Waipakihi River campsite, Kaimanawa Forest Park Trampers sometimes compare the Waipakihi with the tramping terrain of the South Island, and there is something of a southern quality to the valley: a river that flows languidly through tussock-covered flats, a sense of grand, open country and mountains high above on either side. The Waipakihi, though, is set squarely in the centre of the North Island and is one of the principal valleys of Kaimanawa Forest Park.
Reaching the valley head is possible on one of three routes, the most direct being a traverse of the Umukarikari tops to the 12-bunk Waipakihi Hut. On a good day, this is gloriously easy tops travel (once you’ve completed the slog through the bush onto the ridge). Another option is the stiff climb over Urchin, followed by a sharp descent that leads to a pleasant campsite in the middle section of the river. Alternatively, there’s a pleasant route that meanders up the river from Waipakihi Road, which branches off the Desert Road.
Whatever your route in, the Waipakihi River offers pleasant swimming, reasonable fly-fishing, one hut and abundant places to camp. The camp pictured is at the prominent forks just five minutes walk from the hut.