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Hillary Trail Leg 3: Piha to Bethells, Auckland

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Hillary Trail Leg 3: Piha to BethellsBeginner - Intermediate

Submitted by Mal Law

Info Info

Trail Information







Front country - easily accessible

Point to Point (one way)

Very hilly

Native bush

Beginner - Intermediate

4:00 (Slow)
3:00 (Moderate)
2:00 (Fast)



CLOSED DUE TO KAURI DIEBACK. You can sign up to e-updates re the track situation in both the Waitakere and Hunua Ranges here.

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Fastest Known Times (FKTs)


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I am hugely indebted to Mr Hillary Trail, Shaun Collins, for the description that follows, which is based on his comprehensive guide on the Hillary Trail Honours Board.

IMPORTANT: Please ensure you use all of the Council provided Kauri Dieback shoe wash stations you come across on the trail. We are all responsible for helping minimize the spread of this nasty disease.

From the Cafe continue on the road towards the coast. When the road meets the beach (near Lion Rock) take a track out onto the beach and head North along the beach. Head inland when you see the Surfclub or the surf lifesavers tower. The track through the dunes from the beach is the one immediately before the one that goes to the surf club. You'll arrive at a carpark and there is a toilet block there too.

Run through the carpark and you'll arrive back on North Piha Road. Turn right. Run along the road for about 100 metres and on the left is the start of the Marawhara Track (just after a bridge). Take this track and follow it until you come to a big clearing. At the big clearing hug the left hand edge and you'll come to a stream crossing with Whites Track continuing on the opposite side.

Follow Whites Track to the top. You'll come onto a grass driveway. Turn right and follow the driveway till it meets the gravel road. Watch out on this driveway as there are some holes in the middle of it This gravel road is Anawhata Road. Turn right. Follow Anawhata Road - it's a bit of a gentle uphill.

Soon you will come to some stock yards on the left hand side of the road and just past this is a signposted fence crossing into the paddock. Head across the paddock following the big white topped posts around the top of a big gully and then down a broad ridge. As you head down, aim right of the two wooden fenced off planted tree areas. Just past these on the right, on the bushline is a gate back into the bush. Over the gate and follow this track - the dreaded Kuataika Track - lots of steep hills on this track!

As you climb up and down there are some indistinct tracks to the left which you ignore and keep taking the right hand option. The streams you cross on this track have been used as a water source by some people with no ill effect (use at your own risk). You will get to the end of the climbs and get to a flatish section with some rolling easy hills. You will come across a private 4WD sized track on your left which usually has a closed gate. Ignore this and continue on until you come to a big four way junction of Kuataika, Smyth Ridge, Houghton and Wainamu Bush Tracks. This junction has plenty of track signs whereas the private track has no Council signs. Turn left onto Houghton Track. Make sure you make this left turn otherwise you end up at the Waitakere Golf Course/Cascades area!

Houghton Track starts gently with a small climb. At the top you cross a fallen fence and turn left‐ish. The track then descends and gets steeper and rougher as you get closer to the bottom. At the bottom you arrive at Lake Wainamu. Turn right. You will head anticlockwise around the lake.
You will come around a corner at the end of the lake and see a large waterfall. Check it out if you want but you need to cross the marsh about 50m downstream from the waterfall. The marsh is full of tall reeds but you should see a crossing point where you only need to jump a small stream and the rest of the marsh is passable.

On the other side of the marsh is a 4WD size track and you continue around the lake following this right to the other end of the long lake. At this end of the lake you will become parallel with the sand dunes. Watch for the track to head down towards the water edge. The 4WD track comes to a gate and you head leftish along the fenceline on a small track to the waters edge. Drop into the stream that follows the bottom of the dunes away from the lake and follow this out to the road. Easiest is to stay in the water - it's not very deep or you can hop from side to side if you want firmer ground.

Eventually you'll see a 4WD sized sandy track come off the stream to you left. This is a bit further on than a more distinct one that goes off to the right. Take this track and follow it for the last few hundred metres till you hit the carpark and sealed Bethells Road.
Head straight across the road and there is a wide track heading towards the hills immediately ahead of you. This is the start of the Te Henga Walkway and the end of Leg 3 of the Hillary Trail.

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Features of interest

Piha Beach, beautiful Nikau palm groves, Lake Wainamu and the huge dunes that surround it. The run down the sandy creek from Lake Wainamu to the end is quite special and unique.

Make Up of Run

Untracked / Route only: 20%

Technical Single Track: 10%

Moderate Single Track: 10%

Easy Single Track: 50%

Gravel Road: 5%

Sealed Road: 5%

Route Data


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Wild Explorers

I did it!
  • Access

    Piha. Wherever you can find a park near the cafe & store.

    Parking is at roadside. If no space head down to the beach where there's plenty - this will save you a few hundred metres of road running too (not an option if you want to say you've run the whole Hillary Trail though!)

    0 km

    1 minutes



  • Staying Safe


    Follow the Hillary Trail markers and you should be OK.
    Keep a sharp eye out for where the trail enters the bush at the northern end of Piha Beach.
    Once in the creek beyond Lake Wainamu there are no markers to follow - so just stick to the creek bed until very close to the end where you'll pick up a sandy track out to the road.


    Short-sleeved thermal top, Seam-sealed waterproof jacket, Gloves, Beanie/thermal headwear, Whistle, First aid kit, Extra food for emergencies, Survival blanket, Cellphone, Map.

    You cross several creeks on the Whites & Kuataika Tracks - all are fine to drink from just so long as they're flowing freely.

    Very muddy after rain in places.
    The Kuataika Track is clay-based and extremely slippery after heavy rain.

    Take care in wet conditions as the trail can get very slippery.

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