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The Lake Waikaremoana Track is one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, known for showcasing some of the best natural landscapes in the country. The trails and accommodations are of a higher standard than typical backcountry huts.
Although this walk is less visited compared to the popular tracks in the South Island, Lake Waikaremoana offers impressive scenery and a chance to disconnect and immerse in a spiritual destination.
I highly recommend this amazing multi-day adventure and will share the necessary information for tackling the track.
Located in the protected region of Te Urewera in the northeast of the North Island, Lake Waikaremoana is one of New Zealand’s largest and deepest lake. The area surrounding the lake is home to the island’s largest native rainforest and is characterized by its isolated river valleys, cascading waterfalls, diverse bird population, and sparkling turquoise lakes. The walk on Lake Waikaremoana track offers an opportunity to experience all of these natural wonders.
In 2014, Te Urewera, a region in New Zealand, was recognized as its own legal entity, with the Tūhoe people as its legal guardians. Formerly classified as a national park, the Tūhoe people, a Māori iwi of New Zealand, have lived in this region for hundreds of years. They are commonly referred to as the “Children of the Mist” due to the frequent white mists that engulf the area. The Tūhoe are known for their strong Māori identity and their efforts to reclaim their traditional lands.
The Lake Waikaremoana Track starts at Onepoto Bay Shelter and ends at Hopuruahine Landing. The trail, 46 km in length, does not form a complete loop because of the dense forest in the area. There are 5 huts and 5 campsites along the way for accommodation.
Most hikers complete the track in 3-4 days, but the duration can be adjusted based on fitness level. Some choose to hike it in two days, while others opt for a longer, leisurely pace of six days (enjoying and staying in the huts longer).
Some hikers just choose to go up to Panekire Hut and then go back down. This offers most of the splendid views on Lake Waikaremoana as the rest of the hike generally goes in the bush with some occasional “windows with a view” and cozy lakeside huts.
Lake Waikaremoana is considered one of the less challenging Great Walks after the Rakiura Track on Stewart Island. The DOC website estimates it as intermediate. The trail starts by the shores of the lake and immediately ascends 600 meters on the first day. This is one of the largest climbs on the hike, but it only takes a couple of hours to complete and offers spectacular views of the lake.
After the descent on day two, the trail is relatively flat but with casual ups and downs. There’s a solid 100-meter climb and descent at the end. The weather is the biggest challenge on the walk, as it can be prone to rain, mud, strong winds, and snow. It is best to prepare for all possible weather conditions when hiking in New Zealand.
It is quite a long journey, it takes 5.5 hours from Auckland and even more when there’s traffic. The last bit of the road (2 hours) is just gravel windy roads of poor condition. Though they are very unique misty and jungly with splendid views over the area.
The Great Walk is 46 km and it can actually be completed in 2 days with an overnight stay at Waiopaoa Hut. However, most walkers tend to walk the whole track in 3 to 4 days.
Here’s how the track can be done in 4 days:
The journey starts by taking a water taxi from Onepoto to the track starting at Hopuruahine Landing. From there, it’s a steady climb up to the Panekire Bluff, which offers stunning views of the lake and surrounding landscape. The views on the way to the hut are just amazing!
Around Panekire Hut, the forest looks magical due to the wet conditions and elevation. The area itself is quite humid and dense, the rain and mist happen most of the time. The best forest is experienced right before (on the previous day) and the morning after Panekire Hut.
This day’s walk takes you through diverse vegetation, including lush forests and alpine tussocks. The trail comes to Waiopaoa Hut, which overlooks the lake.
(there’s a 1hr return side trip to beautiful Korokoro Falls)
This is a longer and more challenging day, with several climbs and descents. Korokoro Falls is on the way just 1hr side trip from the main track.
The walk takes you through dense forest and over gently undulating terrain before reaching the beautiful Waiharuru Hut. It has a very pretty location. There’s amazing birdlife here, including tui and kereru.
After reaching the next one, Whanganui hut (which doesn’t exist anymore), the path keeps meandering through dense forest until it comes to Hopuruahine car park.
Here’s how we split our journey into 3 days:
Day 1: Onepoto car park to Panekire Hut — 8.8 km (4 hours)
Day 2: Panekire Hut to Marauti Hut — 19.7 km (6 hours)
Day 3: Maruiti Hut to Whanganui hut — 11.5 km (3-4 hours)
The water taxi picks you up at Whanganui Hut and takes you back to Onepoto car park. It costs 80$ per person. A more affordable option is to hike the whole way to Hopuruahine and hitchhike.
To book a water taxi for the Great Walk, email email@example.com or call 06 837 3900 or 06 837 3803. It’s always best to book earlier especially in the peak season to avoid delays. In our case, it was better to make a booking via email. Multiple calls got unanswered while the email worked well for booking the taxi a month in advance.
To book the Lake Waikaremoana Track, you can follow these steps:
Lake Waikaremoana Track offers Department of Conservation (DOC) huts available for hikers to stay in overnight. Here is a list and description of each hut:
This hut is located 8.8 km from the start of the hike and it has 38 bunks. It has a wood burner, picnic tables, cooking facilities, and toilet facilities.
Located 16.5 km from the start, this hut has 26 bunks and is situated near the Waiopaoa River. It has a wood burner, picnic tables, cooking facilities, and toilet facilities.
This hut is located 28.5 km from the start and has 20 bunks. It is situated near the Marauiti River and has a wood burner, picnic tables, cooking facilities, and toilet facilities.
Marauiti Hut is really peaceful and a great place to take a swim after a long day.
This hut is located 46 km from the start and is the final hut on the track. It has 20 bunks and is situated near the Waiharuru River in a very nice environment with lots of birds and wildlife.
All huts require a booking and fee payment to be made in advance. They are all equipped with basic facilities, but hikers need to bring their own sleeping bags, food, and cooking utensils.
Lake Waikaremoana has a mild maritime climate, with temperatures ranging from 10°C to 25°C in summer and 0°C to 15°C in winter. The region receives high rainfall throughout the year, with the wettest months being June to August. Hikers should be prepared for changeable weather conditions and pack appropriate clothing and equipment.
Plan your trip: Research the trail and familiarize yourself with the route and the conditions. Check the weather forecast, and make sure you have the appropriate gear and clothing.
Get to the trailhead: The Lake Waikaremoana Track starts at the Onepoto carpark, which is located on State Highway 38. The car park is about a 2.5-hour drive from Rotorua and 4.5 hours from Wellington.
Start the hike: The trail starts with a steep climb through the native forest. The first day’s hike will take you to Panekire Hut, which is about 4 hours from the trailhead.
Day 2: From Panekire Hut, you will hike to Marauiti Hut, which is about 6-7 hours away. There’s a splendid Korokoro waterfall on the way.
Day 3: The third day’s hike will take you to Whanganui hut (boat pick up), which is about 3-4 hours away. The trail passes through stunning Waiharuru Hut with beautiful views of the native forest and occasional kiwis.
End the hike: Once you reach Whanganui, you take a water taxi back to the start and that’s how you complete Lake Waikaremoana Track. Make sure to rest and recover before driving back home.
It is important to note that the trail is remote and can be challenging, so it’s essential to be well-prepared, and to have the proper gear, such as a good pair of hiking boots, waterproof clothes, a good backpack, and a tent. Additionally, hikers should be in good physical condition and be prepared for changing weather conditions.