Sunrise Hut, Ruahine Forest Park
There’s something for every tramper at the wonderfully accessible Sunrise Hut. For beginners, it’s a chance to safely spend a night in the mountains, for experts it’s a diving board to the Ruahine tops, and for all visitors, it’s one of the North Island’s most impressive huts.
From the car park, the track quickly leaves the farmland for the mossy still of the beech forest. The 12 bunk Triplex Hut is reached within five minutes, making it a suitable base for those arriving late in the evening. For everyone else, it marks the beginning of a 650m climb.
Though it may sound intimidating, the track is brilliantly graded, zigzagging more than the topo map suggests as it gently climbs the ridgeline towards Buttercup Hollow. The gradient is consistent, but never demanding, and there are interpretation panels to point out flora and fauna along the track – perfect for the families and school groups who frequently visit.
The hut is reached within three hours, perched in a small tussock basin behind windswept trees which shelter it from the wild westerlies. Originally built in 1983 by the New Zealand Forestry Service, it was upgraded in 2005 and is now a comfortable space with a large covered deck, generous east-facing windows and a woodburner.
Views from the hut extend over Hawke Bay, though a low peak behind the woodshed provides astonishing views west across the valley to Te Atuaoparapara, 1687m, and visitors with energy remaining can follow a route north-west to Armstrong Saddle and beyond.
Though it loses the sun early, Sunrise Hut wasn’t named by accident. On clear days, trampers will wake up to fiery light streaming through the hut windows, bathing the bunks in brilliant orange.