A gentle river cascading over rocks makes for serene background noise when hiking up through native bushland in the Ruahine Range. Coppermine Creek is a unique New Zealand walk that offers a bit of everything. From river crossings to a cave filled with cave weta, spiders and glow worms, to awe-inspiring views across the hilltops to farmland to scrambling up rocks and everything in between. You won’t be disappointed.
Only one who wanders finds a new path
– Norwegian Proverb
Access From Coppermine Road End there is a carpark at the end of an unsealed road, near Woodville in the Eastern Ruahine Range
Time Depending on how you tackle this walk, it can be anywhere from two to five hours.
Difficulty This track is not as well maintained as some of the other walks in the Ruahine Ranges. There were a few slips covering the track, some river crossings and very steep, long inclines.
Fitness You will need to be relatively fit if you are doing the loop track as there are some long, steep inclines (that just don’t end), if you are just heading to the creek and back via the bush then you don’t need to be as fit, but still in decent shape.
For more info check out the Department of Conservation Website
A wee bit o’ history
Copper was first found in the creek in 1887 when Early European settlers found traces when searching the bush for lost cattle. For the next 100 years, unsuccessful attempts were made to mine the copper commercially. Nowadays people are happy to leave the Ruahine’s intact and have realised that it is a futile effort.
The track leads to the old mine site, however, it has been closed over. Now, all that remains of 100 years of hope is a mound on the side of the hill and a sign to commemorate the efforts.
Another feature that makes this track different is the old magazine shaft sitting on the side of the creek. It was excavated in the 1930’s and has housed various mining equipment and explosives for World War II over the years. Now it lies quiet and houses cave weta, spiders and glow worms. I’m not entirely sure why it held explosives for World War II. It is not the most easily accessible magazine.
Coppermine Creek Track
Coppermine Creek Track is the more well-maintained track in this area of the Ruahine’s. The creek track is wide, a gradual incline and mostly free from the bush trying to claim it back. There are a couple of slips you will need to navigate past and the path gets very muddy after some rain.
It takes about 40 or so minutes to get to a fork in the road. You can either loop around and get back to the carpark via Coppermine Track or go forth and conquer the mine and magazine. I would recommend carrying on and checking out the magazine and mine.
Another option is to abandon Coppermine Creek altogether and head on up Wharite Peak. Wharite Peak is only recommended for experienced hikers due to the boggy track and steep inclines. Wharite Peak is the southern tip of the Ruahine Range and boasts magnificent views on a clear day.
Coppermine Creek Track follows the creek into the Ranges, the gentle bubbling of the brook fills the air with its soothing sounds. Waterfalls line the track after a rainy few days some nothing more than a dribble. Others showing off their prowess fiercely. This track is atmospheric and stunningly beautiful.
The Copper Mine
The mine is an extra 20 minutes from the Creek. The mine lies further up the Ranges so expect a bit more of a climb to get there. Cliff faces drop steeply from the side of the track, so mind (mine-d) your footing along some of the narrow paths.
The path stops abruptly and a lonely sign waits in a clearing, surrounded by trees. We were at the mine. But, where was the mine? I looked around hopefully before realising, the three railings leaning up against the sign was all that was left of 100 years of activity. Admittedly, I was a little disappointed. I had hoped to see something. A sealed off hole in the hill, some boulders, something.
But nonetheless, the walk up to the sign (can’t really say mine) was beautiful, skipping along the rocks on the side of the cliff feeling like a wee mountain goat is always good fun.
We had a quick lunch spot sitting on a boulder at the edge of the cliff, looking over the hilltops on our way back down again. Birdsong is scarce here. Maybe because there aren’t as many stoat traps in this part of the Range? It was strange sitting in the middle of the forest to silence as the creek was a mere speck below, birds were a rarity and insects starting to hibernate.
Back down the hill again
On the way back down to Coppermine Creek, we decided to truck on through to the magazine, hoping that there was more to see than at the mine. Breathing was much easier on the way down again, that’s fo’ sure!
I wondered how the magazine’s got their names. Why was the cave called a magazine? You can’t read a cave. But then realised that the caves came before the books. Maybe the reading magazines are called magazines because they are filled with explosive content? Hmmm. Something to ponder upon.
When you don’t have to focus on breathing, the mind does wander.
Top Tip: When you get back to the creek and are wondering which way to go to get to the magazine. Look straight ahead, slightly to the right. We went to the left and wandered about 15 minutes upstream, battling branches and creek crossings to try and find it. Eventually, we gave up and headed back again. Only to discover it was pretty much straight across the creek.
Exploring the Magazine
The magazine was much more satisfying than the mine. It heads about 15 meters into the hillside and is so low you have to crouch right over and waddle in. I turned the torch on my phone on, squatted down and headed on in. When we got to the dead end I got told to look up.
Above us were dozens of cave weta, minding their own business, being blinded by my torch. I don’t know why I didn’t expect them but I didn’t and got a wee bit of a fright when one dropped in front of me. As I shone the torch along the walls we were greeted with what looked like daddy long legs on steroids with legs stretching either side of their bodies. Some stretched longer than the span of my hand. Glow worms hung in groups in the crevices of the rocks.
We made our way out and went to cross back over the creek until I decided I wanted a photo of the various flat mates of the cave. So back in we headed. One armed with a torch, the other with a camera. Both trying to aim at the same roommate. Once we snapped a few blurry photos, back out into the sunshine we blinked.
Please note that cave weta are protected species.
There are two ways to get back to the carpark. Back again the same way or you can cross the creek loop back around via Coppermine Track. If you are allergic to hills and are fairly unfit, I would recommend going back the same way you came in.
Coppermine Track heads straight up, pretty much literally. For about an hour you are climbing up a steep gradient. Now, my legs aren’t the longest so I struggled to get up some of the roots and rocks. But it made for quite an adventure, reaching up trying to find a stable handhold then pulling myself up.
The climbing seemed endless but there were plenty of places to stop for a quick photo opportunity (breather). Looking down, we could see how quickly we had climbed in a relatively short space of time. It was rather satisfying. There was still the distinct lack of birdsong on this side of the creek.
This part of the track is less maintained than Coppermine Creek Track. Thistles threaten to overtake the path and the track is overgrown in many parts. If you don’t want scratched legs and arms it would pay to wear quick dry trousers and long sleeved tops.
Back down the farmland
After you reach the top, the track descends quickly. The edge of the Ruahine Forest is not too far from here. Once you reach the edge of the forest the track goes through private farmland. Please be respectful, stick to the marked track and leave gates as you find them.
Once you hit the edge of the forest you are supposed to follow it along the fenceline inside the forest park. However, the track is far too overgrown for this. A quick jump over the fence is in order until you reach the sty. Stay on this side of the fence and follow the white markers through the farmland until the carpark.
One more creek crossing at the bottom of the hill and you are home dry. Not literally. But your car will be awaiting on the other side of the creek for you. Hopefully with a dry set of clothing. Our car did not hold a dry set of clothing. It did have a heater though.
A quick stop in Woodville at Yummy Mummy’s Cheesecakes and back over the Saddle Road, admiring the windmills along the way to a warm shower calling ended the day splendidly.
Top Coppermine Creek Tips
- Keep a dry set of clothes in your car for when you finish
- Hiking boots are essential, muddy paths, creek crossings, exposed tree roots, slips and boulders are all part of the track
- Cave weta are protected species, just admire them from afar
- When you cross the farmland, always leave gates as you find them and stick to the marked path
- Tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back again
- Stop at Yummy Mummy’s Cheesecakes (so many cheesecakes)
- If you are crossing the river, make sure that it is safe. The creek swells after rain and has sudden deep spots. If in doubt, don’t cross
If you are taking children, I would recommend going via Coppermine Creek Track and back the same way again. This track isn’t as steep and still offers the magazine and creek crossings that children love.
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