Kaimanawa Forest Park
Beware the faint hearted - horses, hunters, helicopters and soldiers are just some of the surprises that you could encounter on a walk in the Kaimanawa’s.
The Kaimanawa’s is a mountain range that runs south east of Great Lake Taupo. The Black Gate of Mordor scenes in Sir Peter Jackson’s epic series The Lord of the Rings were shot in just near the Kaimanawa’s in 2000. The 77,348 hectares of forest park is dominated by the Kaimanawa mountain ranges dissected by a number of large river systems.
It encompasses a massive expanse of native forest, shrublands and tussock grasslands, extending from Tongariro National Park in the west to the Kaweka Ranges in the east. Altitudes vary from 560 metres in the north, to the highest point Makorako at 1727 metres in the centre of the park. The Forest Park (77, 348 hectares) was gazetted in 1969 and is managed by the Department of Conservation (DOC).
Start with an exhilarating helicopter flight over a spectacular landscape of bush, tussock and mountain rivers, taking you to a destination where you could only get to otherwise by foot – and that would take you three days! Once at the summit of the trail, you head down the magnificent 10km purpose built track, covering a vertical drop of 2500 ft, surrounded by sheer beauty and epic views of the Tongariro National Park.
If you are looking for an easy 3 day walk start at Clements Mill Road. Tramp along the ridge track for around 5 hours into Cascade Hut.
An alternate route takes you via the Kaipo Stream, which is quite rough in parts, and via the summit of Maungaorangi to the Oamaru River. You’ll find a good camping spot about 2 hours from Boyd Lodge on the edge of the bush near the private airstrip. You’ll need a permit from Air Charter Taupo to cross private land.
On the 3rd day tramp over to Boyd Lodge then carry on over to Omaru Hut for the final night. The most direct access to Omaru Hut is from Clements Mill Rd via the old Te Iringa Hut site. You can also cut through Poronui Station as long as you stick to the roadway and follow the orange triangles. The final leg takes you out to Clements Mill Road again. Check out other forest hikes and walks around the Kaimanawa.
A unique feature of this largely privately owned area is the feral breed of horse that runs wild throughout, known as the Kaimanawa horses.
The first wild horses were reported in 1876. The numbers grew throughout the 1900’s as a result of cross breeding with Exmoor, Comet and Arabian stocks. Numbers fell to a critical level in the late 1970’s as a result of farming and forestry projects in the area. A protected area was then established near Waiouru and the remaining stock numbers tracked.
Herds are now monitored and culled in an effort to maintain the native plants and other wildlife in the ranges. There are at least 16 known species of plant within the ranges that are listed as en-dangered.
If it is not the horses that you run into when exploring this 50km of rugged plateau, it may just very well be the New Zealand Army on a training mission. They use the land around Rangipo and east of the Desert Road for exercises, which proves challenging for most given the extreme environment and rough scrubby land.
The area is a popular one for hunting with local and international hunters seeking trophy deer and wild pigs. Various helicopter charter companies use the air-strip to bring them in and out. Handy if you’ve just had enough of walking and fancy a more exciting, albeit pricey way of getting back to civilisation.
- Kaimanawa History
- Kaimanawa Natural History
- Kaimanawa Access & Permits
- Kaimanawa Weather, Maps & Safety
- Kaimanawa Hunting
- Kaimanawa Biking, Fishing & Rafting
- Kaimanawa Accommodation
- Kaimanawa Hikes & Walks