Start of the track from the river
(click to enlarge)
Mt Matthews is the tallest peak in the Rimutaka range and the nearest to Wellington.
Follow the gentle gradient of the Orongorongo Track for about 5 km before descending to an arched bridge over the Turere Stream to the Orongorongo River. Walk up the river bed and/or Big Bend Track for another 4 km (an hour) until you reach Matthews Stream, marked with a large orange triangle. A poled route criss-crosses the stream for about 600 metres leading to the start of the Mt Matthews Track on the true left.
The track climbs steeply, passing the South Saddle/Mukamuka Track and emerging onto a grassy plateau with spectacular views of Wellington Harbour and the lower Wainuiomata Valley. The summit is clad with forest, but you can catch glimpses of Palliser Bay, and the Wairarapa Plains through gaps in the trees.
Nikau palms and kiekie vines are the first native plants you encounter on your ascent. They lead to a more open area of red beech forest after which you'll pass through pockets of rimu, miro and kamahi. The steep section passes through open beech forest to the grassy plateau. The steepest face at the end leads to a narrow section of ridge adorned by moss-clad silver beech.
En route you see evidence of the earthquakes which uplifted the range over the last 12 million years. The last, in 1855, measured about eight on the Richter scale and raised the Rimutakas by around three metres.
Catchpool valley is 12 km south of Wainuiomata. Follow the Coast Road for 10 km to the Rimutaka Forest Park entrance, then follow the Catchpool valley road for 2 km to the car park and information area. If the water is flowing over the ford on the road, park before the ford and use the Nga Taonga Nature Walk to reach the car park.
From the car park follow the Orongorongo Track.
Know before you go
Mountain weather can quickly change - make sure you're equipped with warm clothes, food and water and good walking boots.
Before you go into the outdoors, tell someone your plans and leave a date to raise the alarm if you haven't returned. To do this, use the New Zealand Outdoors Intentions process on the AdventureSmart website. It is endorsed by New Zealand's search and rescue agencies and provides three simple options to tell someone you trust the details about your trip.