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Pettifar & Gilchrist Loop, Manawatu - Wanganui

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Pettifar & Gilchrist LoopBeginner - Intermediate

Submitted by Rosie Rochester

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Trail Information





Manawatu - Wanganui

Palmerston North

Front country - easily accessible


Totally/mostly flat

Native bush

Beginner - Intermediate

0:45 (Slow)
0:35 (Moderate)
0:25 (Fast)



the track can be effected after severe river flooding

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It's a very beautiful run, with multiple scenic stop spots with views over the river and the backdrop of the valley. Its very rooty underfoot so don't be expecting to break any 5km time trial here! The bush and ancient trees and birds do a good job at distraction from the path so don't be surprised if a root jumps up and bites causing a trip and fall! Don't fear though its soft underfoot!

Start at the blue Pettfifar sign and it's pretty much a follow the blue and white markers on the trees. If in doubt turn left (there's quite a few trails on your right that lead down to the river) The only opposite to this turn left rule is around 2.6km in when you are out on the wider Old Coach road - here you turn right onto the Gilchrist Loop which is only marked with a red lid high on the tree - you'll need to keep your eyes peeled for this.

Start at the blue Pettifar sign 
800m in you will come to a seat & T intersection, Turn Left
@ 1.2km follow Old coach Road sign to the Left
@ 2km turn left at blue marker (there is regularly tracks that go off on your right that go down onto the river)
@ 2.6km you are now on old coach Rd, keep eye out on your RIGHT for round RED marker high on tree, this is the start of the Gilchrist loop.
(If you miss it you will carry on up Old Coach Road to the carpark)
You will come to a poled route through hard packed sand around flood damage. Just follow these until you return to track, then turn left back onto the trail out in the open under the poplar trees.
4km you will arrive back onto Old Coach Road, carry on straight to the car park

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Features of interest

Situated in the midst of Totara Reserve, this is one of the last and largest remaining stands of the extensive forest that once covered much of the Manawatu Plains. The tracks take you on a journey through the mixed forest and stunning examples of ancient trees, with a wide variety of birds and animals, and wonderful views. On this run I saw Kereru, Tui, a Ruru (Morepork), and a deer, what a treat!

The Pettifar and Gilchrist Loop Tracks lead you down a series of terraces to the Pohangina River. You will pass through kahikatea dominated forest in the wetter areas, and totara dominated forest in drier areas. The loops also use Old Coach Road, a section of the original horse and cart track along the Pohangina Valley. An abandoned tree nursery on the Gilchrist Loop Track was the source of most of the large poplars now visible throughout the Pohangina Valley.

Make Up of Run

Technical Single Track: 10%

Moderate Single Track: 50%

Easy Single Track: 40%

Route Data


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  • Access

    There is a green sign roadside saying Pettifar & Gilchrist Loop Tracks. Coming from Ashhurst direction the carpark is on your left around 2km past the Fern Walk sign

    Good sized gravel carpark next to the road

    37 km

    33 minutes



  • Staying Safe



    Long-sleeved thermal top, Windproof jacket, Beanie/thermal headwear, Whistle, First aid kit, Extra food for emergencies, Cellphone.

    River and Streams

    Muddy section after rain 200m in that has some small board walks added but the mud is mostly unavoidable

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