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A weekend of discovery in Karangahake Gorge

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March 2019 Issue

There are walks – and cycle trails – galore in this small Coromandel town, discovers Alistair Hall

Driving through the Karangahake Gorge, it’s difficult to keep your eyes on the road. There’s the Ohinemuri River, the towering Karangahake mountain, old building ruins and curious riverside walks carved...

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1. Karangahake mountain

View from the summit of Karangahake. Photo: Alistair Hall

The namesake peak in the region offers incredible views in all directions from its 555m summit. But it’s also a tough walk, requiring half a day.

The Mt Karangahake Walk begins beside an unmarked stream, then joins a mine road for about 1km before heading into the bush on a wide track. Be sure to look over your shoulder for ever improving views of the township and beyond.

At a junction, a goat track heads in a more direct line to the summit, offering a quicker and steeper approach. Alternatively, the Mt Karangahake Walk sidles around to the southern side of the hill before climbing to the summit.

From the highpoint you’ll enjoy views that extend to the Firth of Thames, the Coromandel Peninsula and east to Waihi and the coast.

Time 1.5-2hr to summit Grade Moderate

2. Windows Walk

The Windows Walk follows the Waitawheta River. Photo: Alistair Hall

This trail includes gorgeous river views, dramatic cliff-faces and historic mining ruins. The trail, carved into the rock face, follows the Waitawheta River for 800m before crossing to the far side and climbing some stairs to the large mine tunnel with the ‘windows’. Back in the sunshine, the track passes the ruins of the Talisman stamper battery, providing plenty more exploration opportunities.

Time 1-1.5hr Grade Easy

3. Rail Tunnel Loop

Exiting the 1.2km tunnel on the Rail Tunnel Loop. Photo: Alistair Hall

The highlight of this walk is the kilometre-long rail tunnel, which forms part of the Hauraki Rail Trail. The trail then snakes beside the Ohinemuri River and passes through the ruins of old mine buildings to reach the car park.

Time 1-1.5hr Grade Easy

4. County Road Track

View to the east from a clearing in the County Road Track. Photo: Alistair Hall

For those wanting a bush walk experience, you won’t do better than this easy trail that combines with the Dubbo 96 Track and practically hugs the same contour line all the way around the eastern and southern side of Karangahake. Almost – it does head uphill but there are very few dips and gullies. Eventually, the trail joins the Mt Karangahake Walk to gain the summit.

The bush is mature and offers plenty of shade, and because there’s little understorey it’s not claustrophobic. The track is wide and well-graded (mountain bikers use it too), and passes several mine tunnels which can be explored by those with torches. It’s an absolute delight of a walk – the best in the region.

Time 2-3hr to Karangahake summit Grade Easy.