The day trip to Table Top is the classic climb to the tops of the western Tararua Range. It is also the entry/exit to the Southern Crossing, the classic tramp in the Tararuas.
From the Ōtaki Forks carpark, Field Track crosses the Waiotauru footbridge and climbs steadily through rather sombre kamahi and beech forest for 2 – 2.5 hours to the historic Field Hut at 900 m, not far below the bushline.
Above the hut, the track climbs through a good example of leatherwood shrubland, to emerge on the tussocklands beyond Table Top (1047 m). A boardwalk and metalled track extend across several hundred metres of vulnerable subalpine bogs. The peaks of the Main Range and the gorges of the Ōtaki River sweep in an arc from east to north. The return trip can be completed in 5 - 6 hours.
Ōtaki Forks is 19 km inland from Ōtaki township – approximately 1 hr 30 min drive from Wellington or Palmerston North. The easiest turnoff from SH1 is at Ōtaki Gorge Road, just south of the SH1 bridge over the Ōtaki River. The last 5 km of the Ōtaki Gorge Road is unsealed, narrow and windy – drive carefully.
The Southern Crossing is often plagued by bad weather and is especially exposed to cold southerlies, the cause of several fatalities over the years.
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.