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Maungahuka Hut, Tararua Forest Park

Image of the December 2019 Wilderness Magazine Cover Read more from the
December 2019 Issue

A place for contemplation

There’s something about the topography of the Tararua Ranges that results in few tarns – especially when compared with the Ruahine Range. Small tarns exist in a number of places, often where small faults have created a dip for water to collect. But not even Tarn Ridge has that many tarns. There is really only two decent-sized ‘lakelets’ in the entire range: one on Dorset Ridge and the other – famously – at Maungahuka.

And what a tarn it is! Nestled in a bowl of tussock, with the comfortable Maungahuka Hut nearby, the tarn offers views north over the multitudinous ridges of the Tararua Range, and – sometimes – the perfect cone of Taranaki. On a sublime evening, it’s a place to contemplate just why so many trampers love the Tararuas. On a miserable night, it’s a place to understand why some of those same people curse the range.

Like many good things, getting there takes a fair amount of effort before you can claim your reward. While it’s possible to reach Maungahuka in one long day from Otaki Forks, it’s fairly arduous and is best split in two.

The tramp begins with a steady climb through forest to the historic Field Hut, shortly before breaking above the bushline. Flat travel over the aptly named Table Top gives respite before more climbing ensues, upwards onto the Main Range. At Bridge Peak, there’s a signpost indicating the route to Maungahuka. Unless you plan a night at Kime Hut, take this route, which follows the Main Range over a series of knolls, most commemorating trampers from the area’s well-known clubs: Boyd-Wilson, Vosseler, Yeates and McIntosh.

By the time you reach the signposted junction at the top of Pakihore Ridge, you’ll be feeling tired, but the most challenging part is yet to come – the famously rugged crags and ladder at the Tararua Peaks. After carefully working your way over this slow section, a last climb leads up to the welcome hollow occupied by the tarn and hut.

Total Ascent
Moderate / Difficult
Otaki Forks to Bridge Peak, 4.5-5hr; to Maungahuka Hut, 4-5hr
Kime Hut ($5, 20 bunks), Maungahuka Hut ($5,10 bunks)
Otaki Forks

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