Bumble Bees gethering pollen

Akatarawa Forest Park

The Hutt Valley on New Zealand’s North Island is a great base point for those that enjoy the great outdoors. Surrounded by forest parks and reserves, with the Hutt River river running through the centre.

Close enough to the coast and a stones throw from the mountain ranges and hiking trails in the Wairarapa. All while still being located a handy 40 minutes from the centre of Wellington by train.

A map of the Akatarawa forest.
Map of Akatarawa Forest Park

The Akatarawa Forest is located a short drive from Upper Hutt with numerous entry points, some more accessible than others…. We chose to enter from the car park at the end of Karapoti Road. This is also the entry point for the majority of motorbike riders so if tramping on the weekend or during the holidays take extra care.

The trail from the car park follows a river through the Karapoti Gorge with imposing mountains on both sides. The trail is easy walking, it looks to have been an old logging road from years past, so while muddy in places it is fairly level and not too steep.

Rocky trail through the Karapoti Gorge.
The trail winding through Karapoti Gorge

Eventually you will reach McGhies bridge, giving you the option of walking West back toward Upper Hutt. Or continuing along a much flatter track that follows the Akatarawa River to the North.

We chose the northern route along the river but while the river is right next to the road. It is unfortunately all but inaccessible through a combination of thick foliage and sheer rock drop offs. Continuing North the landscape between the road and the river started to flatten out with an amazing variety of native flowers and orchids growing beside the path.

New Zealand native orchid.
Native orchid growing beside the trail in summer.

The variety of plant life in the park is pretty amazing with Eucalypts, Douglas Fir, Pine and native forestry all blended together. The forest has a long history of logging with name of the park “Akatarawa” coming from the Maori language meaning “trailing vines” so it seems even the Maori were impressed by the forest growth in the area.

Following the river for another few kilometres the road forks with the road toward the west crossing the river itself. Just upstream of the crossing is some deeper holes making for a perfect mid hike swim.

Swimming Hole on the Akatarawa River
Swimming Hole on the Akatarawa River

Be forewarned while the water is crystal clear and very inviting it is frigid! After two or three minutes in the water and some frantic laps to try and stay warm. The cold still drove me back to dry land to warm up again.

It would have been great to have continued deeper into the forest from here. But we had come under prepared for a longer hike so we headed back the way we came to the exit of the park.

Track log of the hike in the Akatarawa Forest.
Track log of the hike.

All up just 12.5 km return and and easy walk. But an interesting landscape for nature lovers that is easy to reach.

More Info

Greater Wellington Council – Akatarawa Forest