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Umukarikari, Kaimanawa Forest Park

Image of the March 2021 Wilderness Magazine Cover Read more from the
March 2021 Issue

A range of your own

Umukarikari is both a subrange of the Kaimanawa Range and the name of the high point on the range, and there are two approaches to it: a short or long route – the latter climbing Urchin (1392m) and then heading north to a junction with the short route near Sharp Cone.

The short route, along the Umukarikari Track, appears to be a densely overgrown logging road before it veers hard to the left to join the trail proper.

The track climbs through native forest where teasing views at the crest of each high point offer hope the bushline is about to be reached, only for another forested high point to unfold further along and up.

It’s two hours to the bushline – an abrupt change from the cloying bush to the open tops – where the trail follows the spine of the range all the way to the head of the Waipakihi River and namesake hut.

The volcanoes of Tongariro National Park are displayed in full prominence, occupying the entire western view. The large peaks of the Kaimanawa Range dominate the forward view as the trail climbs higher through alpine grasses and shrubs.

I pitched my tent at the first open patch along the trail and then continued with a lighter load to the summit of Umukarikari (1591m) which appeared as a broad top beyond the more imposing-looking Sharp Cone.

Climbing over Sharp Cone, and passing the junction to Mt Urchin, the views once again opened up, revealing more mountains to the east, over the grassy ridge tops. To the north-west, Lake Taupō and Pihanga also appear.

To reach the summit of Umukarikari requires moderately challenging scrambling over tussock and scree and, finally, two large rock cairns stacked next to each other are the only indication that you’ve located the true summit.

From here, there’s a 360-degree panorama of the surrounding landscape – a decent reward for all the effort.

Note: Water is scarce to no-existent on the Unukarikari Range so plenty must be carried.

– James Anderson

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Distance
7.42km to Umukarikari
Total Ascent
1031m to Umukarikari
Grade
Moderate
Time
4-5hr to Umukarikari
Access
From SH1, turn onto Kaimanawa Road and take the third left over the bridge to reach the road end
Map
BH35

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Umukarikari Track (gpx, 8 KB)

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