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Waipakihi Hut via Thunderbolt and Junction Top, Kaimanawa Forest Park

Looking east towards the Rangitikei River. Photo: Chris Bailey
Kaimanawa Forest Park
Waipakihi Hut, 12 bunks
Kaimanawa Road off SH1, south of Turangi
BH35, BH36
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Waipakihi Hut via Urchin and Junction Top (gpx, yo 41 KB)
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Head up Urchin Track, reaching the tree line with views of Mts Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro. For most of the tramp you can see the volcanoes and at times Mt Taranaki as well as Lakes Rotoaira and Taupo, and Mts Tarawera and Edgecumbe further to the north.

After clearing Urchin, drop steeply to the Waipakihi River. Without a continuous track to follow, it’s about 40 minutes up the Waipakahi River before finding the Thunderbolt Track. The topo map doesn’t accurately show the location of the trail out of the valley. The actual trail starts about 300m south-west of where it’s shown on the map.

Head up to the saddle next to Motutere, then climb over Motutere and further east to Thunderbolt (1633m). The views along this section of Middle Range are astounding.

Turn north towards Junction Top with clear views down into the headwaters of the Rangitikei River, then make sure you take the right spur down to Waipakihi Hut.

Walk along the track over Umukarikari – an easy section mostly above the bushline but with a long descent down Umukarikari Track. At the end you’ll need transport unless you take an extra 2km walk back to the start of Urchin Track.

A permit is required from Helisika for crossing a corner of the East Taupo Lands block to get to and from Junction Top. Available free to FMC members. P: 07 384 2816.