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Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk, Te Urewera

View from Panekire Bluff. Photo: Meghan Walker
Te Urewera
Total Ascent
Panekire Hut, $32, 36 bunks; Waiopaoa Hut ($32, 30 bunks); Korokoro Campsite ($14); Marauiti Hut ($32, 26 bunks); Waiharuru Hut ($32, 40 bunks); Whanganui Hut ($32, 18 bunks)
Park at Onepoto and hike from there, or take a water taxi to Hopuruahine landing
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Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk (gpx, yo 147 KB)
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With its plethora of huts and campsites, the Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk offers a perfect choose-your-own-adventure circuit for a multi-day tramp.

The 46km Te Urewera trail can be walked in either direction: the popular option is clockwise, starting from the Onepoto car park and heading straight up the hill to the 1180m Panekire Hut, catching a water taxi on the last day from Hopuruahine landing back to Onepoto. Or, opt for counter-clockwise and take a water taxi from Onepoto to the other side of the lake, which saves the uphill slog for the end.

Whanganui Hut is at the far end of the track, with Waiharuru not much farther along the lakeside trail. Waiharuru Hut is right next to a large rocky beach, and is one of the largest on the circuit with 40 bunks.

The next hut along is the 26-bunk Marauiti Hut, situated at about the halfway point of the Great Walk. There are numerous campsites for optional resting points along the way, Korokoro campsite being one of the busiest, with Korokoro Falls an optional side-trip.

Most of the track is a well-balanced mix of bush-laden tunnels and striking lake views from rocky outcrops above the shore. The 248m deep lake was formed 2200 years ago by a massive landslide which blocked a narrow gorge along the Waikaretaheke River. A hydroelectric station lowered the lake level by 5m in 1946, and the tops of large drowned podocarps are now visible in some parts of the lake.

It’s then uphill all the way to the 36-bunk Panekire Hut, but the green-cloaked forest makes for an enchanting journey through dense ancient podocarp and beech canopy. The climb is relatively benign, with a series of mild ascents and descents near the top.
The tramp down the hill and back to Onepoto is peppered with stunning views of the lake, tempting for more drink breaks than is probably needed on the 9km walk down.