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.
If you choose to go for a short walk, just stay on the Manawatu Gorge Loop Walk, starting at the Balance Gorge Road carpark.
A 4 km loop option is available at the Ashhurst end of the track. See the Manawatu Gorge Tawa Loop Walk page for more information.
The Manawatu Gorge Track is located approximately 12 km east (20 minutes drive) from Palmerston North, adjacent to the old SH3.
Access to the track:
- from the west (Palmerston North/Ashhurst end) is from the car park on the right side above the old SH3 road, immediately before the gorge entrance. The carpark contains restrooms and is open from 5 am to 9 pm between October and April, and from 6 am to 7 pm from May to September.
- from the east (Woodville end) is from the Ballance Gorge Road just across the Ballance Bridge.
The Manawatu Gorge Track is not a loop track – you will need to arrange transport at both ends of the track.
If you are using two cars, park one at the Woodville end and leave the other in the carpark at the Ashhurst end.
Be prepared and know your limits
The weather can change quickly. Carry sufficient supplies, such as warm and waterproof clothing, sturdy footwear and plenty of food and water. Know your abilities, give yourself plenty of time and be prepared to turn around or stop for safety.
Other hazards in this area
The track is slippery in places – please use caution. Wasp nests and Ongaonga (stinging nettle) are present on the track. Both can cause strong skin irritation and allergic reactions. Do not touch Ongaonga and stay away from areas of wasp activity. Watch out for these hazards, particularly in the open parts of the track. If you are concerned about allergies, consider taking antihistamines or other treatment with you.
Dogs are not permitted in the Manawatu Gorge Scenic Reserve.
Te Apiti has information on the Manawatu Gorge, including Whatonga.
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.