Waiopehu Hut makes for an accessible and easy Tararua overnighter that offers sweeping views.
From Poads Road, walk 1km through farmland to the Tararua Forest Park boundary and the junction to South Ōhau Gorge.
Waiopehu Track branches steeply uphill to the right, with a 300m climb over 2km to gain the junction with Six Discs Track. It takes about 90-minutes to get to this point. The signpost at the junction also indicates it’s four hours from here to Waiopehu Hut but it’s more like three hours.
From here, it’s a long, gentle climb up Waiopehu Ridge. Unlike other Tararua tracks, the path is mostly littered with leaves rather than being riddled with roots. It’s bush pretty much the whole way, so views are in short supply, and it can feel tedious.
The site of the original Waiopehu Hut (1928) is about 1km from the current hut and is approached through an exposed helicopter landing site. The original hut was built by the Waiopehu Tramping Club, which pioneered tramping in the northern Tararua Range. Historical names associated with the club and hut include Ernest Lancaster and George Adkin – names now commemorated in Tararua summits. All that remains of this hut is a concrete hearth, with a sign indicating its location and significance.
The track breaks into a subalpine zone of leatherwood and tussock just before Waiopehu Hut.
The third Waiopehu Hut was opened in 2002. At 970m above sea level, it’s a spacious and comfortable place to rest, with fine decks from which to soak up the afternoon sun. Looking out over Lake Horowhenua and the Tasman Sea is especially enjoyable at sunset, but the views back over the rugged Dundas Ridge are just as spectacular. After dark, the lights of Levin and Palmerston North shimmer, a reminder that civilisation isn’t too far away.
Waiopehu Track used to be part of Te Araroa but Gable End Ridge Track, which runs along the ridge parallel to Waiopehu Track, is now the official route.
On leaving Waiopehu Hut, trampers can return the way they arrived, or make a loop along Gable End Ridge back to Poads Road.