If you’ve got a spare 4 days and want a decent enough tramp that isn’t going to kill you, with public transport at both ends, then I’d recommend a walk from Levin to Palmerston North following the route of the Te Araroa Trail. It is varied and challenging enough to keep you interested, but not so hard to be too difficult. There are no real places to stay along the way, but it should be reasonably easy enough to find a few tent spots along the way.
Starting in Levin at the post office tower first walk up Queen St East to Denton Road and climb the hill up the Arapaepae Lookout track. It’s short and sharp.
Levin from the Arapaepae Lookout
Then follow the track over undulating hills until reaching the far end of Gladstone Road. This is about 3 to 4 hours from the start in Levin. A little further on along Gladstone Road is the start of the Mangahao-Makahika track, which is to be walked from the Makahika Stream to the Mangahao Dams. Initially it goes across some private land and there is an easy creek crossing or two.
Crisscrossing the Makahika Stream
It starts off flat and only ever climbs gently.
After crossing private land the Mangahao-Makahika enters the Forest Park
The Mangahao-Makahika has a modest climb to a couple lookouts. The walk takes about 5 hours through to the Mangahao Dams and not the 7 or 8 as the brochure and the signs say.
Most of the Mangahao-Makahika track is through forest.
The track descends to the Blackwood Stream deep in the forest. Then it is a short track out to the Mangahao Dams road. Once the Mangahao Dams are reached walk past the 1st dam and take the Tokomaru Valley Road turnoff walking north until the markers are found.
The preferred entrance to Burrton’s track is marked by these markers. There is another access at a boggy carpark a little further north, but this part of the route is worth walking:
Burrton’s track is flat. There are some river crossings which on a frosty winter morning are bracing. If the river is up they’d be too hard.
Burrton’s Track follows the Tokomaru River, and is probably the scenic highlight of the walk.
It’s probably best to camp away from Gladstone or the Mangahao Dam roads. Camping somewhere away from vehicle access ensures your camping won’t be disturbed by the dickhead element. If you don’t want to camp you could stay the first night at the Makahika Outdoor Centre (by prior arrangement) near the end of Gladstone Road. You could also probably, with a bit of effort, make Burn Hut on the Burn Hut Track for night 2, but there’s nowhere for a 3rd night.
Early morning bend in the river.
A good camping spot would be at the first Tokomaru River crossing. There’s a large grassy area with plenty of room. Further along near the site of Burtton’s Whare would also be good.
The perfect lunch spot with light streaming through the foliage.
After the most spectacular bit of the walk through the beautiful forest along Burtton’s Track the Te Araroa trail heads along Scotts Road. It’s not unpleasant. There’s no traffic (and it is behind a locked gate) . It is just in a pine forest.
Is this anti Te Araroa trail graffiti? Why would anyone be against a walking track?
With any luck you’ll meet some pig hunters, like we did. I think the one we met wrestled any pigs and then bit them or something. He didn’t carry a rifle and perhaps he killed them just with a dirty look.
Through the forest near Scotts Road
Scotts Road is closed to traffic (you’ll perhaps meet some illegal motorcycles) and would be rideable by MTB. It follows a contour and was once a road rather than the current track. Then the Back Track takes you to the end of Kahuterawa Road (which is also the start of the Sledge Track). You could probably camp near the carpark (and there are some loos – the first and only loos of the trip). Walk along Kahuterawa Road for 5 kilometres or so then turn onto Greens Road. The views are quite good over the Manawatu and the roads themselves are quiet country roads.
Keep walking on Greens Road and then onto Turitea Road. On Turitea Road the Te Araroa trail disappears across a paddock to follow the Turitea Stream at the back of people’s houses and paddocks. This gets muddy underfoot and there are a couple creek crossings. The locals might be burning off like they were for me, and you might get pissed off with the smoke and have no choice to walk through it, but hopefully they won’t be quite so stupid for you when you walk that way.
Greens Road countryside
Cross Old West Road and climb the steps into the backblocks of Massey University.
In the backblocks of the University
The walkway finds the Turitea Stream and follows it through the campus. This is actually a nice part of the hike and it finishes up near the entrance to the University. Then it is a noisy walk along the footpath of Tennent Drive through the tunnels with some nice murals, and across the bridge over the Manawatu River.
And then you’ve made it to Palmy.
Palmie’s clock tower beckons at the end of Fitzherbert St
It’s about 50km by road between Levin and Palmerston North, and it’s reasonably direct following the route I describe. I’d estimate it’s about 65 km.
Messages from our sponsors : Mountain View Motel Levin a great place to stay at the start of your trip.
and does your partner snore like a big old black steam train? Well my better half reckons I do so she started importing earplugs in bulk.