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Dam fine hut

Burn Hut, a classic six bunker. Photo: Jess Clark
Tararua Forest Park
Total Ascent
3hr to hut
Burn Hut, six bunks
Mangahao Hydro Electric Power Station access road, east of Shannon
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Burn Hut, Tararua Forest Park

The weekend weather forecast for Wellington was terrible, as is quite frequently the case. It was definitely not a weekend for doing anything adventurous, or anything that included tops or rivers. However, we decided that Burn Hut was still a viable option, and provided we left early we were likely to dodge the worst of the weather.

Burn Hut is in the northern Tararua Forest Park, not far from Shannon. The gravelled access road winds its way towards the Mangahao Hydro Electric Power Station for around 5km. We stopped the cars at Mangahao Lower No 2 Reservoir and crossed the dam to the start of the track. It was still nice and sunny at this point, and we enjoyed a pleasant walk along the Mangahao River, before heading to a high point of 798m.

Once on the ridge line, we were out of thick bush, but still in leatherwood country. But the thick leatherwood has been well cut in this area and while there is still some cutty grass to scratch the legs, the lack of leatherwood cover was much appreciated: the scrub is low enough to enjoy views of the surroundings and even the hut can be seen early on.

From our vantage on the ridge, we could also see the predicted storm clouds rolling in and we spent the last section of the track taking bets as to whether we would reach our hut before the weather broke. Barely 10 minutes after arriving, the heavens opened.

Burn Hut is well maintained and designed. It has a great entranceway, where gear can be removed, and platform bunks that allow the interior space to be well utilised. This meant we had a good amount of space to cook pancakes, play board games and have hot cups of tea while listening to the rain pounding the roof and the wind howling overhead. We didn’t head outside for the rest of the afternoon.

It is possible to make a visit to Burn Hut a loop by dropping down to Mangahao Upper No 1 Reservoir and then walking the access road back to the lower reservoir. This would be a lot longer than the way in and would include more tops travel. On a nice weekend, I think it would be a good option, but for us the poor weather meant a retreat the way we had come.

The return was a little slippery on the downhill, but not too bad considering the weather. Along the river we discovered numerous supplejack tips, which are edible when young, and snacked on these on the way out.

We found Burn Hut to be a very pleasant and easy trip – and a good bad-weather option, too.

– Sarah Miller