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Blue Range Hut, Tararua Forest Park

Image of the December 2020 Wilderness Magazine Cover Read more from the
December 2020 Issue

From Redwoods to Blue Range

Blue Range Hut offers good views over the brutal Tararua backcountry but makes for an easy weekend destination less than three-hours’ walk from the road end.

But don’t let the 4km distance fool you. With a vertical gain of 640m, it’s tougher than you might think.

The path from Kiriwhakapapa campsite leads through a majestic stand of Californian redwoods that mix harmoniously with equally magnificent native podocarps. A 10-minute stroll along a flat path carpeted with soft leaf litter leads to an unbridged stream. From here, it’s up, up, up. Above the redwoods is sublime red beech forest. Ferns spread intermittently over the spur. Juvenile miro break through; a new generation of forest overlords.
The track to the Blue Range Hut is steep but in good condition. Not as many people come to Kiriwhakapapa Road end as go to the Holdsworth Road end so, as you ascend, embrace the chance to stop and sense being alone in the forest and under the mountains.

High up the spur, a rocky outcrop is reached before the trail disappears into goblin forest. Goblin forest occurs where there is lots of air moisture and every surface is covered with lichens and mosses of endless variety. It’s worth walking the track just to be immersed in this habitat. Gnarly trees glow green, rather than grey and black – a mythical sight. Murky weather that may usually cast shadows over notions of ‘perfect conditions’ only add to the otherworldly atmosphere up here.

The turn-off to Blue Range Hut comes as a sudden and welcome arrival. Turn right and, within 10 minutes, there’s the hut standing like a beacon at the end of a descent through beautiful mountain beech. Painted a brilliant sky blue, one would think that the ridge was named for the hut, rather than the opposite. On a fine day, there’s a fantastic view from the picnic table of Cattle Ridge and the upper reaches of the Ruamahanga River.

Blue Range Hut was built in 1958 by the Masterton Tramping Club. It’s sited in a clearing of mountain beech and its playful idiosyncrasies speak to locals’ love of tramping and pride in their area. The interior is reasonably spacious, with a potbelly stove to keep things cosy. There are little luxuries, too, like LED lights above benches and a secret cupboard with emergency rations. Regional topographic maps plastered on the ceiling will delight map fiends. Quirky old hospital signs adorn the door and walls – we unfurled our sleeping bags onto bunks for ‘patients only’ and made the unavoidable trips to the ‘Social Workers Office’!

Blue Range Hut is close to the road end and appeals to day walkers. Overnight, though, we had this four-bunk charming beauty to ourselves.

– Lachlan McKenzie

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Total Ascent
Easy / Moderate
Blue Range Hut ($5, four bunks)
Kiriwhakapapa Road end

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