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Hillary Trail Leg 2: Whatipu to Piha, Auckland

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Hillary Trail Leg 2: Whatipu to PihaBeginner - Intermediate

Submitted by Mal Law

Info Info

Trail Information







Front country - easily accessible

Point to Point (one way)

Very hilly

Native bush

Beginner - Intermediate

3:15 (Slow)
2:30 (Moderate)
1:45 (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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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 car park at Whatipu, bear right past the information shelter and follow the grass track that runs alongside the fence of the Whatipu Campground. Continue to follow this fence all the way around until you cross a small bridge and into the bush. About 50 metres after entering the bush take a right hand turn. Straight ahead (sideling around the hill) goes to the caves, but the HT goes up the hill on Gibbons Track.

You will climb quite hard for a while on Gibbons Track before it flattens out a little but it's pretty much a climb of various degrees until you hit the junction of Gibbons, Muir and Walker Ridge Tracks. At this junction you want to take Muir Track. It is flat for a little and then decends a bit more steeply towards the Pararaha Valley on gravelled steps that were put in during 2016. Eventually, after a good descent (including a tiny wee rock climb) you will come out into an open area at the bottom and arrive at the Pararaha shelter. From here head left down towards the bottom of the valley.

You will cross the Pararaha Stream - which can get up to waist deep after rain - and shortly after will arrive at a junction with Buck Taylor Track and the start of a boardwalk. Turn left heading towards the sandunes through a big marsh area. At the sand dunes turn right and head along the bottom of the sandunes for 100m and then head up the dunes. Once at the top you'll see marker poles heading towards the sea. Follow these northwards and and you will come to the tunnel.

From the tunnel a track takes you further north and following the marker poles you pop out on the flat beach. Continue along the beach until the cliffs head inland. There is a track into the dunes here and you follow this track - it takes you to Karekare Beach Road, through a lovely pohutakawa Glade.

At the Karekare Beach Road turn left and over the wooden one way road. The carpark is on the left a few metres after the bridge. At the carpark there are some public toilets. This is another common support crew meet up point. The water here is apparently not safe to drink. From the toilets/carpark continue north along Karekare Beach Road and take the first small road on the left. It's just after the beach reserve. Follow this road through some houses and it comes to a dead end - continue on the track from here up hill, following signs for Comans Track, NOT Ahu Ahu Track Follow Comans track and enjoy the views as you climb next to the cliff edged - look south back to Karekare beach. You will get to the top and drop a little into a junction with Ahu Ahu Track. Turn left, heading north along Ahu Ahu Track.

In a few hundred metres there is a junction with Mercer Bay Loop Walk. Turn left into Mercer Bay Loop Walk. This is a nice wide track through a forest of flax with views down into Mercer Bay. At the next junction turn left towards the sea and you will hit the cliffs that drop down into the sea. It's worth making a detour out to the lookout. Once that's done head up the hill and your will enter the bush again near the top. This track turns to gravel and loops around to arrive at the carpark at the end of Log Race Road.

Turn left and follow Log Race Road. This then turns into Te AhuAhu Road and it finishes at a T junction with the main Piha Road just before Piha Road heads down a big steep hill into Piha. Turn right away from Piha. Cross the road here and head South east‐ish along Piha road on the side of the road/grass verge. Watch for traffic!

Just before you arrive at the road junction of Piha Road and the road down to Karekare there is a walking track off to your left - take this off the nasty road and into the bush! This little track meets up with Winstone Track. Turn left and head down Winstone Track. At the bottom of this track you come to a four way junction. Turn left. The track heads a little downhill and you will come to a stream crossing (which is actually at the top of KiteKite Falls). Straight after the crossing you will be at a track junction with Connect Track. Turn left and head down the hill. At the next junction (on a wooden platform) bear left towards the noise and beauty of the Kitekite Falls. You will head down steeply and arrive at the Kitekite Falls.

Enjoy the view and soak up the power of the falls. To exit this area you need to cross the stream and you'll see some stone steps which turn into wooden steps up the hill. Follow these and continue along Kitekite Track right to the bottom ignoring any tracks going off to the right as you power down the hill. You will run out of track and arrive at the end of Glen Esk Road. There are toilets and water here. This is a possible support crew meeting point. Run along Glen Esk Road to the end of it and turn right into North Piha Road to arrive at the Store and Cafe.

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Features of interest

The Pararaha Stream is an other-worldly, Jurassic Park-type experience.
Sand dunes, big cliffs and wild west coast.
Kitekite Falls.
The trail follows the old kauri logging tram line up the coast for a short way and includes a short tunnel (torch NOT required)

Make Up of Run

Untracked / Route only: 10%

Technical Single Track: 5%

Moderate Single Track: 20%

Easy Single Track: 45%

Gravel Road: 5%

Sealed Road: 15%

Route Data


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Wild Explorers

I did it!
  • Access

    Omanawanui Track car park at the end of Whatipu Road. Drive through Huia to get here from Titirangi. Gravel road for the last few kms but 2WD accessible.

    Plenty of parking. Pretty safe but don't leave valuables in the car just in case. Toilets available here too.

    25 km

    38 minutes



  • Staying Safe


    Keep a sharp eye out for Hillary Trail markers and the poled route through the sand dunes from the Pararaha Stream mouth to Karekare.


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

    Available from the Pararaha Stream adjacent to the shelter but this requires a short detour off the track.
    Water at Karekare toilets is not rated as safe.
    I've drunk from the stream above the waterfall at Usshers Cross and had no ill effects.
    All in all it's best to carry what you need to get you through.

    Very muddy in places after rain.

    Nothing out of the ordinary on the trails. Watch out for crazy drivers on the short section of Piha Road.

  • Post run indulgence

    Piha Cafe
    Good food, good beer, good coffee and a convivial setting. Pizzas a house speciality.

  • Blog Posts and Articles
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