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Whirinaki Circuit, Whirinaki Te Pua-a-Tāne Conservation Park

The three-day Whirinaki Circuit is a North Island forest classic

From the car park at Forest Road, the well-graded track heads directly into some of the densest stands of podocarps in the park, with the five main species all present: kahikatea, rimu, miro, totara and matai.

After about 15 minutes, the track crosses a footbridge over Te Whaiti Nui A Toi Canyon, a small but impressive narrowing of the Whirinaki River, confined within mossy ignimbrite walls.

The track continues up the true right of the Whirinaki River, soon passing the Moerangi Track junction. After about 90 minutes, the track reaches the signposted turn-off into Mangamate Stream. Here, travel is mainly on tracks beside the river, but it fords often, and sometimes follows the riverbed for short sections (this could be impassable when the river is in flood).

The track reaches a grassy clearing at a prominent fork, where Mangamate Hut used to sit before it was relocated higher up the valley. The track now sidles and climbs to a low saddle, where the nine-bunk hut occupies a small grassy clearing.

The track drops down the other side of the saddle into the headwaters of Kakanui Stream, a branch of which is followed south, and eventually over another small forest saddle into the headwaters of Taumutu Stream.

Easy travel down the Taumutu Stream leads to its confluence with Whirinaki River, at a footbridge.

Head north along the true right of the Whirinaki on the easy, flat track. Central Whirinaki Hut occupies a substantial clearing, set on flats near the river. It’s the largest hut in the park, with bunk space for 25. Ample camping exists nearby.

The track continues north, following the Whirinaki River downstream, with numerous opportunities to reach the river edge and watch for whio. It sticks to the true right, crossing a few tributaries on footbridges, until reaching Verns Camp, where there is a permanent shelter, sometimes used by guided parties staying in the area, and three campsites.

About 45 minutes north of Verns Camp, the track reaches another junction. Head left to reach a viewpoint of Whirinaki Falls. Although only 8m high, the Whirinaki River has enough volume to make for a decent spectacle.

This track stays on the true left of the Whirinaki River, rejoining the inward track at the footbridge over Te Whaiti Nui A Toi Canyon. The car park and the end of the circuit are just 15 minutes away.

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Distance
33.5km
Total Ascent
1742m
Grade
Easy / Moderate
Time
Forest Road to Mangamate Hut, 4hr; To Central Whirinaki Hut, 4.5hr; To Forest Road, 5hr
Accom.
Mangamate Hut (9 bunks), Central Whirinaki Hut (25 bunks). Whirinaki Recreation Camp also offers accommodation for schools and camps.
Access
Forest Road to Mangamate Hut, 4hr; To Central Whirinaki Hut, 4.5hr; To Forest Road, 5hr
Map
BG38, BG39

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Whirinaki Circuit (gpx, )

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