The Karapoti Rata

This is a fun and energetic walk requiring good navigation skills, so if you’re looking for a challenge this is the walk for you.

The Karapoti Rata was discovered in 2008 and is the tallest known Northern Rata Tree in New Zealand. At 39 metres, it’s estimated to be between 1000 and 1500 years old. Rātā trees are known for their glossy dark green leaves and trunks that are often knotted and twisted. However, they are best known for their brilliant red flowers that appear from November to January. The trees tend to flower well only once every few years. Native birds such as the tui, bellbird, and kākā all benefit from the trees, feeding on the flower nectar. The older trees provide potential resting places for bats. Having said that I’ve never seen bats in the area. The Karapoti Rata has a girth or circumference of 15.39m. Its girth is roughly the same as the giant kauri tree Tane Māhuta in Northland. It sits on a plateau 200 metres northwest of the Little Akatarawa River and isn’t visible until you’re right on it.

Access is from the Karapoti car park via old bush tramways with the quickest and easiest route via the Little Akatarawa River. This area was once logged for matai and rimu. The rata trees weren’t favored as timber because of their knotted and twisted trunks, so were left standing. There are a number of ways into the tree, I will explain the quickest route and also mention some of the others.

Allow 2-4 hours for the 8-kilometre return walk.

Route Description

There are no signposts indicating track starting points or track turn offs so having a map and GPS is very important for this walk. Some of the routes are somewhat marked with tape tied to trees or spray paint on rocks. Look at the map and key in the GPS coordinates for the tree location before setting off. Lat/long 41.0393611/175.0881055 N5454773 E1775514

I will explain the route up the Little Akatarawa River and mention the others a little later.

From the car park follow the mountain bike road for 100 metres or until you see a green pole on the left side of the road. 10 metres before that point look for an opening into the bush on the right side of the road. Enter and climb up onto the track.

The first section of the track sidles above the road and emerges above the Little Akatarawa River. There is an exciting adventure part to this track which includes a 15-metre cliff face easily traversed by a fixed rope. From here the track continues to sidle before dropping into the river. From here the track follows the river upstream passing through stunning forest and one short gorgie section which is spectacular and very easy to negotiate. Some of the rocks can be slippery so care is needed.

The track leaves the river not far from the gorge, keep an eye out for it. There are some track markers on the left plus a cairn or pile of rocks. Check the map and GPS if this isn’t obvious. From here the track heads inland and climbs a gentle plateau that was once a tramway. This track leads to the ridge which can be used as a return route to the car park. Or the top entrance point to the tree. A third of the way along here is a turn-off that leads directly to the tree. Watch out for a cairn in the middle of the track, there are 4 of these along this section. From the 4th cairn, the track climbs to the right. Follow the tags tied to the trees and then onto the Rata Tree.

This stunning old tree is a great place for lunch. There’s a lot of supplejack vine around and if you have the energy and can find the right vines, they make great Tarzan swings!

From here you can choose to return the same way which is the quickest of all the routes. There’s a track that leads down into the upper section of the Little Akatarawa River. From here follow the river down to where you left it on the way up. In this section, you will definitely get your feet wet.

For those wanting a round trip, the ridge is a good option. This will require a little more navigation, especially finding the track turn offs but once onto the ridge it’s somewhat marked and easy to travel along. Allow 1.5-2 hours for this section.

Have fun and enjoy!

Getting there

Located in the beautiful Akatarawa Valley, it’s an easy 15-minute drive from Upper Hutt to the Karapoti Car Park. Follow state highway 2 to Brown Owl and turn onto Akatarawa Road. Continue for 6 Kilometres and then turn left onto Karapoti Road, follow to the end of the road.

What to Take

These items pretty much live in my day pack. For more info on what to take tramping check out my post on what to take.  

  • Water
  • Food
  • 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 and GPS 


Learn more about NZ’s amazing walks!

Interested in seeing more of the country’s incredible natural beauty? Take a look around the website to learn about other outdoor adventures, such as the Nelson Lakes National Park. It’s the only way to truly see New Zealand!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.