IntroductionThe Mangahao Makahika Track connects Burtton's Track, which lies between Palmerston North and Shannon, with the Arapaepae Lookout Trail near Levin.
From the parking area on Mangahao Road, the track enters the bush and climbs to a low spur, where an orientation sign is located.
The track continues south for 2.5 km, passing some large rimu trees, before descending and crossing three tributaries of Blackwood Stream. These stream crossings are unbridged, so take care and assess them carefully before crossing. Blackwood Stream was named after the magnificent black beech trees that grow there. It is around 1 hour from Mangahao Road to Blackwood Stream.
The track continues south with a gradual gain in elevation before veering to the west. It passes an area of regenerating manuka on former farmland, before turning south and following Makahika Ridge.
Partway along Makahika Ridge, the track passes the 657 m high point (the highest point on the track). Along the ridge there are several openings to the west, which give good views of Mangaore Stream and Kāpiti. The South Island is visible on a good day. Horowhenua Lookout, a small clearing with seating, is reached after 3-4 hours walk from the road end and gives an excellent view of Shannon, the Horowhenua and the Manawatū.
The track drops off Makahika Ridge, with a steady descent of 350 metres. On the way down, you will pass Kāpiti Viewpoint (also known as Archey’s Lookout) where Kāpiti Island, the South Island, Makahika Valley and Gladstone Road can be seen.
The track then reaches the end of the historic Makahika tramline (5-6 hours from Mangahao Road end). From here, the trail follows the former tramline route, with benched track and cuttings clearly visible in many places.
The track crosses the Makahika stream several times – the stream can rise significantly after rain, so take care when crossing. After around 30 minutes of following the tramline, open clearings appear amidst the native bush.
Clearings become more frequent until the park boundary is reached. You will find another orientation sign here and the former sawmill site is across the river. For the last half hour, the track follows a poled route along an unfenced right of way through private land, crossing the Makahika Stream. The track ends at the Poulton Drive car park.
Starting from Shannon follow Mangahao Road past Mangaore village and the Mangahao power station. Follow the narrow and winding road for 6 km to the saddle and a 1 km descent to the Tokomaru Valley road junction on left which leads to the start of Burtton's track. From the junction drive a further 2.4 km, past the Arapeti (Tokomaru #3) dam. 400 m past the Tararua Forest Park sign is a small parking area. This is the start of the track.
Starting from Levin at the end of Queen Street East follow Gladstone Road for 8 km passing the Levin water treatment works and the Gladstone Road Reserve. On the right is Poads Road crossing the Ohau River. Continue along Gladstone Road and 300 m past the Makahika Outdoor Centre on the left is the eastern entrance to the Arapaepae Lookout Trail. It is a further 1.9 km along Gladstone Road Poulton Drive junction to the carpark and start of the track.
Expect a backcountry track
This is a typical backcountry tramping track. It is rough and uneven, and you can expect mud in places and to be scrambling up and down tree roots.
Pack well, including warm and waterproof clothing
Weather in the Tararua Forest Park can change rapidly. Cold and wet weather is common at any time of year. Always carry a waterproof raincoat and plenty of warm layers of clothing.
This is a long walk (6-8 hours, depending on direction), so we recommend starting early and packing a torch and spare batteries, in case it is starting to get dark at the end of the walk.
Take care when crossing unbridged streams
This track has unbridged stream crossings. These can rise rapidly and flood during/after rain, making them unsafe to cross.
Do not cross if the stream is flooded, you cannot find safe entry and exit points, or are unsure it’s safe. Turn back or wait for the river to drop. If in doubt, stay out.