Pirongia, Grey Road, Mangakara Nature Walk, Mangakara track, Mangakara Stream, Ruapane Link Track, Link track, Waite Road, Ruapane Track, Corcoran Road, Ruapane lookout, Tirohanga, Tahuanui track, Mangakara track, O'Shea road, Waikato, Mahukura, Wharauroa
Head to Pirongia carpark at the end of Grey Rd.
There is a lower carpark & an upper carpark, we park at the upper one which has an information kiosk with maps.
We begin on the Mangakara Nature Walk, which starts off as a gravel track. A couple of minutes later we pass a junction. The Mangakara track is to the left and on the right leads to loos, carkpark and a lookout. We continue straight ahead. As well as gravel there is a bit of a winding boardwalk too, with very pleasant surroundings and one particularly spooky looking tree stump. We pass another junction on the left of the Mangakara Nature Walk loop and about 10 minutes of so from starting out we cross a bridge over the Mangakara Stream where there is a junction on the other side. On the left, is the (Ruapane) Link Track and on the right is the other end of the Mangakara Nature Walk loop.
We head left & happily leave the gravel & boardwalk and then the tramp really begins. Here, the track starts off as it means to go on, upwards with plenty of tree roots underfoot giving it plenty of character, but watch your footing as sometimes these roots have a tendency to catch your boot laces. There are a few stairs near the start of this track, but don’t worry, not too many before you can get on with climbing the natural gradient again. As you would expect climbing a mountain, the gradient in parts gets a fair bit steeper and it doesn’t take long to warm up.
After about 40 minutes, we reach the end of the Link Track at the junction of the track to Waite Rd on our right and the Ruapane Track is straight ahead. Continuing straight & upwards, roughly another 40 minutes later we also pass the junction also on our right to Corcoran Rd. Every now & then you get the odd sneak peak of how high you’ve climbed and get a partial view, but it’s not until just over 1 ½ hours that we reach the Ruapane lookout. This is a spectacular view over the Waikato farmlands and a guest staring mountain or two. You also get a great view of the peaks of Pirongia mountain and more of an idea of the ups & downs ahead.
As we continue from here, there a plenty of views from different perspectives as well as a bit of climbing rocky bits with the assistance of some bolted in chains. After another cool view point it’s downwards again with the assistance of some more chains. Soon we find ourselves at a really cool rocky side of the Mountain (this spot known as Tirohanga) with yet more great views to one side & the other side the track decents steeply downwards. This spot timed well for morning tea stop . From here we continue down the steep track past some really cool hanging vine/branches from the rocky mountainside above. The track continues to undulate with pretty decent inclines .
After about an hour & a half from morning tea, we pass another junction on the right for the Tahuanui Track. As we gained a bit of height we noticed that there was heaps of really cool hanging moss (which I bet looks even better in the Winter when full of moisture). Close to 3 ½ hours from starting out we reach our next junction. The Summit is straight ahead and the Mangakara Track is on our left. As you may have guessed after coming all this way, we’re were not going to miss the summit - we headed straight ahead. This part of the track has a fair bit of boardwalk & even a few stairs. There are also some cool looking sun bleached, dead trees covered in moss. After about 15 minutes from our last junction we arrived at the summit. Here there is a lookout tower, providing breathtaking panoramic views. Some of the landmarks that stood out to us were Raglan, Aotea & Kawhia Harbours as well as Mt Karioi & Mt Maungatautari. We were up here for a fair while just soaking in our surroundings & chatting to a fellow tramper.
Afterwards, we back tracked the way we came until we reached the junction , but this time headed on the Mangakara track , now on our right. The track now headed downwards fairly steeply, before heading upwards even steeper with some more chain to assist. We arrived at a cool peak with more views & some lovely soft tussock & flax to sit back in, to relax & enjoy our lunch of Spicy Mexican Wraps & a well needed thirst quenching cuppa. Refuelled we continued the track continued as it meant to go on – undulating. To go down we found we had to climb high, before going down again, making the track quite diverse and like a slow motion rollercoaster ride. On the way down we passed 2 more awesome view points. Just before the 2nd viewpoint we also passed a junction on the right leading to to O'Shea Rd.
As well as great views of the surrounding Waikato, the view points gave great perspective of the undulating mountain and you could see the peaks & troughs that we had traversed. The first look out was known as Mahukura and the second is Wharauroa. The second one was just above a really cool rocky outcrop where the route then went vertically downwards. This time the chain was more essential than handy. From this point the track continued steadily downwards, steep in parts, but mostly reasonably easy going. After just under 4 hours on the Mangakara Track we reach the end back at the junction on the Mangakara Nature Trail, that we passed hours earlier. This time we head right, and a few minutes later we reach the carpark very eager for a nice cool drink or three.
Total loop time, just under 7 ¾ Hours.
Level of Difficulty
Moderate with plenty challenging climbs
7.75 Hours (Summer 2013)