- Location: Mount Pirongia Forest Park. (25km South East of Hamilton, New Zealand)
- Distance : Approx: 5.2Km to Pahautea Hut, or 4.7Km to Hirikiwi summit.(one way)
- Footwear: Gaiters and Hiking boots are highly recommend.(*1 )
- Topography: Mostly climbing minor spurs to the main summit and main ridge line – for people who like walking up and down hill:-)
- Timing: DoC sign recommends 3-4 hours up, 3-5 hours down. My time was faster with a day pack, but I recommend allowing a day so you can enjoy the track.
- Car Park: The Car Park is a small grass area on the shoulder of Pirongia Road West, which would probably hold around 4 cars parked parallel to the Road. (Google Maps:(Degrees) -38.02398, 175.06470)
- Track Manger: Department of Conservation, Waikato region.
- Comment: The Hirikiwi Track is not marked on NZMS topo 50 maps. (It Replaces the now closed Tiwarawara track visible on the map.)
The Hirikiwi track surface is mostly earth and roots, so there is plenty of mud in the low points along the ridges, particularly as its now part of the Te Araroa Trail .
Directly opposite the car park the track climbs fairly steeply up stairs for a short distance before levelling off to a nicer gradient. Right away the track was deep in my favourite thick native bush all covered in a shaggy coat of moss.
The route is well marked for day hiking with the standard orange triangles, but it would be hazardous at night. There are two places below the summit where you must climb vertically for about 2 meters.
Be careful approaching the short sections of board walks along the track, the track immediately before and after, hides deep mud holes.
There are a couple of chances for a view on the way up the ridge, if you get a nice sunny day.
When I started the track, the cloud level was already below me in the valley, and it wasn’t long before the mist rolled in over the ridge too. The Mist was nice to walk in, but meant there wasn’t much to see of the surrounding hills.
Beyond Hirikiwi summit there is an amazing 800m wooden board walk for the rest of the track up to Pirongia main ridge and Pahautea Hut. A sign a just out side Pahautea Hut, indicates it will take and hour extra to return?
I discover at the Hut that all the board walks (large and small) are there to protect the rare and endangered Dactylanthus taylorii that lives on Mount Pirongia, from hikers boots.
Thankfully the sun decided to show up for lunch and stayed long enough to get a return view from Hirikiwi summit, before the cloud rolled back in.
By the time I made it back to the car park the afternoon sun had reached its full temperature so it was a great place to dry my hiking clothes and have a relax before hitting the road.
All the way up the track there was a huge amount of bird song, with some particularly enthusiastic Tui’s yelling at the top of their voices and zooming through the trees.
Early in the climb I had a good chat to a very curious and friendly North Island Tomtit who eventually landed less than 50cm away.
Just 300m further up the track an identical bird landed but with completely different colouring. The Identification jury is still out on this one.. Is it a North or South Island Tomtit?
(*1) North Island hiking tracks are usually muddy all year around, wearing good quality Hiking Boots and Hiking Gaiters, makes this a far nicer experience and allows you to stay on the track and not risk falling trying to skirt mud puddles.
(*2) Vertical elevation on topographical maps is reference to its distance above the average of sea level, expressed as meters(m) ASL.
(*3) If you see a view, take the photograph as the weather in the New Zealand outdoors, particularly on summits can change as rapidly as 30 mins.