikaremoana is located in the beautiful Te Urewera National Park. This walk starts with a steady climb of 350 metres to the first of many viewpoints on the Panekire Range. The main viewpoint is at Bald Knob (1161 m) which is a 2-3 hour walk from the Onepoto car park. Bald Knob is 2 minutes off the main track and isn’t signposted…it’s an obvious junction which climbs to the right leading to an open rocky terrace with outstanding views. For those that are keen and want a slightly longer walk, Panekire Hut is a further 45-60 minutes away or alternatively, you could walk on to Waiopaoa Hut and catch the water taxi back to Onepotto. This option would be a full day 5-7 hours of walking, so a good level of fitness would be required.
Allow 4-6 hours for the return trip to Bald Knob.
Views from Bald Knob
Onepoto Car Park to Bald Knob return 4-6 hours, 12 kilometres
Onepoto is a lovely spot on the edge of Lake Waikaremoana. The car park is spacious with toilet facilities and a water tank to fill drink bottles. The entrance to the track is through a covered in area which displays information and history of The Great Walk. From this point, the track climbs gently and becomes flat for 10 minutes with nice views of the lake. After an open grassy area, the track enters the bush and climbs steeply with an ascent of 350 metres to the first viewpoint on the Panekire Ridge. This takes about an hour.
The majority of New Zealand’s Parks are dominant by the beech tree, with red beech found at lower levels of the walk and silver beech higher up on the ridge. From the first viewpoint continue along the ridge, the climb is more gentler with excellent viewpoints along the way. There’s a further ascent of 200 metres to Pukenui at 1181 metres. From here the track becomes less rooty and is on a well-benched graded track which means it’s easier to walk on. Watch out for the Bald Knob turn off as it isn’t signposted, it’s the only turn off on the track so it’s very easy to find. However, if you manage to walk past it and see a radio hut to the left you have just missed it. Take the track to the right which climbs gently for 2 minutes. The open rocky terrace has commanding views of the lake and surrounding mountains.
Take plenty of photos, have a bite to eat and drink. Enjoy the views before your return to Onepoto.
Onepoto car park and Lake Waikaremoana is reached on state highway 38 from Wairoa or Rotorua. From Wairoa, it’s 46 kilometres and has a short section of gravel road. From Rotorua, it’s 165 kilometres and has a 90-kilometre section of gravel road, which is between Murupara and Aniwaniwa.
For places to stay check-out the Big Bush Holiday Park. They are only 4 kilometres from the start of the track at Onepoto. Having used them myself I highly recommend them. Not only do they provide accommodation but they provide shuttles to the start of the track and operate the water-taxi service on the lake. For backpackers or people without their own vehicle, the Big Bush also provides a shuttle service from Wairoa to Lake Waikaremoana.
What to Take
I suggest taking some warm clothes, food and drink. Take plenty of water, there is nowhere to refill drink bottles.
- A waterproof jacket or raincoat
- Sturdy and comfortable footwear
- Thermal and fleece clothing for warmth
- Hat and gloves
- Sunglasses and sunscreen
- An Emergency First Aid Kit
- A map
Check my post on what to take hiking, with helpful links to apparel and equipment.
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 for 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 walk. The track is well defined and easy to follow, there are no stream or river crossings and the duration of this walk is less than 6 hours. Whereas, a hard walk is one that is more than 6 hours, will have long steep climbs, have river crossings and requires good navigational skills.
Have fun and enjoy your walk?