2019 is now upon us and it is time to reflect on the year past. 2018 was a hiking year. I completed 34 out of my 52 hikes since I started in May and did some pretty epic ones before I set my challenge. In no particular order here are 18 of my favourite hikes of 2018. From snow-capped peaks to exploring cave weta, muddy tracks, creek crossings and everything in between. New Zealand has some simply stunning hikes
1. Tongariro Alpine Crossing, Tongariro National Park
This was a special hike for me, it was a hike that I have always wanted to experience. The Emerald Lakes taunted me in photos, begging me to see them for myself.
Ronna (from fivefootronna) and I made a plan. We were going to hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. I invited Kenny and my son Joe crashed our party of three. The four of us met in Turangi, woke up before the sun the next day and headed towards the mountain, our breath mingled with excitement in the fresh air
As we bumped along in the bus that picked us up from the end point, being thrown around the seats, Joe was watching out the window in awe of what the day would bring us.
That awe stayed with him the whole day. From being ‘inside a real cloud!’ to the being ‘inside a real crater!’ to skidding down the slope towards the Emerald Lakes. The awe was infectious. Seeing all these sights with the innocence of a 12-year-old brought home what a beautiful place we live in.
Why the Tongariro Alpine Crossing was one of my favourite hikes of 2018
This was the hike that started it all. I have always loved hiking and getting out regularly but this hike reinforced how much I actually love it and spurred me into wanting to do even more. The Tongariro Crossing was hike #1 on my 52 hike challenge. The first of many challenges that I was determined to see through.
Read More: Tongariro Alpine Crossing
See More: Tongariro Crossing Facebook Album
2. Rangiwahia Hut, Ruahine Range
For my birthday in July, I wanted to spend some quality time with my 10-year-old and 12 year old. They both know how much I love the outdoors so agreed (aliet grudingly on the 10-year-olds part) to spend the night up at Rangiwahia Hut in the Ruahine Range with me.
The hike up to Rangi Hut took us just over three hours. Lots of stops at various viewpoints along the way and coaxing my daughter up the hill but we made it.
This time it was Amelia’s turn to be in awe that we were ‘inside a real cloud!’. Joe with his chest puffed out scoffed, ‘I’ve already been inside three clouds, Amelia’
He’s quite the Cloud Expert now apparently
Many rounds of Exploding Kittens and Kittens in a Blender were played by the light of the candle before we all crawled sleepily into our sleeping bags to settle in for the night.
Amelia’s confidence had grown overnight and she became our leader for the day as we headed back down the hill. The slips and uneven surfaces that caused her to freeze the previous day were now no match for her.
As we got to the car she announced that she was very proud of herself for her day’s efforts.
Me too, babe!
Why Rangiwahia Hut was one of my favourite hikes of 2018
This was a special hike for me as it was spending quality time with my kiddies. We do a fair bit of hiking together but this was the first time it was just the three of us on a multi-day hike.
Read More: While I didn’t write about this particular hike, I have written about Rangiwahia Hut several times. You can check out these three posts for more:
- Rangi Hut – A guest post by Mumma Bear
- Rangiwahia Hut and Deadman’s Track, June 18
- Rangiwahia Hut, March 17
See More: Rangiwahia Hut Facebook Album
3. Iron Gate Hut, Ruahine Range
Iron Gate Hut nestles in the Ruahine Range, resting on the side of the Oroua River. Blue ducks (Whio), a rare NZ bird, sometimes reside there but as it was a rather wet day, they were most likely hiding somewhere dry(ish). As I was in my wee hut.
A wet day not only due to the persistent rain, but also the creek crossings that ensured my feet were lovely and soaked. The hut was a welcome sight by the time I got there.
This hike was challenging due to the many steep inclines and the rugged nature of the track. It also took a while to get used to carrying a much heavier pack than usual. At one point I forgot I had a large pack on and went to duck under a tree branch then got stuck. Luckily I was on my own so no one saw my pretty epic fail.
I arrived at the hut and immediately discarded all my wet, soggy clothes for some nice, dry(ish) ones and went to set up my wee abode for the night.
I felt like a right ole mountain woman cutting firewood and swearing at dwindling flames as a kettle of water boiled gently on my cooker. Totally owned that shizz.
A night with my book and a cup of tea with the fire crackling and rain pounding the roof as my soundtrack was just what I needed.
Why Iron Gate Hut was one of my favourite hikes of 2018
Iron Gate Hut was my first solo multi-day hike. I was immensely proud of myself for lighting a fire with damp wood, not freezing my booty off and not getting horrendously lost and having a helicopter search party coming after me coz I was half an hour later than expected texting Ma I was alive.
Ma was immensely proud that I didn’t meet an axe murderer along the way.
Read More: Iron Gate Hut
See More: Iron Gate Hut Facebook Album
4. Kapakapanui Hut, Tararua Range
Kapakapanui was another challenging, rugged track. The view from the tops is spectacular. Well, they would be if it wasn’t so misty. But then even the mist had a certain mysterious charm to it.
From hauling up steep hills to watching the attempts at snow flurries on the tops to the knee-high mud, to the goblin forest, to the many (many) creek crossings and to spending the night in Kapakapanui Hut with perfect strangers, it was an epic trip.
The Tararuas is not a place I have spent a lot of time in (something to remedy in 2019). However, the trips that I have done have been wild, rugged, challenging and absolutely stunning. Kapakapanui Track was no exception. Here’s to more Taras in ’19 *clink*!
Why Kapakapanui Hut was one of my favourite hikes of 2018
I experienced the camaraderie and instant hut buddies that our backcountry huts often ensure. It was a fantastic night filled with laughter, conversation, spur of the moment disco parties and a glass of wine (or two).
As I love creek crossings, this was the perfect track for this Kiwi Hiker. Near 20 crossings over the two days. Lots of stamping through water. Choice!
Read More: Kapakapanui Hut, Tararua Range
See More: Kapakapanui Hut Facebook Album
5. Coppermine Creek, Ruahine Range
Coppermine Creek is a great wee hike. You have quite a variety of sights and sounds when tackling this bad boy. There is a mine (probably a copper one, methinks), some cave weta, creek crossings, farmland and bush.
I completed this a few times over the year. Each was unique. In March, I completed the whole loop including the farmland, April was with the kids and the folks where we managed a few creek crossings but didn’t make it to the weta. The last with just Ma where I managed to convince her to crawl inside the cave for about a meter until she saw the giant spiders and announced she had seen quite enough cave for one day, thank you very much.
Why Coppermine Creek was one of my favourite hikes of 2018
Coppermine Creek is absolutely breathtaking in the Autumn. Crisp yellow leaves carpet the ground, the gentle rush of the creek that runs beside the track and birdsong is starting to come back to this part of the Ruahine Range. Plus, cave weta. I have a fond liking for these ugly, anti-social little creatures. They remind me a little of myself.
Read More: Coppermine Creek
See More: Coppermine Creek Facebook Album
6. Platinum Mines, Kahuterawa Valley
Another cave weta exploration. This time I headed out to Sledge Track and up the hill to the Platinum Mines. A quick side tour stamping across the swing bridge, past the rickety planks that passed as another bridge, up the Elevation (I still haven’t managed to bring myself to go back up it again) and onto Toe Toe Loop to visit my beloved wee insects.
As I sat up the top admiring the view over a cup of tea (a must have for the serious hiker) two men came crashing up the track very concerned that a female was hiking alone. I quickly met up with them again after my tea craving was satisfied and we continued around Toe Toe Loop together.
The first mine we had to go down a ladder it was a game of ‘bags not’ for the men so it was ladies first. Torch between my teeth I descended the ladder. A quick whip around revealed strands of glowworms and a horizontal mine at knee height.
I quickly swapped places with my ladder buddy (there wasn’t enough room for two down there) and told him to look in the mine. Never been ushered so fast up a ladder.
The next two mines were uneventful but still fascinating. I left my hiking buddies at a junction and turned around to go back to the first weta filled cave so I could see them properly without being rushed upwards again.
A few hours later I was back at my car feeling highly chuffed with the days work.
Why Platinum Mine was one of my favourite hikes of 2018
Cave weta. Obvs. And the fact that this wee damsel was braver than two rather large Kiwi Blokes.
Read More: Platinum Mine Track
See More: Platinum Mine Loop Facebook Album
7. Field Hut and Table Top, Tararua Range
Ah, Field Hut, my first proper Tararua Range experience. And what an experience it was!
While not a technical track, the huge elevation gain meant this was a tough day. The track starts at nearly sea level and climbs to over 1000m in a few hours if you go all the way up to Table Top. I was a puffin’ fo’ real for most of the track.
As I was daydreaming away on a rare flat piece of track I must have startled the locals as something caught the corner of my eye. I stopped for a closer look and saw a baby Morepork (native NZ owl) eyeing me warily. A good excuse for a stop, we eyed each other up while I carefully got out my camera, trying not to startle it. Turns out it was pretty startle proof and was quite content to just sit and watch. We hung out for a while before I headed back up the track again.
Field Hut is the oldest surviving huts in the Tararuas and sits just below the bush line at around 900m. It is a fairly popular hut being so close to the road, you can reach the hut in about 3 hours so a lot of school groups use it. In fact, I saw a school group coming down as I was going up. I’m sure I looked very flattering with my tomato red face and rather sweaty self.
After I left Field Hut I carried on up the Range for a while longer to reach Table Top. Here is where the views are worth the sweat and pain. You can see just how rough and craggy the Tararuas are. The mist didn’t lift often but when it did I was so awestruck I forgot to take a photo.
Why Field Hut was one of my favourite hikes of 2018
This was my first foray into the Tararuas and it made a pleasant change from the Ruahines. While I still love the Ruahines, a change is sometimes needed.
Read More: Field Hut and Table Top, Tararua Range
See More: Field Hut Facebook Album
8. Deerford Loop Track, Ruahine Range
Another first was Deeford Loop. This wasn’t the first time I have hiked Deerford Loop, but the first time I hiked anywhere solo. It stirred my love of being outdoors without the restraints of relying on others. I could do it on my own! That was empowering.
I chose Deerford Track as it was a relatively short hike (2-3 hours), one I knew and one I knew I wouldn’t get lost on the drive out.
It was freeing to be able to go on my own. I could stop for pictures whenever I wanted. Take breathers as often as necessary (which is quite often if we are being honest), and I could admire the views as long as I felt drawn to them. Plus, I didn’t have to talk to anyone. Which is always nice.
Why Deerford Loop was one of my favourite hikes of 2018
Solo hiking added a whole new dimension to my hikes. I didn’t have to wait for someone to have the same day off as me, I didn’t have to rely on anyone. I could just get out and go. How liberating! My love for the outdoors deepened even further.
Read More: Again, I had already written about Deerford Loop so I didn’t write about this particular trip. You can read about another trip up Deeford Loop here.
See More: Deeford Loop Facebook Album
9. Shorts Track/Knights Track, Ruahine Range
Shorts Track/Knights Track was the most challenging track I did in 2018. It was also an unexpected hike, I hadn’t counted on completing the whole loop in one day. The original plan was to head over the ridge and down the other side to Leon Kinvig Hut. However, the conditions were not in my favour on that particular day.
Snow had settled along the ridgeline and it was a battle to get across the top. I didn’t know if more would eventuate overnight so I decided to head down another ridge on the same side and complete a loop rather than take the risk. Plus, the thought of trudging through nearly waist-high snow two days in a row didn’t really take my fancy, if we are being honest.
The view from the ridge line was one of the best views I have seen. The snowcapped mountain ridges of the Ruahine Ranges were exposed and I could see Mt Ruapehu and it’s accompanied mountains in the Tongariro National Park as well as out to Mt Egmont in the Taranaki region. If I turned around, the Hawkes Bay was sprawled in front of me.
Why Shorts Track/Knights Track was one of my favourite hikes of 2018
I was incredibly proud of myself for completing this loop. It is a big day even in fine conditions so doing it with the added bonus of the snow was an achievement. Even if I did let loose few swear words up on the top of the mountain.
Read More: Shorts Track/Knights Track
See More: Shorts Track/Knights Track Facebook Album
10. Manawatu Gorge Walk, Manawatu
The Manawatu Gorge Walk is a fun hike. This one isn’t for the solo hiker as you have to park a car at each end. Incidentally, on the Woodville side, there is the added bonus of being in close proximity to Yummy Mummy’s Cheesecake Factory.
Kenny and I parked a car on the Woodville side then headed back over the saddle road to the start of the track just outside of Ashurst. The first 45 minutes of the track shares with the Te Apiti Loop Track and is a pleasant enough hike with a few points of interest including an amazing lookout over the river, train tracks and horsetail rapids and a wee fairy house (a hollow tree trunk big enough to sit and ponder in) and the iron Maori Warrior statue.
From the Maori Warrior, the track either loops back around to the carpark or heads straight on through the gorge. As we had to go and pick up my car, it was onwards and upwards. Often quite literally.
The track becomes more of a bush walk than the proceeding Te Apiti Loop with a detour around a slip and a few more hills. It took us roughly 3 hours so not bad going. The various viewpoints provided some varied and spectacular views including a fairly close up of the massive wind turbines with some curious cows residing underneath.
Why the Manawatu Gorge Walk was one of my favourite hikes of 2018
I had a bit of a break from hiking in the weeks leading up to this one. However, it was a long weekend so we had an extra day off and a rare spot of clear weather in the unpredictable spring air. It seemed rude not to take advantage of the opportunity.
A stop off at the cheesecake shop on the way home topped off a wonderful day out.
There are no read more or see more for this track. I haven’t gotten around to uploading photos or writing about it yet. Stay tuned though, they’re on their way.
11. Stoat Traps Track, Ruahine Range
Stoat Traps Track veers off the track leading up to Iron Gate Hut and Heritage Lodge. It isn’t an official Department of Conservation track, rather a track used to check the stoat traps hidden amongst the bush as pest control.
Overgrown and not terribly well-maintained this is a fun short hike down to the river.
Stoats Trap Track starts fairly easily but the further you venture into the bush, the wilder the track becomes. Tree regularly share the path as you zigzag your way down. A quick detour to the lookout is essential before heading back to the main path.
From the detour, the track descends quickly and is often slippery with pine needles and loose dirt. When you reach the river, it is rather difficult to see where the track goes. It seems to just stop abruptly. However, crawl your way through the bush blocking the path and the river exposes itself.
Why Stoats Trap Track was one of my favourite hikes of 2018
While not a long hike (2-3 hours), it was challenging enough to feel like a ‘proper hike’. The lookout was serene and peaceful. I had packed my notebook so sat on the edge of the cliff and jotted my jumbled thoughts down, instantly feeling much lighter.
Read More: Stoat Traps Track
See More: Stoat Traps Track Facebook Page
12. No 1 Line Track, Ruahine Range
Another short but punchy hike in the Ruahine Range. This time in the Pohangina Valley. A region I had not attacked yet. Again I was met with a deserted carpark so I surveyed my surroundings with a sense of peace before checking out the trailhead maps.
There was a quick detour down to the river so decided to tackle that first. A steep descent down to the river (why does it always have to do that?!) was made even quicker as I slipped down the dew covered tree roots without the aid of my now much-loved trekking pole. This was the point that I realised how much I rely on it nowadays.
After a quick sit and ponder by the rushing river it was back up to the main track. A quick side trip back to my car to grab my pole and it was up the hill again. There was another side trip to a lookout but I wouldn’t bother doing that again. It was much the same view as the carpark. Yet another quick side trip appears soon after. The giant rimu tree towers over the rest of the forest.
The view from the top of the walk was worth the trip, however. After beating the way through eager tree branches and squelching through the mud, a bench seat suddenly appears. Apparently, the end of the track is rather abrupt.
Why No. 1 Line Track was one of my favourite hikes of 2018
While not a long hike, it was an interesting hike with a great detour to the river. The muddy track is not well-used so an air of isolation hangs over the track. The giant rimu tree was astounding and dwarfs everything in sight. I didn’t even think about trying to get my arms around it. That would have just been futile.
Read More: No. 1 Line Track
See More: No. 1 Line Facebook Album
13. Bell Rock Loop, Hawkes Bay
Bello Rock Loop is a track that takes you to a rock that’s shaped like a … wait for it…. bell! Bet you didn’t see that one coming.
The first part of the track winds up through the bush. Keep an eye out for the various weta apartments along the way. While Kenny and I looked in each one, a weta never did appear for us. Sigh. But they are quite shy and like to be left alone so it wasn’t surprising. A few were inhabited by spiders and various other insects but the weta were most likely napping inside their abode.
Once you leave the bush it is across the farmland you go. Stark and unchanging with the relentless sun, beating down on the surprisingly warm winters day it was a tough ole slog up the hill.
We rounded a corner for a magnificent view out to the Hawkes Bay and sea beyond made us stop in our tracks.
One hill later and we rounded on the famed Bell Rock. It was rather more popular than I thought it would be, having seen no one else on our trek up. As we sat in the sun on the various rocks more and more hikers turned up.
We decided to go down the farmland instead of through the bush again, thus completing the loop. However, I would have preferred going back through the bush as the unchanging landscape got rather dull after a while. Back on the dusty gravel road, it wasn’t long before we were back at the car again.
Time for a good ole mince and cheese pie at the corner dairy when we hit the nearest town.
Why Bell Rock Loop Track was one of my favourite hikes of 2018
Who doesn’t like rocks shaped like things?!
Read More: Bell Rock Loop Track
See More: Bell Rock Facebook Album
14. Waitonga Falls, Tongariro National Park
This was an early start to the day, Pa and I got up at 4 am (who the heck wakes up at 4am?!) and headed over to Mt Ruapehu to catch the sunrise. The sky was just starting to pinken the horizon as the mountains stirred from their sleep. Mt Ruapehu dwarfs the others. Mt Ngauruhoe stands tall and proud while Mt Tongariro lies lazily along the skyline.
After we snapped a few snaps it was time to head around to the other side of Mt Ruapehu to hike to Waitonga Falls. The tallest waterfall on the mountain measuring at 39m (128 feet). We crawled up the side of the mountain, following the long line of cars headed for the ski fields. Luckily we didn’t have to go too far before we came across the trailhead.
Waitonga Falls is a relatively easy hike. What made it spectacular was the winter wonderland we hiked through to get to it. (and trying to get ole wobbly stroke legs Pa to stay upright on the slippery path).
We didn’t see many others on the hike to the falls, we got to break in the virgin snow. On the way back the snow was starting to melt and was grubby from all the other sightseers that we crossed paths with.
The falls themselves are quite beautiful, crashing over the edge of the cliff. The rocky river with its snow-topped boulders were simply picturesque.
Why Waitonga Falls was one of my favourite hikes of 2018
I want to go back to Waitonga Falls in the winter this year with my children. It is such a postcard setting, they will love it. Will just have to try and keep them from throwing snowballs then getting grumpy with each other.
Read More: I haven’t written about Waitonga Falls yet but it is waiting in my content calendar patiently.
See More: Waitonga Falls Facebook Album
15. A-Frame Hut, Ruahine Range
Another Ruahine Hike, this time on the Eastern side. A-Frame hut would have been fantastic to sleep in back in its heyday. However, constant vandalisation has put a stop to the use of the hut and it now sits in disuse, perched on the edge of the ranges.
Another picturesque hike in the snow, this time though, the snow was shallow and firm. No sinking for this gal! Huzzah!
For some reason, I didn’t expect snow. I think it was because I had completed Field Hut the week before. The two huts sit at the same altitude but there was no snow in sight near Field Hut. It was a pleasant surprise though. Adding another dimension to the already charming hike.
The path was mostly well-maintained and easy to follow (a rarity sometimes!), a worthy half-day hike.
Why A-Frame Hut was one of my favourite hikes of 2018
Sitting on the edge of the hill looking out over the Hawkes Bay on a wee perch on the side of the track I just looked out at the sprawling view and felt absolute peace. My soul really does feel at home in nature and nothing proves it more than at times like this.
While the hut itself is rather sad and lonely looking, it still stands proudly despite the harsh weather and constant attention from vandals. Stoic and strong.
Read More: A-Frame Hut, Ruahine Range
See More: A-Frame Hut Facebook album
16. Otarawaiwere Bay, Bay of Plenty
The kids and I decided that a beach day was much in order. The first warm days of spring were lingering, it was much too nice to be inside.
Otarawaiwere Beach is a small bay concealed by cliffs accessible by several different bush walks. As a result it isn’t nearly as popular as Ohope Beach to the right just over the cliff. Secluded and isolated, Otarawaiwere Bay is one of the best-hidden gems (ha, almost wrote Jems) in the Bay of Plenty.
The walk down to the bay takes about 20 minutes. Amelia clutching her newly acquired whiteboard proudly we trekked down to the beach for an afternoon of playing naughts and crosses, shell collecting, hangman and exploration of the rock pools.
Why Otarawaiwere Bay was one of my favourite hikes of 2018
Nothing beats quality time with the kids. Even better when it is in such a scenic spot. The kids and I spent a good few hours lazing the afternoon away, in no hurry to get back to the car again.
I haven’t uploaded any photos to Facebook yet or written about Otarawaiwere Bay but hold onto your hats, it’s a comin’!
17. Atene Skyline Track, Whanganui National Park
I had hiked Deeford Loop solo, now it was time to challenge myself. For my second solo hike, I thought Atene Skyline Track would be a good idea. Luckily, I am quite stubborn or I would have turned around many times throughout this track.
The first being at the lookout an hour into the track. The rain was pouring, the mud thick and spirits low. However, looking out over the view, seeing the wonder of nature how the Whanganui River had rerouted itself to an easier path but still leaving her evidence behind 100’s of years later spurred me on. I wanted to see the whole of this wondrous area.
This track is not often used so it’s maintenance is… lacking… for want of a better word. While the elevation gain and kilometres aren’t huge, it is a challenging track due to the ruggedness and lack of maintenance. However, I am a gal that likes the odd challenge so I was determined to finish it.
The result was a few falls down the slippery slopes, a couple of wrong turns where the track had overgrown but came in under the time I had set myself. Huzzah!
Why Atene Skyline Track was one of my favourite hikes of 2018
My first solo challenge. I had to dig deep for this one as there was no one to motivate me but me. I trudged on feeling rather chuffed with myself even as I slipped over multiple times and hobbled to the end.
Read More: Atene Skyline Track, Whanganui National Park
See More: Atene Skyline Track facebook album
18. Deadman’s Loop, Ruahine Range
Kenny and I celebrated the first official day of winter by heading up to the Ruahines. He hadn’t done this track before so we decided to conquer it in the hopes that we would see snow. I hadn’t seen snow yet that winter so the novelty hadn’t worn off.
We first spied snow not too far into our hike. Cries of excitement became more regular until we reached Rangiwahia Hut where it covered the entire ground.
A quick stop for lunch in the shelter of the hut we headed up past the hut to Mangahuia hight point. Here the novelty of the snow started wearing off as it got deeper. By the time we reached the high point, we were sinking with every step (often accompanied by curses).
I had thought rather hopefully that all our uphills would be over once we reached the high point. Boy, was I wrong. After skidding down the hill it was time for another soul-crushing climb. Every step we took upwards, we sunk and slid backwards slightly. 3 steps forward, 2 backwards.
However, as we sat amongst the snow (our rubbish bags for seats did not keep away the wet) and surveyed our surroundings it was hard to stay angry at the snow when it looked so beautiful.
A quick stop at the frozen tarn and we were finally on the downhill. The dusk turned the leaves red and gold as we made our way back to the car. Slightly wetter and quite a bit wearier.
Why Deadman’s Track was one of my favourite hikes of 2018
This hike is simply beautiful. I have done it before in the Autumn and it was a completely different hike to the winter. The snow turns the Ruahines into a postcard and with excellent company I couldn’t have asked for a better start to winter.
Read More: Deadman’s Track, Ruahine Range
See More: Deadman’s Track Facebook album
I had so many hikes to choose from it was hard to choose my favourite hikes of 2018. It was an epic year full of challenges, conquering, limit-pushing, memories and new experiences.
Here’s to more in 2019!
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