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Iron Gate Hut, Ruahine Forest Park

The seven bunk Iron Gate Hut. Photo: Nina Mercer
Ruahine Forest Park
4-5hr to the hut
n Iron Gate Hut, seven bunks
From Petersons Road, off Table Flat Road
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Iron Gate Hut, on the western side of Ruahine Forest Park, is a wee gem set beside the Oroua River. With the road end only an hour,s drive from Palmerston North, then an easy five-hour tramp to the hut, it’s a great overnight trip.

Start through the wrought iron gates at the car park, head down the hill and enter the bush. The initial forest is a lovely stand of beech and the track heads down to a bridge that crosses a deep gorge. Within 40-minutes of leaving the car you reach the smart Alice Nash Memorial Heritage Lodge, the local NZDA hut.

From here the track is pleasantly undulating and easy to follow, a mixture of clear patches and forest. Soon you reach Cumberfield Creek which can be almost impassable after heavy rainfall. After the creek is the first big uphill grunt; a climb, scramble and clamber up a root-strewn slope using trees, branches and vines to assist. The track continues at this higher level for a while with pleasant river views before a descent to the riverbed.

If the river levels are low, you can walk up the riverbed to avoid the next steep climb; there are some good swimming holes, though expect some crossings to reach mid-thigh. Rejoin the track at Tunipo Stream for another climb, after which the track eases, becoming a combination of small ups and downs, and, as you get closer to the hut, long flat stretches of goblin-like forest beside the river.