You can start the track from the Woodville or Ashhurst end.
Use caution when walking the section of track from Ashhurst carpark, between SH3 and the river. Beware of the sharp drop-off to the river.
From either end the track climbs steadily (and steeply in places) before levelling out for a spell high above the gorge. Five viewpoints along the way give spectacular views of the river, road, railway, reserve and turbines at nearby windfarms.
After climbing up from the Woodville end, the Upper Gorge Bridge track gives an alternative route back down to SH3. This return track takes between 1 hr 30 min to 2 hr. Transport needs to be arranged as this track finishes at a different place to the start.
If you choose to walk for an hour, turn around and come out the same way, it is recommended that you start from the Ashhurst (western) end.
A shorter 4 km loop option is available at the western end of the track. See the Manawatu Gorge Tawa Loop Walk page for more information.
Note: There is no footpath along the state highway and limited parking space.
The Manawatu Gorge Track is located approximately 12 km east (20 minutes drive) from Palmerston North, adjacent to SH3.
Access to the track:
- from the west (Palmerston North/Ashhurst end) is from the car park on the left side of the road immediately before the gorge entrance.
- from the east (Woodville end) is from the Ballance Gorge Road just across the Ballance Bridge.
Nature and conservation
The track passes through a unique landscape of steep greywacke ranges covered in native vegetation. The vegetation type is mainly tawa and podocarp forest but also has a significant number of broadleaved trees.
What makes this piece of forest so unusual is the predominance of the giant maidenhair fern. This fern is found only in the Manawatu in New Zealand. Nikau palms are here in abundance giving a tropical touch to the track.
Know before you go
The Manawatu Gorge Track is not a loop track - walkers will require transport at both ends of the track. Transport from local providers can be arranged through the Palmerston North i-SITE phone 0800 626 292.
If you are using two cars, park one at the Woodville end and leave the other in the carpark at the Ashhurst end. It only takes about 10 minutes extra driving.
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.
The weather can change quickly. Warm and waterproof clothing should be carried and sturdy shoes or boots worn.
Dogs are not permitted in the Manawatu Gorge Scenic Reserve for their own safety. A long term, intensive pest control operation is underway in the reserve to manage rats and possums. The toxins used have the potential to cause mortality or significant harm to dogs.
Te Apiti has information on the Manawatu Gorge, including Whatonga.