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Cattle Creek Hut via Te Ao Tūpare, Ruahine Forest Park

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July 2023 Issue

This overnight trip is a complete delight and incorporates charming historic huts, fantastic views and fun ridge and river travel. By Sarah White

A couple of minutes beyond the car park is an extensive grassy picnic area with a shelter, fireplaces, picnic tables and flushing toilets. It’s a place to camp before an early morning start to the trip.

From the picnic area it’s all uphill through podocarp then leatherwood forest to Te Ao Tūpare/ Traverse (A-Frame) Hut. The track is well marked and after about two hours of climbing, Takapari Road, a well-maintained 4WD track, is reached. Turn right and the hut is 100m away. It’s at 1092m, nestled among leatherwood and, on a fine day, there are stunning views both west and east.

The hut has been restored by members of a local hapū supported by the Backcountry Trust. It had previously been vandalised by people who drove up the 4WD. The barge boards have been painted colourfully with a contemporary Māori design that tells the story of the Ruahine and celebrates the landscape and vegetation. The A-frame is vintage 1970s Forest Service, and with the painted barge boards there are clear references to Māori wharenui.

Continue north along Takapiri Road following the crest of the range. After a couple of kilometres it’s back to a tramping track and a steep descent to Stanfield Hut. The brilliant orange of the hut is visible a good half hour before reaching it. This section of track is notoriously slippery; expect to arrive with a muddy backside. Stanfield is light and welcoming having also been recently renovated. It’s popular with families and hunters.

Follow the Tamaki River West Branch upstream for about 400m where, on the true left, an orange post and markers indicate the bush entrance. It’s another steep climb through bush over Pt908 and then a gentler pace along the open ridge. Cattle Creek Hut can be seen from here.

After around 2.2km, take the left junction and the track drops steeply towards the hut, which is off the track a little way.

To return, retrace steps to Stanfield Hut where options are the Homes Ridge Track or walking straight down Tamaki River.

The Homes Ridge Track is initially in the riverbed before leaving it about 700m downstream from Stanfield Hut. It is a nice undulating walk along the tops.

The river route is not marked but is straightforward when the river is in low flow: just stay in the bed. It entails crisscrossing the river more than 60 times, so should not be attempted during or after rain. In dry conditions and about two hours from Stanfield Hut, there’s a big orange triangle on the river’s true right. This marks the track to the picnic site where the trip began.

Total Ascent
2 days. Car park to Te Ao Tūpare, 2hr; to Stanfield Hut 2.5hr; to Cattle Creek Hut 2.5hr; to car park, 4hr
Te Ao Tūpare/Traverse (A-Frame) Hut (free, 2 bunks), Stanfield Hut (standard, eight bunks), Cattle Creek Hut (standard, eight bunks)
Tamaki West Road, off SH2 via Laws and Top Grass Roads

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Cattle Creek Hut via Te Ao Tupare (gpx, 23 KB)

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