Last Updated: 2nd Oct 2023

Beginner - Intermediate

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The Route of No Return - Puhoi to Dome Valley

Puhoi, Auckland

Submitted by Simon Clendon

Last Updated: 2nd Oct 2023

Beginner - Intermediate

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I've done it Done

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Grunt Factor: 30 ?

Gnarl Factor: 10 ?








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Trail Map

Type of Run

Front country - easily accessible

Point to Point (one way)

Undulating, some big hills

Native bush

Plantation/exotic forest

Open farmlands

Run Makeup


Sealed Road

Gravel Road

Farm Road / 4WD Track

Easy Single Track

Average Uphill Gradient: +7.7%

Average Downhill Gradient: -6.0%


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Estimated Times to Run







The trail is reasonably well marked with Te Araroa signs although in places can be tricky. These tricky spots are highlighted below.

The run starts on a track just behind and to the left of the changing rooms at the back of the car park. There's a good steep section from the get-go to warm you up. The first section is 5km of well groomed trail through some native bush and a few pines. There are some ups and downs and a good number of stairs. This section finishes across a swing bridge.

The next section follows the road opposite the swing bridge. Follow this for 1km and watch for trail markers on the left just across a bridge. Straight ahead is private property. The trail sharply ascends a grassy slope that can be slippery in wet conditions and high grass in summer. This part soon pops onto a farm road which you follow uphill and through a couple of farm gates (leave as you find them!) before hitting paddocks and entering Dunn Bush.

Spray your shoes at the scrub station. After Dunn Bush you pop out onto a sealed road (spray again). Turn right and follow the sealed road for about a kilometre to a road intersection. The trail continues straight across the intersection. Time for some 1.5km of uphill trail. Dry in summer slippery in winter. Turn left when you emerge from the bush. This is Moirs Road which heads uphill for a bit with some great views on the way. The road turns to gravel. There are a number of side roads so keep alert and watch for DoC orange triangles and/or Te Araroa signs. Basically keep straight-ish.

The road goes alongside some paddocks to start with then through some bush and then into pine forest territory. Much of this is felled to your right so keep that on you right side and don't take left turns. Soon you will get to a steep descent that ends at a barrier. Follow the main road a little to your left. Time for some road running, sorry. The road soon hits a major road called Woodcocks Road. Turn right. Be aware of cars as there isn't a lot of space on the verge. Before long there is a road on the left. Go that way. Follow the road until the end. There is a private driveway that the route follows so use the stiles if the gates are closed.

Shortly you will cross another stile onto grassy paddocks. There is a gate and a few more stiles. Keep to the path and don't disturb livestock. Soon you will hit another public road. Turn right. After less than a kilometre there is an intersection. Turn left. This isn't marked with a Te Araroa sign. Follow this road for another kilometre and turn right on to Kaipara Flats Road and almost immediately left onto a side road. You now get to enjoy 2km of uphill running. Stop gratefully when you see the DoC Smyth Bush Scenic Reserve sign on your right.

Last section! Enter the single track into Smyth Bush and follow the DoC markers. After about 1 kilometre you will hit some forestry roads. Follow the DoC orange triangles to the right and then each intersection head more or less straight. Quite a few undulations but eventually you reach a high point near a repeater tower. You will start heading down to the left on the gravel road. Not far now! The final bit is mostly downhill so if you have any energy left let yourself go and zoom down. Your destination is near but there is one more obstacle - State Highway 1. Visibility isn't great so cross with extreme care!The cafe, which was closed for quite time, is now open again and serving up some great post-run indulgence! 

This trail includes the peak Moir Hill.

Follows part of the Te Araroa trail. Quite a varied run with a relatively high percentage of gravel roads.

If you know of any public toilets near the trail start or on the route, please login and then let us know so we can update this section.

Private car to get there. Plenty of parking although the last Sunday of each month there is a Farmers Market so might be busy. Puhoi goes off in summer so it's bound to be busy then. However, good Wild Things start their runs early, right? You will either need two cars, or a willing Wild Thing supporter to pick you up at the Dome Valley Cafe (sadly now closed!) when you finish.

0 km

1 minutes




See main route description.

Generally good.

Long-sleeved thermal top, Seam-sealed waterproof jacket, Gloves, Beanie/thermal headwear, Whistle, First aid kit, Extra food for emergencies, Cellphone, Map, Headtorch and spare batteries

No potable water on the route.

Hot in summer so consider taking at least 2 litres of water, maybe more.

The single track can be slippery and muddy in parts in winter.

Electric fences. Cows on some sections but they seem to be conditioned to people as the route is often travelled by Te Araroa walkers. The long grasses in summer can cause itchy skin for some people. Consider covering up and/or antihistamines.

Dome Cafe
Great food & drink

Trail Legend

Ricky Silvester

Ricky Silvester

has completed The Route of No Return - Puhoi to Dome Valley once in the last year.

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Trail Reviews

This used to be one of my favourite close to home runs. The Puhoi section of trail is now closed so you will have to do road for the first bit or start at the Carpark about 5 kms in. So sad how poor forest management can completely destroy these ecosystems.

Jackson White

October 1, 2023

Really enjoyed this run. Started slow with the uphill climb followed by a hefty amount of mud, but it was a great mix of terrain. I didn't pay too much attention to the instructions but had downloaded the map to my watch to follow, that made it fun too as it kept it surprising with what popped up next.

Matt Niederer

September 27, 2022

Epic run with a lot of variety.
We left drop bags at Dome Valley and did the return trip.
If you are doing the return then you can also drop a drop bag at the end of Puhoi forest on your way out. That gives you a nice little boost for your final 5km on the way home

There was a lot of mud when we did it, but that just made it more fun.
Definitely take sunblock as it is quite exposed in some places.

Kyron Gosse

December 27, 2021

Loved this - did the double for a great day out. Watch out for the electric fence really close to the trail across one paddock!!

Laurie Wilson

December 5, 2021

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