There are two walks at Opepe, providing walkers with a variety of mature and regenerating bush and some sites of historic interest.
From the northern car park at the Opepe Scenic Reserve, begin on the Opepe Northern Track, heading in a clockwise direction. The trail is immediately immersed in mature native bush and it can feel like stepping back in time as you crane your neck to take in the stately tōtara, miro, mataī and kahikatea. It’s a beautiful section of forest that has miraculously survived felling, fires and the Taupō eruption of 186AD.
At the southern end of the loop, a side track leads to a clearing where a monument and white wooden grave markers commemorate the deaths of soldiers killed in an uprising by Te Kooti’s forces in 1869. On June 7 that year, a small contingent of Armed Constabulary were surprised by an advance party of Māori. Nine soldiers were killed and are buried in the cemetery. Other graves contain the remains of settlers who died a few years later. The graves are cared for by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage.
Back on the loop, the highway is crossed to join the much longer Opepe Southern Track. The trail leads through regenerating bush – there was once a settlement and logging work carried out in this part of the reserve.
What the walk lacks in forest, it makes up for in history. There’s the monument remains of the settlement of Opepe, of which there is scant evidence except for a well, old tōtara fencing and a bullock watering area. The settlement dates to the time the militia had a stockade (1869-1885) here. Later a hotel and store popped up and more than 100 people lived here.
By the watering area is a large sign telling the story of Cresswell, one of the Armed Constabulary who survived the attack that killed his comrades. He had been drying his uniform and fled naked, taking two days to cross the wintry Kaingaroa Plains before reaching safety. He was awarded the New Zealand medal. Later, the sign reported, he was contracting on the Waioeka Gorge when a fellow worker recognised him. This man had been Te Kooti’s scout and told Cresswell that he could have shot him, but didn’t want the noise to give away the position of the war party.
Further along the track, is a saw pit, complete with a huge log and information panels explaining the pit sawing process.
From here, the track runs beside the highway before finishing at the car park.
- Total Ascent
- 2hr. Opepe Northern Track, 30-45min; Opepe Southern Track, 60-90min
- At the parking area on SH5, 17km from Taupō