Access: Mangatainoka Valley is the most northerly of the eastern access points to the ranges. For quickest access from the S, turn L off SH2 3 kilometres N of the Mt Bruce Bird Reserve, on to South Rd No. 2, and 7 kilometres further on turn L again on to Priests Rd. After 3.5 kilometres, turn L on to the gravelled Putara Rd (Mangatainoka Rd), which is followed to the carpark at its end, about 20 km from the highway. Ample parking but no facilities.
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, but the upper reaches of this valley are steep and rough. [revised March 2018]
Herepai Hut, 2¼ hours from the road-end, provides good access to the open tops of the Northern Tararuas.
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 40 minutes to cross a second swing-bridge. Thirty minutes steep climb through rather grand bush, with another 20 minutes of gentle climb, brings you to a track junction: L to Roaring Stag, R to Herepai.
The track to Herepai heads N, soon dropping gently to swing W through a small saddle before climbing again to the hut, 45 minutes from the track junction.
Herepai Hut sleeps 10 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 Bottles Track also drops down on the other side to the Mangatainoka River. 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, climbs through a fringe of bush and up the scrubby spur. Herepai is reached in 45 minutes, and 45 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 Burn Hut. Tracks here are currently overgrown but still usable. 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 40 minutes. Turn L, and 45 minutes down from here is the first bridge crossing the Mangatainoka, with the second another 30 minutes on, 5 minutes from the road-end. About 2 hours from the hut. [revised March 2018]
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 the delightfully situated Roaring Stag Lodge: 3 hours from the road-end. These side streams can be difficult after heavy rain. In high flow, the bigger northern stream is best crossed about 150m upstream of the track crossing, where it flattens out and flows across a flat terrace. [revised March 2018]
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 New Zealand License.