This is my favourite walk in the Rimutaka Forest Park, the scenery and walking tracks are superb. Starting in Wainuiomata, The Whakanui Track traverses the McKerrow ridge to the Orongorongo River. The track offers stunning views of the Rimutaka Range, Wellington Harbour and surrounding areas. From the river, the track heads downstream on the Big Bend Track passing private huts and two DOC huts on the way to the start of the Orongorongo Track. The Orongorongo Track is the perfect trail to finish your walk on. I rate this as one of Wellington’s finest tracks, DOC (Department of Conservation) has done a great job with this track, for more information check out The Orongorongo Track Walk.
The Whakanui Track to Catchpool walk is definitely the most scenic walk in the Rimutaka Forest Park. A good level of fitness is required, as its 17 kilometres in distance. Allow 5 to 7 hours, depending on fitness levels. This can be walked in either direction or done over 2 days. DOC have 2 huts; Turere Lodge and Haurangi Hut, both on the Big Bend Track and need to be booked in advance. These huts are locked so booking is essential.
The Whakanui Track to The Orongorongo River: 2-4 hours, 8 kilometres
The Whakanui Track starts at the end of Sunny Grove in Wainuiomata. I suggest leaving your vehicle at the carpark at the end of Hine Road and walking up Sunny Grove to the start of the track. Follow the 4 wheel-drive track for 200 metres and take the track to the left, its signposted. This part of the track is flat until the footbridge then a short climb to a track junction. Take the track to the right and continue climbing through beech and podocarp forest. This is the longest climb of the walk and ascends 400 metres to the McKerrow and Orongorongo River junctions at 525 metres. Allow 45 to 90 minutes for the climb. Just before the junction, there are great views of Wellington Harbour and Wainuiomata.
From here continue left on the Whakanui Track. The track sidles a couple of unnamed peaks and crosses 4 creeks with nice views of the Rimutaka Range as you go. This area is the kiwi zone, so keep an eye out for the North Island brown kiwi. The brown kiwi was introduced to the park in 2006. After the last creek crossing the track climbs gently to the highest point of the walk, 642 metres. From this point, The Whakanui Track descends gently with the last 300 metres to the Orongorongo River the steeper section. Allow 1.5 to 2.5 hours for this stage.
The Big Bend Track: 45-75 minutes, 3.5 kilometres
From the junction follow the track downstream, this is a nice section of the walk. In this area, there are a number of privately owned huts and 2 DOC huts. The Haurangi Hut is 20 minutes along the track and the Turere Lodge a further 20 minutes. Turere Lodge is in a stunning location high above the river with outstanding views of the valley. From the Turere Lodge, the track changes from a tramping track to a well-benched track, which means it is like a gravel path that is easy to walk on. This is similar to the Hooker Valley Track and other great walking tracks of New Zealand. 20 minutes of walking will bring you to the Turere Bridge and the start of the Orongorongo Track. This is a beautiful section of the walk, with lovely views of the river and valley below.
The Orongorongo Track to Catchpool: 1-2 hours, 5.5 kilometres
This is a great track to finish the walk on, it’s very scenic and the walking is easy. So enjoy the scenery as you make your way to the catchpool carpark.
I suggest leaving a vehicle at either end or getting someone to drop you off.
Getting to Catchpool; Drive to Wainuiomata, then head south along the Coast Road for 10 kilometres. The Rimutaka Forest Park and Catchpool Valley entrance is to the left. At the end of the road is the Catchpool carpark.
Getting to Sunny Grove; Drive back to Wainuiomata. From the Coast Road, turn right into Hine road and follow to the end. I suggest parking your vehicle in the carpark at the end of Hine Road and walking up Sunny Grove to the start of the track. There’s no parking at the end of Sunny Grove. Allow 10 minutes to get to the start of the track. 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 as needed.
If you don’t have a vehicle there is a bus stop on the corner of Sunny Grove and Hine Road. However, there is no public transport out to the Catchpool Valley. I suggest catching a bus to Wainuiomata and then taxi to Catchpool. The walk can be done in reverse. Take bus 170. It stops at the Waterloo Railway Station, so using the train and then the bus is an option.
What to Take
Take food and water; there are 4 creeks after the McKerrow and Orongorongo River junction where water bottles can be refilled. I suggest carrying enough water until you reach the Orongorongo Valley. Drink bottles can be refilled from the river, the Haurangi Hut or the Turere Lodge. Both huts have water tanks outside.
Check the weather forecast before going; Weather conditions can change very quickly so going prepared is essential. I recommend taking; 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
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/hard walk as there’s a climb of 400 metres at the beginning. The tracks are well defined and well-marked, the stream crossings are bridged and the duration of this walk is between 5 and 7 hours. Technically it’s not a hard walk; however, anything 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?