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December 2022 Issue

Poutaki Hut, Ruahine Forest Park

Poutaki Hut is the only public hut in the Wakarara Range, a small outlier of bony hills east of the Ruahine Range. The four-bunker is perched in a grassy clearing overlooking the plains and hills of Hawke’s Bay. The Backcountry Trust completely refurbished the hut over the 2021–22 summer and I suspect it has never looked better – even when it was first located here in 1983.

Prior to 1987, when the New Zealand Forest Service managed the area, a pine forest plantation known as the Gwavas Forest was established. This plantation is now managed by a private company, Panpac, and surrounds a small remnant of public land known as the Gwavas Conservation Area. 

Access to Poutaki Track can be walked, but it’s far quicker on a mountain bike beginning from the car park near the end of Wakarara Road. From there,  a farm vehicle track leads to a ford of the Makaroro River. The track is picked up on the far side, which climbs to the pine plantation. Bike through the pine forest on the wide gravel Wakarara Road as far as the signpost indicating Leatherwood Road. This is a low-gear road which ends at a DOC signpost indicating the start of the tramping route to Poutaki Hut. 

The route is a bit obscure and poorly marked at first. Almost immediately it drops to a small creek then begins a steep climb up a rocky spur with native plants like flax, mānuka and even the occasional eyebright. While pines persist, beech takes over as altitude is gained. Once on the ridge crest, the gradient eases for the final ascent to Poutaki (1020m). En route are panoramic views of the Ruahine Range. Poutaki Hut is a short distance past the repeater station on the summit. 

Resplendent in its fresh orange, it offers welcome shelter once again.

8.6km each way
Total Ascent
3hr walk to hut. Mountain bike to Leatherwood Road, 1–1.5hr; to Poutaki Hut 1–1.5hr.
Poutaki Hut (free, four bunks)
Wakarara Road. Check the Panpac and DOC websites before leaving as access is restricted during forestry operations

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