Access: The most northerly of the eastern access points to the ranges. On SH2 about 3 kilometres N of the Mt Bruce Bird Reserve is Kaiparoro. From here South Rd No. 2 leads on to Priests Rd, then the gravelled Mangatainoka Rd (aka Putara Rd), which is followed to the carpark at its end, about 20 km from the highway.
Overview: This access point leads to the Ruamahanga Valley, with its complex of tracks and huts; and to Herepai and the tops. Some pleasant family campsites lie within 30 minutes of the road-end. The upper reaches of this valley are steep and rough, though the Ruapae Falls at (Topo50 BN34 137 939, NZMS260 S25 237 556) are worth a visit - but OT travel.
Herepai Hut, 2 hours from the road-end, provides good access to the open tops of the Northern Tararuas. A turn-off from the trail leads to Roaring Stag Lodge in the Ruamahanga Valley, about 2˝ hours from the road-end.
Inwards: From the carpark proceed up-valley a few minutes, cross the swing bridge to the TL and follow the gentle trail through bush for 30 minutes to cross a second swing bridge. Twenty minutes of steep climb through rather grand bush, then another 20 minutes of gentle climb brings you to the track junction: Roaring Stag–Herepai.
The track to Herepai heads N, soon dropping gently to swing W through a small saddle and climbing again to the hut, 30 minutes from the track junction.
Herepai Hut sleeps 12 in comfort; water tank and toilet. E of the small saddle before the hut, the Bottles Track drops S to the Ruapae Stream, 20 minutes distant - see 2.11. The steeper climbs on each side of Herepai Hut are traces of the major fault system passing from Ruamahanga to the upper Wairarapa.
The track beyond Herepai Hut, now OT grade, briefly drops below the toilet, then climbs through a fringe of bush and up the scrubby spur. Herepai is reached in less than an hour, and 30 minutes further up the tussock spur is Ruapae. These two peaks represent the northern limit of the Main Range in the Tararuas.
North from here, the ridge drops through a series of scrubby saddles and knobs towards Ngapuketurua, the Mangahao Reservoir No. 1, and some newly-cut tracks towards Burn Hut. The ridge to the S swings through a saddle to reach East Peak. The turn-off from East Peak to Ruapae is difficult in fog and worth noting, as also is that from Ruapae to Herepai. (see notes towards end of 20.8)
Outwards: From Herepai Hut the trail drops down the ridge to a small saddle and climbs gently to the flattish ridge heading S to reach the Roaring Stag/Herepai Track junction: about 30 minutes. Turn L, and 35 minutes down from here is the first bridge crossing the Mangatainoka; with the second another 30 minutes on, just above the road-end. About 2 hours in all from the hut.
Inwards: Proceed to the Herepai/Roaring Stag track junction 80 minutes from the Mangatainoka road-end as in 1.1. The ancient pack track formation then heads S along the ridge, sidling several small knobs and, at a large boulder on the ridge, drops down a gentle spur to the valley floor a little over an hour from the track junction. The local conglomerate rock on this spur is anomalously derived from granite highlands, some source distant from present-day New Zealand. Twenty minutes further, across bush terraces and a couple of small side-streams, is Roaring Stag Lodge: 2˝ hours from the road-end.(The side streams can be difficult after heavy rain. The bigger northern stream is best crossed in high flow about 150m upstream of the track crossing, where it flattens out and flows across the flat terrace.)
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