Follow the Waitawheta Tramway, stopping at the various information signs to find out when, why and how the tramway was built. The tramway is relatively flat, and nice and wide. After about an hour and a half the track crosses a large suspension bridge to the site of a replica logging bogie (a tram cart that carried the massive logs). This is a great spot for lunch and to spend time taking photographs.
A short loop track near to the logging bogie offers a detour to the site of an electricity pylon dating from around the year 1900. To complete a shorter, easier trip, return from the logging bogie back down the tramway to the car park.
Alternatively, continue south along the tramline through the spectacular Waitawheta Gorge. The main track requires one river crossing but there is a bypass track that requires just a few small side stream crossings. The main track then leaves the river and through a campsite before reaching the toilet bowl waterfall, the Waitawheta Hut, and the site of the old logging mill. Return via the same track, or spend the night to explore more of the park.
Facilities: 26 bunk beds, heating, mattresses
Family friendly option
A shorter walk with no river crossings can be taken, just over an hour up the tramway to the site of a replica logging bogie which shows how kauri were transported down the valley. This trip takes in the lower tramway with information boards explaining the story of kauri logging here, before returning the same way to the car park. Suitable for older children.
Access to the Waitawheta Valley is from a small car park at the end of Franklin Road, off Waitawheta Rd, near SH2 at Waikino in the Karangahake Gorge. From the end of Franklin Road follow alongside the Waitawheta River through private farmland before entering the Kaimai-Mamaku Forest Park.
History and culture
Waitawheta is one of the most spectacular bush tramways ever built. A relatively lengthy (14 km) section survives in near pristine condition.
This busy tramway operated from 1898 to 1928 and involved three companies; the Waihi Gold Mining Co, the Kauri Timber Co, and the Waitawheta Sawmilling Co. The motive power included horses, geared steam, and rail tractors. The route featured spectacular viaducts and rock cuttings.
Waitawheta Hut is located on the site of the Waitawheta Sawmilling Co. cookhouse.
Know before you go
This track should not be attempted when heavy rain is forecast from the north to south east direction.
The bypass track requires crossing a few small side streams that could flood high enough to be hazardous in an extreme rain event.
No mountain biking is permitted.
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.