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A bunk in the beech forest

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August 2018 Issue

Kiwi Saddle Hut, Kaweka Forest Park

I’m old enough to remember the original Kiwi Saddle Hut, with its rough bunks made from sacking and beech poles and its Malthoid roof. Built by members of the Heretaunga Tramping Club in 1947, it lasted four decades, but eventually the ravages of time saw it replaced with a new structure in 1987. Club members maintain it to this day.

Perched at 1170m near its namesake saddle, the hut occupies a small clearing in the beech forest. The most direct access is from The Lakes car park, up the Smith Russell Track, which climbs steadily to the summit of Mt Kuripapango. Undulating ridge travel leads through forest and occasional open patches, to finally reach the hut. 

In the open, views expand across the Kaweka and Kaimanawa Ranges, which together form the broadest section of the great mountain axis that forms the backbone of the North Island. Below flows the picturesque Ngaruroro River, the area’s main artery, which can be reached on tracks that lead to Kiwi Mouth or Cameron huts. 

The route to Castle Camp offers another alternative trip, making a weekend tramp back to The Lakes car park possible. 

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Total Ascent
Lakes car park via Mt Kuripapango, 3-4hr
Kiwi Saddle Hut (eight bunks, wood-burner)
The Lakes car park from Castle Rock Road