IntroductionFrom Kaweka Road you can access Makahu Saddle via Whittle Road. The saddle is a popular starting point for backcountry tramping trips.
From the Makahu Saddle carpark there are a number of tramping tracks.
Makahu Saddle to Trials Spur
Time: 2 - 3 hr return
This walk climbs above the bushline, gives good views of the surrounding country and is en route to Kaweka J.
From Makahu Saddle Hut the track fords Pinnacle Stream, zigzags up, and passes an area where trial plantings of pine species were carried out in the 1960’s.
The track crosses a narrow shingle covered ridge which leads around the head of Pinnacle Stream and up to Makahu Spur. (Dominie Bivouac is approx. 20 minutes further uphill from this point, just off the spur on the right). Here the only vegetation is hardy alpine plants – tussock, some hebe species and mountain daisies.
From here you could continue up the steep poled track to the Kaweka J and or return via Makahu Spur.
Makahu Saddle Hut
Makahu Saddle to Kaweka J (Trig)
Time: 3 - 5 hr return
Perhaps the most popular, and certainly most spectacular walk from the saddle is the climb to Kaweka J (1724 metres) and the open tops of the Kaweka Range.
A benched track leads from the carpark through scattered mountain beech to a steep shingle face. About 30 minutes from the carpark a short climb leads to Makahu Spur. From here a well-defined track climbs the shingle covered spur past Dominie Bivouac and on to the main Kaweka Range.
The track turns south and an easy 5 minute walk leads to the trig on Kaweka J. This is the highest point in the Kaweka Forest Park (and in the Hawke's Bay). All along the summit ridge there can be fine views of Hawke’s Bay, the mountains of Tongariro National Park and great expanses of the Kaimanawa and Kaweka Ranges.
In summer months hardy alpine gentians, edelweiss and mountain daisies relieve the monotony of the mountain shingle.
Care should be taken on this walk to the tops. Mists throughout the year, very strong winds, and snow and ice in winter can make conditions extremely dangerous to the inexperienced visitor.
Time: 1 hr return
This stream is the headwaters of the Donald River. Follow the Makahu Spur Track from the carpark. After 5 minutes turn to the left and follow a wide, grassy track. This sidles through open, sub alpine country first, then mountain beech forest to a pleasant picnic spot on Dons Stream.
Time: 1 hr return
To the south of the carpark an old bulldozed road now makes an excellent walking track to Dons Spur. The track passes through tall, red beech forest at the head of the Donald River, then climbs gradually through thick, sub alpine vegetation to Dons Spur.
The wide track stops abruptly beside a huge, steep scree slip. From here there is an excellent outlook – north to Makahu Saddle, south into the Donald River.
Time: 2 hr return
This benched track leaves from behind Makahu Saddle Hut. It sidles through beech forest, in and out of sidestream gullies, in a northerly direction. The vegetation on the main track gradually changes to thick regenerating manuka.
About 40 minutes from the saddle the track descends to a large creek and heads up to a large manuka covered plateau. Kaweka Flats, a large grassy clearing at the base of Dicks Spur, is 10 minutes from here. A small bivouac is located on the clearing.
For experienced trampers there is a network of tramping options, including overnight and round trips. Tracks to the south follow Matauria Ridge to Mackintosh Hut and return along the Kaweka Range to Kaweka J Trig. There is also access to the upper Tutaekuri River and the Napier-Taihape Road, via Matauria Ridge and Mackintosh Hut.
To the north, the track continues from Kaweka Flats to Middle Hill Hut, climbs over to Ballard Hut and returns along the main range. A trip from Makahu Saddle to Makahu Road in the north east of the park, via Kaweka Flats and Middle Hill Hut, is a good day or overnight possibility. There are also good tramping options from Ballard and Middle Hill to the remote north western area of the park.
Kaweka Road is located 65 km north-west of Napier. From Napier follow Puketitiri Road for 36 km before turning left into Whittle Road. Kaweka Road is the first road on the right.
Whittle Road passes partly through farmland before reaching the park entrance (please leave all gates as found).
This road may be closed at times during winter because of snow.