Auckland forest fix
The Wairoa Loop Track is a forest walk featuring views of the formidable Hunua Ranges and its impressive reservoirs. It’s an excellent day trip to get your forest fix, and it’s right on Auckland’s doorstep.
Everytime I visit the Hunuas, I’m struck by how distinct they are from the Waitakere Ranges. Exploring the imposing valleys and dense forest always feels like an adventure, far from the city.
And with much of the Waitakere Ranges now closed, the kauri dieback-free Hunuas offers a genuine alternative.
From Repeater Road car park, the track follows a 4WD track along a bush-fringed ridgeline 300m up. After about 10 minutes, a short sidetrack leads to a viewing platform with tables and seats overlooking the massive Upper Mangatawhiri Dam and beyond to the steep valleys of the Hunuas. The dam was built in 1965 and was the second of four large reservoirs in the ranges. Collectively, they have a capacity of 77 million cubic metres of water and supply about 68 per cent of Auckland’s potable water.
The track continues along the ridgeline for another 10 minutes, reaching a junction with the Mangatawhiri Challenge Track. About 200m down the track is a basic campsite and shelter, near Pt396. This section of the track forms part of the Te Araroa Trail, and the campsite and shelter is a common stop-over for thru-hikers.
Five minutes further along Repeater Road, the Wairoa Loop Track is signposted on the left, descending a steep ridge through forest characterised by ponga and nikau palms. The track weaves down the ridge for about 20 minutes before following an idyllic stream, which flows through a series of pools and waterfalls.
A large slip recently closed this part of the track, but it has since been upgraded and a new bridge has been built crossing the stream.
After about 20 minutes, the track reaches Otau Road, which is followed for a further 10 minutes. Surrounded by forest, the sheltered and quiet gravel road is still pleasant to walk along.
The road continues towards the face of Wairoa Dam, where the track leaves the road and heads back into the forest, slowly climbing above a stream before gaining a ridge. After about 40 minutes climbing, a 15 minute side track leads to a lookout over Wairoa Dam and the steep forest-clad ranges beyond.
From here, the incline flattens before the track rejoins Repeater Road. Soon there is a picnic bench with more extensive views of the Wairoa Reservoir which snakes deep into the ranges.
It’s an easy walk back along Repeater Road to the car park.