- Hihitahi Forest Sanctuary
- Total Ascent
- 3hr return
- Zekes Hut, four bunks
- Hihitahi Reserve is about 10km south of Waiouru and 20km north of Taihape on SH1. Look for a DoC sign on the eastern side of the road.
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The cute four-bunk Zekes Hut is the only shelter in the Hihitahi Forest Sanctuary, one of the most important forest remnants in the country.
The track initially follows farmland, which can be boggy, before entering the forest to begin the climb up to the highest point, Hihitahi (1116m). On the summit, views unfold of Ruapehu, the apex of the North Island, plus a substantial chunk of the Kaimanawa and northern Ruahine mountains.
The track resumes on the north of the summit, descending through mountain cedar forest before swinging east towards Kaitapu Stream. It crosses a grassy slip at one point, then re-enters the forest before reaching the hut, situated above a river fork.
Built in 2007, the hut takes its name from Turangi hunter Zeke Martin. A wood stove makes it cosy during cool autumn nights.
Pahautea, or mountain cedar, is an attractive native tree that grows at relatively high altitudes, and once dominated the landscapes of the central North Island over a great 300km2 swathe of country between Taihape and the northern Ruahine Range. Fires, felling and farming have since reduced the forest, with the Hihitahi and northern Ruahine remaining its most important strongholds.