Shorts Track/Knights Track sits high up the Ruahine Range. A beautiful full day hike that will take you up and along the Ngamoko Range. This challenging hike offers some of the best views of the Ruahine Range extending beyond the Manawatu and Hawkes Bay.
Time: To complete the entire shorts track/knights track loop allow at least 8 hours and be mindful that it can take up to 10 hours.
Access: Head down Table Flat Road just past Apiti. Follow this until you see the signpost for Limestone Road (veer to the right near the end of Table Flat Road), follow this road until you reach the carpark at the end. This is a narrow gravel road so be careful and be sure to shut all gates behind you.
Difficulty: This is an advanced tramping track. This means that there are many steep inclines, the track is rough and rugged in places and it is a long slog.
Fitness: You will need to be fairly fit to tackle shorts track/knights track. It is a long, unforgiving track.
Up Deerford Loop
The first part of the track is farmland before heading under the tree cover. Shortly after you will find yourself at a creek. Take care when crossing the creek as it can get quite swift at times. After you have crossed the creek it is straight back up the other side.
The track can get boggy in winter so care is needed but it is a well marked and fairly well-maintained track.
The fork in the road
You will come to a fork in the track. Turn right to go up Deeford Loop to Shorts Track or stay to the left to find Makiekie Creek. The track carries along Deerford Loop for a short time but when you start hearing the rush of water keep your eyes peeled for a side track. It isn’t always obvious where it is.
The sidetrack takes you to the creek which will need to be crossed and up knights track.
I took the right and headed up Deerford Track. The track gets very steep at times. There are loads of places to stop for a
breather photo. Eventually, a clearing appears (it will be the most beautiful sight you have seen so far) at about 850m altitude. This is the perfect spot for some morning tea, a drink of water and a rest for the legs.
Once the ole legs are well rested, it’s time to head up Shorts Track.
The sign does say you should reach the top in 2-3 hours. It took me more like 3-4 with the tantrums at the snow. On a non-snowy day, these times are about spot on.
Shorts Track leads you up out of the bush and onto the tussocks. A steep climb in places that gives way to stunning views over the countryside and the track that you have just ascended. Silly me thought that now the tussocks were reached, Toka trig would be a hop skip and a jump away. Little did I know that it was still a good couple of hours away for these tired legs.
Across the ridge
Once in the tussocks, an unnamed trig sits at 1380m offering 360-degree scenes of the Hawkes Bay, Manawatu, Tongariro and Taranaki. Serene and breathtakingly beautiful.
From here you head along the Ngamoko ridgeline across to Toka trig that sits at 1519m. So still a bit to climb. The trig hovers in the distance, frustratingly seeming to never get much closer. Maybe that was the snow that was slowing me down though.
I will admit that I may have had a little tantrum up there on the tops as every step I took I sunk a good couple of feet. Luckily there was no one to witness my show so I pretended it never happened.
I had a little celebratory dance when I spotted the sign for Knights Track.
Down Knights Track
It is pretty much all downhill from the sign. The odd up but never long or strenuous though. I crashed through the bush on a mission now to get to my car before dusk fell.
A trekking pole comes in handy as the path is very slippery and gets muddy. The track also has a few tree roots lazing across it so be mindful of these as you zoom down the hill.
Once Makiekie Creek is reached, the end is near!
Join back up with Deerford Loop and you’re around half an hour from your car. One last creek crossing on which I literally ended up on my arse. A mixture of rushing and not watching where I was placing my feet, exhaustion and excitement of practically smelling the car made me careless.
As I squelched the last few minutes, an immense sense of relief and proudness came over me. I had done it! A hefty climb and a long day but well worth it.
Shorts Track/Knights Track Loop Tips
- The best times of year to tackle shorts track/knights track loop is spring or autumn. The open tops mean during the summer the sun can be relentless and during the winter the weather can be unforgiving and harsh.
- Allow 8-10 hours so start early. It took me close to 10 hours to complete the whole loop as there was waist high snow along the tops.
- Bring your camera. The views from the top are absolutely spectacular. You can see the Hawkes Bay, Manawatu, Taranaki and Tongariro on a clear day.
- Be aware of the changing weather and be safe rather than sorry. The mountains will be there another day and it’s best if you are too. I had originally planned to hike this over two days with a stay in Leon Kinvig Hut in between. Unfortunately, it was not the right conditions. I had to change plans up the top and head back down Knights Track the same day. I’ll get to you one day Leon…..
- Your feet will get wet. This is unavoidable so wear appropriate footwear.
- The conditions can change dramatically from the carpark to the tussocks. Layers are especially important.
- Shorts track/knights track loop is an advanced tramping track, so please make sure you have the appropriate backcountry skills required. If this is your first hike, I would suggest picking another hike from the area such as Deerford Loop, Heritage Lodge, Deadmans track or Rangiwahia Hut. There are plenty to choose from. I would definitely not suggest this track during the winter if you are a beginner.
The beauty of this area of the Ruahine Range is that there are lots of options if you don’t feel confident to hike the whole shorts track/knights track loop.
You can either just go to Makiekie (Coal) Creek and back again. There is a lovely spot for a picnic and the kids will love the waterfall.
Deeford Loop Track
Deerford Loop Track is another option. Still challenging but only 2-3 hours this is a fantastic day hike if you are still building up to something meatier.
Take a couple of days
If you want to extend your stay to an overnighter, head up either shorts or knights track and once you get to the top, veer off and down to Leon Kinvig Hut. A hut that is high up on my to-hike list. Either come back up to the top and down the track back to the carpark or scoot across the Ruahine Range and end up any number of areas. Just make sure that you have someone on hand to pick you up again or you will be spending another three days trekking back again.
Shorts track/knights track is best left be in the winter. The high altitude and open tops mean that there is often poor visibility in the winter and snow is plentiful. As I found out. A stunning hike when the sun is shining it boasts some of the best views in the Ruahine Range.
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