Take a stroll in New Zealand’s oldest established forest park.
The Tararua Forest Park provides tramping and hunting opportunities right at the back door of large urban communities. Wellingtonians have adopted the Tararuas as their favourite stamping ground and the country’s first tramping club was formed here in 1919. The original Forest Service saw a need for forest, water and soil conservation. Today public recreation has become a principal focus.
The highest peak in the park, the Mitre, is only 1,571 metres. However, the high profile and visibility of the main range from surrounding lowlands belies the physical challenge and risk of tramping along the high ridges. The range is exposed and an essential part of the Tararua tramping experience is battling high winds on the tops.
These open tops are the big attraction for keen trampers and a track network links most of the major ridges with sheltered huts in the valleys. The most popular tramp is the ‘Southern Crossing’, a 2-3 day tramp traversing the high peaks of Alpha and Hector. It starts from Otaki Forks and rewards strenuous effort with stunning views of the Kapiti Coast and Cook Strait from the ‘Dress Circle’.
Another favourite is the Powell-Jumbo Circuit, starting from Holdsworth Lodge just south of Masterton. The initial climb is to Powell Hut, spectacularly sited on the bush edge just below Mt Holdsworth. From there a one hour tramp takes you onto the tops and a further 6 hours completes the circuit back to the Lodge.
The eastern park entrances from the Wairarapa have many delightful camping, picnicking and swimming spots in beautiful native bush. From here you can choose to take gentle tramps up river valleys to little gems like Totara Flats. Alternatively try the challenge of a tramping/swimming trip through the gorges.
Look for the beautiful valleys of the Tararuas. They are so homely and welcoming you may just want to stop and rest awhile and leave the high tops for the local stalwarts.