Last Updated: 21st Sep 2023


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Pukekōhatu Pack Ponies

Hamilton, Waikato

Submitted by Anne-Louise Robertson

Last Updated: 21st Sep 2023


I've done it Done

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Grunt Factor: 37

Gnarl Factor: 89





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Trail Map

Type of Run

Front country - easily accessible


Very hilly

Native bush

Open ridges/tops

Run Makeup


Moderate Single Track

Technical Single Track

Untracked / Route only

Average Uphill Gradient: +15.3%

Average Downhill Gradient: -14.4%


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Estimated Times to Run

Not suitable






Note: The Pylon Track is not marked on the Information Board in the car park, nor is it on NZ Topo map. It is described on the DoC site. It was built in 2015 to replace the Kauri Loop Tracks which have been closed to protect the Kauri.

From the Wairongomai car park take the Low Level Loop Track. About 200 metres in there is a signpost directing you down to the right to the Pylon Track. Very quickly you arrive at the river. It is easy enough to boulder hop and keep dry feet on a good day but after heavy rain it may be impassable.

The path continues up through the forest on the other side. You climb steadily and at times steeply through varied vegetation. The path is reasonably clear and well-marked but keep an eye out for the markers. As you climb there are a few ‘vegetation windows’ that give you splendid views of the Waikato Plain and Te Aroha. The path essentially follows a ridgeline and the last 200m of climbing is quite steep. Unbelievably, it used to be a pack pony route! There are still a few remains of the steel power pylons which were used for the power line linking the Horahora hydro-electric power station with the goldmines.

At about 4km in (and roughly 600m ascent), you reach the bushline and emerge into the open to an amazing view of the Waikato in front and the Kaimais stretching out to the left. The climb is definitely worth it! It is quite exposed so probably not a great trail to do on a cold, windy day. Continue climbing for a few more metres over scrambly terrain to a rocky outcrop. This is known as Pylon Peak (not named on topo map)

There is an old sign and a path leading off to the right - ignore this and carry on to the left towards Te Aroha. This is the Old North-South Route and it is pretty slow going to the junction. Keep an eye on the markers, the path is mostly obvious just not very well used, so overgrown. The path follows the contours along the ridge so it is pretty flat. It may be muddy after rain. After 2kms or so you arrive at a T-Junction, head left towards Te Aroha Mountain.

The track is now much more runnable. Pukekōhatu is to the right off the track as you run but there isn't a path leading to it. Pylon Peak is a much better vantage point for photos! It doesn’t take long to get down to Wairongomai Saddle. To the right is the track Te Aroha if you want a longer day. Turn left to head down to Wairongomai Road. This is the main Wairongomai Valley and you will start to see signs of the old rail tracks.

A phone torch is sufficient to light the way through a short tunnel and then pick whichever route you like to get back to the car park. This route goes down the side of the May Queen Incline, past the top of Butler’s Incline onto the High Level Pack Track and then on the Cadman Track and straight down to the car park.

The Waiorongomai valley was the site of a gold rush in the early 1880s. This tramway, with three self-acting inclines (where the loaded wagons going down pull the empty wagons up), was built by Piako County Council to give access to the mines. The remains are preserved and it is New Zealand’s oldest railway with rails still in place. The Rata trees on the way up the Pylon track are impressive and the subject of monitoring. There are still a few remains of the steel power pylons which were used for the power line linking the Horahora hydro-electric power station with the Waihi gold mine and Victoria Battery in the Karangahake Gorge.

This is a well-used gravel carpark but is a km or so from the main road so always keep valuables out of sight.

5 km

6 minutes




The section on the North South Route through the forest along the ridge is quite dense and whilst there are plenty of orange triangular markers you need to keep an eye out as the path is less distinct.

Generally good.

Waterproof leggings, Lightweight fleece top, Long-sleeved thermal top, Seam-sealed waterproof jacket, Gloves, Beanie/thermal headwear, Personal Locator Beacon (PLB), Whistle, First aid kit, Extra food for emergencies, Survival bag, Cellphone, Map, Headtorch and spare batteries, Gaiters.

River at start of trail, waterfalls on track as you descend - caution re: potability

Muddy after rain
River may be impassable after rain
Exposed to cold winds on the top most of the year

Villa Nine Cafe
Te Aroha
Whole food, health food, quirky, great coffee

Ironique Cafe
Te Aroha
Good Whitakers Hot Chocolate

Trail Legend

Carol Howell

Carol Howell

has completed Pukekōhatu Pack Ponies once in the last year.

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Trail Reviews

Ran this 19/3/2023. There was a generic 'track closed due to cyclone Gabrielle until further notice' sign up. It didnt give much more info so decided to go out and turn back if required. The loop is well and truly possible. A total of three trees down over track (but easy enough to get around), and a 1m slip, barely spilling out onto track. As others have said, the track up slow going and fairly overgrown. I found it hard to spot the triangles in places (probably just me), but its an absolutely lovely climb. Track down was more technical than I expected (may have been storm damage, or just because there was loads of surface water), but definitely felt like faster travel than the first half! The mine relics and rail tracks add a bit of interest. Cracking loop and can't wait to run more trails in this area.

Brion Matthews

March 19, 2023

Unfortunately had a day which was a bit wet and cold and didn't get to see any of the epic views. Slow going at the top but track is well maintained on the way up and plenty of opportunity for a fast blat on the way down on well graded trails.

Anthony Sowerby

May 29, 2022

Really enjoyed this track! The signpost about 200m in at the start was missing the actual sign - I had read the review saying to follow the description so we headed across the stream and quickly saw the orange markers. Also added on Te Aroha summit and did about 20km total (took one of the other track options down).

Esther Neill

August 14, 2021

Absolutely wonderful climb and run. It's pretty relentless going up to the ridgeline...and there were a few expletives offered to the birds, but I still enjoyed it. I did it on a clear, windless day and it was really enjoyable, apart from a few icy patches at the top. Once you hit the Waitawa track the running is mint. I took the high level pack track, and then the Cadman back to the car park.

Jayne Tankersley

July 4, 2021

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