Piha Gorge + Centennial Stream Loop
Head for the carpark at the beginning of Cutty Grass Track on the right, off Anawhata Road. Directly across the road is the start of the McElwain Lookout Track on the right and the Centennial Track to the left. We take the right. This starts off as an easy gravel track gently sloping upwards. After a couple of minutes we pass the wooden tower/structure which is the McElwain Lookout which has a pretty commanding view of the Waitaks.
Past the lookout, the track then slopes downwards for a few minutes before reaching the junction of the Quarry Track going both left and right. We head right. To our delight the gravel disappears and becomes earth underfoot, there are a couple of decent muddy bits too. After close to half an hour from starting out, the Quarry Track ends at a T Junction of the Forbes Track going both left and right. We head right and about a minute or so later, we arrive at the McKenzie Junction. Ahead and across to our left is the McKenzie Track, ahead and across to the right is the Maungaroa Ridge Track and behind and to our right is the Pole Line Track.
We take the McKenzie Track which starts off downwards with a few stairs here and there. This track is pretty easy going with plenty of ferns and palms plus quite a few young Kauri. After about half an hour, we reach the bottom where it flattens out and we pass some pretty cool Puriri. We then reach where the McKenzie Track crosses the Piha Stream. Instead of crossing, we head left, upstream wading and rock hopping. After about 20 minutes or so we reach the beginning of the beautiful Piha Gorge. It’s quite a sight when the rock walls rise up and tower over you on either side, whilst closing in as well. As the stream narrows, the wading gets deeper in parts and the rocks that we climb over get considerably bigger, some of them are boulders which add to the fun.
There are a few small waterfalls to negotiate where we climb on the rocks to the side where the hand and footholds allow, or simply climb straight up over them. After a while, we reach a bigger obstacle where we come across a log jam ahead. We swim over to take a closer look, but it’s a tad tricky to climb up and through safely, so we climb up the rocks to the right where it’s dry with plenty of hand and foot holds. As we continue up the Gorge, our surrounding scenery is just stunning, with beautiful clear water and the occasional trickling water mossy waterfall. As well as scenery, this gorge is action packed with obstacles. We were absolutely spoilt for choice when it came to morning tea stop. It was just great to sit on the rocks with a wee waterfall above and below and soak in our surroundings over a nice cuppa with Peanut Brownie cookies .
In the gorge, there is a compulsory swim too, followed by a wee climb up a rapid, as well as shimmying along a large fallen tree and then climbing up another log jam, the second one's a tad easier as it has wood nailed into the side to assist you up, as it’s a fairly high one. After about 1 hour 40 minutes on the stream we pass by the remains of the Black Rock Dam which is just before the crossing on the Centennial Track. We also notice we are no longer in a gorge.
We pass the crossing and continue upstream where you have the option of walking on the green mossy bank or rock hopping upstream. After a few minutes the stream splits. On the right the Piha Stream continues and on the left is where the Centennial Stream feeds into the Piha Stream. We head left and make our way upstream on the Centennial Stream. As the water flow has halved, the rapids are more gentle and there is certainly more moss about, as well as Parataniwha and epiphytes. The bush also closes in about us too. There are still a couple of waterfalls that are a challenge to climb up, some quite a scramble up the side, hanging on to the limited handholds and roots for dear life.
We also come across a part where the rocks are fairly smoothish and the water flows down at a user friendly angle for a bit of a fun waterslide. After a while we find a delightful spot in a sunbeam beneath yet another beautiful trickling waterfall surrounded by green and enjoy our lunch of Falafel & Feta Pita.
After about 2 hours on the Centennial Stream it splits again both left and right, both have waterfalls and look very similar. This split was not on the Topo Map. We decide to explore the one on the right as it would maximise our loop. The first part of the waterfall is a tad tricky, but then the next part is way to treacherous, so we scramble up the to the side, through the epiphytes and supple jack to the right of the fall and once at the top head left back to the stream. This was our last waterfall and the stream became just a small trickle and the bush closes in. Now there is plenty of climbing over and under fallen debris whilst also dodging more epiphites, supple jack and ferns. Some parts of where you are walking are deceiving and easy to discover that you’ve fallen down a couple of feet through some rotten logs and parataniwha.
After about 45 minutes or so from the last junction, the stream runs out completely and goes under ground. From here we go hard left and make our way through the bush. There was plenty of bush lawyer, supple jack epiphytes to contend with, but also there were forgiving parts of the bush where we could make our way through more easily. On our route left, after about 40 minutes, we crossed a creek, which we gathered this was more than likely the other route not taken when the stream last split. So if you wanted a smaller loop, you could take the left fork of the stream.
After close to an hour since we left the stream we came out of the bush on the Centennial Track going both left and right. This was gravel under foot confirming we were close to the road end. We headed right, and a couple of minutes later we came out at Anawhata Road, where the car was directly opposite.
Total loop time about 6 ¼ Hours.
Level of Difficulty
Moderrate to Hard (with compulsory swim + waterfall climbs)
6.25 Hours (Summer 2013)
There is a split at the end of the Centennial Stream not showing on the Topo Map.