Ian Wells to Piha half marathonBeginner
Submitted by Simon Wickham
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Nice half marathon course that can be run from Ian Wells or from Glenesk Rd in Piha. This course can be extended with a number of loops at Piha Valley to add distance (all of them are good options).
Starting from Ian Wells trail head go past the gate and head downhill on the 4WD road (without diverting to the right) until you see a single track trail at the end of the road (usually marked with a "experienced trampers only" type marker seriously overstating the demands of this track .)Head up this track (Ian Wells Track). It undulates along with a few bogs here and there and sometimes after heavy rain a flow of shallow water across the track in places (expect wet feet after rain).
This leads into more dense bush and a delightful technical short section across and alongside streams and eventually you cross the main stream (Nihotupu Stream). Immediately after crossing just to your right you'll see a small track that leads about 20m to a cave (a small mine shaft), its chock full of cave wetas at times. If that isn't your thing the main track heads left immediately after the stream and follow it 50m or so before heading uphill towards Cutty Grass Tk.
Once you reach the junction with Cutty Grass a left hand turn is essential (right takes you to Scenic Drive by the way). Turn left and follow this wide open trail undulating your way to the end. Near the end there is a short diversion to a locked hut run by the Auckland Alpine Sports Club (it's bookable via their website).
Carry on across the gravel road and avoid the left hand and later right hand options, just stay on top of the ridge and stay straight and that leads you to a small single track that connects to Anawhata Road. Look across the road and right and you'll see the next trail head, just in the bush take the right hand option to a lookout over the Piha Valley - that's where you're running through next and the ridge in front of you as you look to Piha is Maungaroa Ridge Tk your next route.
Head back along the track turn right at your next junction (with Forbes tk) and follow this to another junction where Forbes Tk, Maungaora Ridge Tk, McKenzie Tk and Pole Line Tk meet. Spend time getting your next choice right. You head down Maungaroa Ridge Tk. This undulates for a while and then climbs over Maungaroa (210m) where you'll see a junction and an option to go left or right. Go left and head down into Glenesk Rd.
This downhill track leads you into the base of the Piha Valley and on to Glenesk Rd. Turn left, head up the road and you'll see a bunch of options for trails here (Home Track, Kitikite Falls Tk, Byers Walk and Piha Valley Track all start here). There's a toilet and water tap down the road on the right here. Make sure you take Piha Valley Tk (you can connect via any of the others but you'll miss the lovely Piha Valley and add a bit of distance and time to your day - options abound here to extend this course by the way).
On Piha Valley Tk you'll gently wind your way along the stream bed (Piha Stream). Follow this past two junctions (with McKenzie Tk and Forbes Tk) staying on Piha Valley Tk. You'll come over a ridge and down into Black Rock Dam with it's unmistakable large rock face across the stream and old Kauri Dam remains. Cross the stream and head up the track slightly upstream of where you entered. This is Centennial Track, which climbs its way back to Anawhata Rd. From here retrace your steps to Cutty Grass track and back down Ian Wells Tk.
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Features of interest
Weta Cave (if you wish to), Kokako on Cutty Grass track (you'll hear them at dawn if you're lucky), nice streamside technical patch through Ian Wells, nice lookout over Piha and the Piha Valley in places. Black Rock Dam is an old Kauri Dam on the way.
Make Up of Run
Technical Single Track: 15%
Moderate Single Track: 40%
Easy Single Track: 30%
Farm Road / 4WD Track: 15%
On Piha Rd drive past the Nihotipu Dam carpark on your left and just ahead 200m along the road on your right you'll see a small driveway and a gate. That's the trail-head. Take care turning in for approaching traffic.
No transport. There's only room for a couple of cars at the trailhead gate. Take care turning in for approaching traffic. Plenty of additional parking back down the road at Nihotipu Dam carpark if you need extra or someone's beaten you to it. It's only a short run back (2-300m)
At the end of Cutty Grass track heading out you come to a gravel road with an option to turn left or carry on, do the later. Carry on straight and avoid the tracks to your right also (Ridge Rd etc, save these for another day). The track leads straight on and connects you up to the track that leads to Anawhata Rd from there you should see the next track across the road.
Long-sleeved thermal top, Seam-sealed waterproof jacket, Beanie/thermal headwear, Whistle, First aid kit, Extra food for emergencies, Cellphone, Map.
There are small streams along the way but they have variable amounts of water depending on the conditions. There is an old dam near the start you could fill up a bottle on. At the halfway mark (roughly) at Glenesk Rd, Piha there are some toilets and a water tap near the parking lot up the side road.
Ian Wells can get boggy in patches but generally this is a year round run if you don't mind a few muddy bogs in winter on the first leg. Thereafter it's more able to be run all the way (except the hills, for me, I'm walking those)
if you suffer from creepy crawlie phobia give the weta cave a miss , you might wet your pants and that can get really itchy and develop a rash. (you don't have to go near the cave on this run if you wish it's a tiny diversion to the cave)
Post run indulgence
Arguably the best views over the city of any cafe in Auckland from teh top of scenic drive. Foods not 10/10 but the views are 12/10
This is the locals spot for cold beer, good wine, great small plates to share and good coffee
Good coffee from very early in the am, it's not unusual to find someone in there serving from 5.30am. Local institution for cafe food and cold drinks.
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