Annotated Track Maps of New Zealand's Waitakere Range
I spent several New Zealand summers roaming the tracks of this wonderful coastal range west of Auckland. Below are two different PDF versions of maps that I've annotated to show my ratings of the Waitakere tracks. One was done by marking the trails with an Adobe Photoshop brush in different colors. The other used Adobe Acrobat text boxes. But beware: they are almost 40MB each!!!
A 2010 addition to the Waitak experience is the 100K-long
Hillary Trail, in honor of Sir Edmund Hillary, that includes an excellent new track connecting the Arataki Visitor Centre directly to other Waitakere Tracks.
A great place to find much more information, including great photos, about many of the tracks in the Waitaks and elsewhere in New Zealand, is the Rex Fairburn memorial website Fathmandu.
Following are some comments about various special options in the Waitaks. But first, a tiny bit of explanation for those of you who are not familiar with the lingo down under...
||second largest tree on earth
||native "Christmas tree"
My motive for starting this project was to identify loops I could run that would be on decent tracks. I'm wimpy enough that I wanted good footing and dirt that didn't get boggy or slimy from rain. After all of this work, I have to say that I didn't find any track loop that would qualify. However, here are some suggestions for you other wimps out there:
- Montana Magic. When it is completed, the "Montana" loop should give a couple of hours of hard effort on a great track in the Waitak bush. It starts and ends at the Auckland City Walk and involves the Upper Kauri Track (improved dramatically since my rating) and Fence Line Track.
- Wimps Only. When it's wet out there, I like to run the gravel Anawhata Road. It's scenic and suffers little traffic.
- City Wimps. Try the Lone Kauri Road if you like pavement.
- Flat-lander Wimps. Try the beach from Karekare to Whatipu and back. See The Best below.
- Stadium Freaks. Want to run steps in the bush? Try some repeats on the Anderson Track off the Auckland City Walk. Whew!
Here are some great routes for tramping and running:
- Dam Tracks. For short hikes with great footing and excellent views, take almost any dam track you find! Seriously. The Waitakere Dam Walk (and the fascinating connecting Tramline Walk), the Upper and Lower Nihotupo Dams, and the Lower Huia Dam are all easy and pleasurable to visit.
- Te Henga Walkway. This is a great track for ocean and cliff views. It can be a bit awkward (steep, eroded, rutted, and overgrown in spots), but it is well worth the trip. Planting a car at the eastern end of Goldie Bush provides a pretty good one-way trip from Bethels beach.
- The Best. My favorite (but quite long) route in the Waitaks? At low tide or after/during a good rain (for firmer sand), drive the very narrow curvy road down off Piha Road into Karekare. Take the Pohutukawa Glade Walk to the beach and go south along the water to the lighthouse at Whatipu. A mandatory diversion is to go east over the grassy sand dunes just south of Cowan Point to the old tramline route, through the tunnel, and then immediately back out to the water. The marsh as you exit the tunnel is one of my favorite spots on earth. You can continue in the marsh over the huge bare dune you'll soon find, and perhaps continue more or less on the flooded tramline route to Whatipu, but expect often to be in water above your waist or higher. Glug glug. It's a long but glorious slog! You can return from Whatipu the way you came, or come back on the tracks on the ridge (Gibbons, Muir, Pararaha, Buck, and Zion) for some amazing views.
Want to see some great kauri? There are lots of places marked on the map, and many that aren't. My favorites:
- The Big Guys. The nicest set of large kauri are along the Upper Kauri Track from the Auckland City Walk. Awesome!
- Mid-Sized. A great stand of medium-size kauri (well separated and with no tall bush to impede the view) is a minute or two off Piha Road along the Arthur Mead track. But finding the track is not easy. Study the map closely and look for a small red triangle in the bush just east of a large turn-out. You can see the Arthur Mead Track sign if you're looking down through a small separation in the bush. Don't worry about the experienced-tramper sign there--the awkward part of that track is well beyond the kauri stand.
- The Little Guys. A nice track for lots of small kauri (and great views) is Maungaroa Ridge. You can make a nice loop of it using the Piha Valley and McKenzie Tracks.
For the crazies out there:
- A Loud Sucking Sound. Want to know what Waitak bog can really be like? Take the Ian Wells Track as far as you dare. Wait for a good rain if you are really bold. But don't ask me to do your laundry afterwards.
- Where Am I? Want to have trouble finding the way. Try the "short" Waitoru Reserve Track just north of the Bethels Road. You'll find the little red triangles and ribbons most of the time, but missing in enough places to keep it very interesting. The ground is covered in enough plant and tree debris that you cannot follow other tramper routes well at all. See if you can hike it clockwise the first time out--the first left is a dooser!