At the end of February we went on the Waitahinga Trail walk to the Waitahinga Dam. The Waitahinga Dam is located in the Waitotara Valley just outside of Wanganui. We decided to do the Waitahinga Trail as a birthday walk for Wanganui Bootcamp, last year we did the Westmere Walkway walk.
You can find the Waitahinga Trail walks by taking a left off the main road at the signs to Bushy Park when leaving Wanganui and heading towards New Plymouth, continue down this road until you go past Bushy Park and the road becomes gravel. You will continue down the gravel road for around 10 minutes until you will come across a sign pointing off to the Waitahinga Trails – the Quarry cark park is approximately 2km down this gravel road. The car park is not very large, I wouldn’t try to take a bus or any large vehicles down there, so if you planned to do the walk with a lot of people keep this in mind.
The Waitahinga Trail is said to be a 4 and a half hour walk through native bush to the Waitahinga Dam which used to be the water supply for Wanganui. The walk ended up taking us a lot less time than the sign said – it took us four hours including a stop for lunch and this included completing a separate side walk ‘The Chicken Run’ which was said to take an hour (it took us a very speedy 30 minutes). We did walk at a relatively quick pace for the main Waitahinga Dam walk and a super-fast pace for the Chicken Run walk which has views out to both Mt Ruapehu and Mt Taranaki.
There are two different tracks you can take to reach the Waitahinga Dam, we decided to walk down to the Dam on the Tom’s Ridge and back on Harry’s Ridge. We thought this was a good decision when we looked back on it as it would’ve been a harder walk in the opposite direction. The walk down to the Dam was pretty good until the last downward section which was a very steep section of track. We were lucky that it had been fine during the week on the lead up to undertaking the walk – it could be quite slippery and difficult to get through this section of the track if it had been raining a lot on the lead up to your walk, so keep this in mind if you decide to do the Waitahinga Trail Dam Walk in the future.
The walk itself was beautiful, there is something about just walking in amongst the trees and nature that is soothing for the soul. We had been warned that it could be easy to go off the track on your way to the Dam, however we found that there were so many markers that it would be pretty hard to get lost – unless you weren’t looking where you were going. There were markers every few metres which made it nice and easy to keep on the tracks, without the markers it would have been virtually impossible to find you way into the dam and back out.
The Dam itself is nothing impressive and it’s unfortunate that there isn’t really a good area to sit down and have a picnic when you reach the Dam (so we discovered once we made it there!), but it’s more about the journey than the destination, right?! I’ve heard that people take a packed lunch and their togs and then go swimming in the Dam when they get there. It has to be REALLY hot for me to go swimming so I didn’t bother packing my togs and I’m glad I hadn’t as to be honest the water didn’t look very inviting at all!
We stopped for a little bit at the Dam to have some lunch and then started making our way back (After being eaten alive by insects – top tip – pack your bug spray!) out via Harry’s ridge trail. The hike out seemed to take longer than the hike in but it was a beautiful walk with just the right amount of ups and downs to keep the track interesting. The good thing about the Waitahinga Trail is that it is mostly in the bush which means it wasn’t as hot as it would’ve been if we were walking for four hours in the direct sun, it was a beautiful hot day and it wouldn’t have been as enjoyable if we didn’t have the tree cover.
Once we had finished the Harry’s ridge trail and were heading back to the carpark we came across the Chicken Run Walk (which was said to take an hour return) and half of the group decided to complete this section of the walk as well, with the rest heading back to the car park. I’d highly recommend the Chicken Run Walk and if you were pressed for time I’d probably just do this section of the walk instead of doing the longer loop down to the Waitahinga Dam.
From the Chicken Run Track you loop back off the side of the unsealed road and into the bush, the loop takes you via two different lookout points – one for Mt Ruapehu and one for Mt Taranaki. You get a beautiful bushwalk, the views out to the mountains and you can also take in the view of the beautiful area. You need it to be quite a clear day to see the mountains – we were able to see Mt Ruapehu, but not Mt Taranaki.
Overall I really enjoyed the Waitahinga Dam Trail and the Chicken Run Track, I’d definitely recommend checking it out. Just make sure the ground hasn’t been too wet, or be prepared to slip and slide a bit. If you’re short on time then just do the Chicken Run Track.