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Urchin Umukarikari Loop, Waikato

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Urchin Umukarikari LoopIntermediate - Experienced

Submitted by Rudi Smith

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Trail Information







Front country - easily accessible



Native bush
Open ridges/tops

Intermediate - Experienced

6:00 (Slow)
4:30 (Moderate)
3:00 (Fast)



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The description below assumes a start at the Waikoko Valley Campsite and is run in an anticlockwise direction. There's no reason why the route can't be run in a clockwise direction.
From Waikoko Valley Campsite, cross back over the bridge and head back up the sealed road for ~200m to get to the gravel road on the left. The sealed road has a large shoulder and is only short (but uphill!) Follow the gravel road to the start of the Urchin Track (this is clearly signed). It is about 4.5km and for the last 1km climbs 150m. If you'd like a quick detour, after 2km you can head to the Pillars of Hercules and then follow some easy single track up to the Urchin Campground and rejoin the gravel road to the Urchin Track start.

From here it's a further 3km on trail to get up to the Urchin Trig (1392m, +750m from the start of the run). From Urchin, you follow a poled route along the tops until you reach a junction (2.2km from Urchin) for the Waipakihi River. Instead, continue onward where you will shortly drop down to the bushline again. From here there is 3km in the forest. The trail is fairly narrow along the ridgeline. It doesn't deviate too far off the ridgetop, but in places care needs to be taken to follow the right path. A lot of this section will need to be walked.

Once out of the bush, it's back along the tops following the poled route to the main Umukarikari Range (it's approximately 8km between Urchin and the Umukarikari Range). From here, you can immediately turn left and head down. Alternatively, it's approximately 1km and +100m to the summit of Umukarikari (1591m) from this junction. There's a steep climb up to reach a junction with an attractive summit. You can shoot up this trail for some nice views, but this peak is not Umukarikari! A little further north you can see the rounded summit of Umukarikari.
Heading back from here you've got some seriously nice, flowing trail down to the bushline. The trail becomes a little more technical once you hit the bushline and you drop quite quickly to the trailhead. From here, head down the road. After about a kilometre, you'll come to a T junction. The direction to the Waihaha Valley Campsite is not signposted, however you turn left. Cruise back down to the start.

NB This is only dog friendly if you have a hunting permit for this area.

UPDATE October 2020: The entire route has recently been recut, remarked & re-poled, so easy to follow in low cloud. The section between the two high points is pretty much all runnable, but is a bit more technical and twisty through the bush.

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Features of interest

A significant portion of the run is on the tops and on a good day you will have magnificent views of Mts Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe, Tongariro and possibly Taranaki. Similarly, you can look to Lake Taupo and the Pureora Forest. Views to other Kaimanawa peaks are superb - Makorako and the Middle Range.
Urchin Trig, if you're into trig bagging.
Once you've finished your run you could visit the Pillars of Hercules, Waikato Falls and the Poutu Intake.

Make Up of Run

Untracked / Route only: 0%

Technical Single Track: 35%

Moderate Single Track: 35%

Easy Single Track: 5%

Farm Road / 4WD Track: 0%

Gravel Road: 24%

Sealed Road: 1%

Route Data


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  • Access

    Access to the area is via the Kaimanawa Road off SH1. The road sign at SH1 is not currently present (summer 2016/2017) but the road turn is marked for Rangipo Power Station.
    The run is a loop, although the track is connected by 6km of gravel road through native bush at the start/end. If you've got one vehicle, then you'll need to run this section. Be alert as the campsites in the area are well used and there may be traffic on the road.
    It is best to start at the Waihaha Valley Campsite and run from there to the Urchin Track start (4.5km) and from the Umukarikari track at the end (1.5km) as the campsite is just off the sealed road. It's not recommended to park at the Urchin Track start as you'll have a +150m climb over the last 1km to finish your day!
    If you've got two vehicles, then you can leave one at the end (Umukarikari Track - drive to the Waihaha Valley Campsite and then take the first (unsigned) right hand turn) and drive to the start (Urchin Track - well signposted).

    There is no public transport to the start of the run.
    The access is on gravel road, so road/touring bikes would be uncomfortable.
    The Urchin Track start has space for 5-10 vehicles.
    The Umukarikari Track start has space for 5 vehicles.
    The Waihaha Valley Campsite has plenty of parking space and in summer there are generally a few different groups of campers about in camp through the day, so vehicles should be safe.

    19 km

    17 minutes



  • Staying Safe


    Make navigation of this route super-easy by using the Capra app on your phone. View on Capra .

    The trail below the treeline is marked with orange triangles.
    The route on the tops is poled and well formed.
    The ridge between Urchin and Umukarikari has approximately 3km where it drops into the beech forest and care needs to be taken at times as the trail is narrow and quite windy.


    Waterproof leggings, Thermal leggings, Lightweight fleece top, Seam-sealed waterproof jacket, Gloves, Beanie/thermal headwear, Personal Locator Beacon (PLB), Whistle, First aid kit, Extra food for emergencies, Survival bag, Cellphone, Compass, Map.

    There are no creeks in the vicinity of the track, however there is a tarn to the right on the approach to the Umukarikari range (at about the 14km mark) - do NOT rely on this during summer months though, it may dry up!

    Approximately 13km of the route will be along to tops (or needing to get back onto the tops to get down). At any time of the year, weather systems can develop rapidly and visibility can drop.
    Snow can be present over winter.

    The tops are exposed to weather (wind, rain, snow) and navigation may become difficult in low visibility.
    Take care when running (or driving) the gravel road and be alert for other road users. No headphones!
    The park is also used by hunters.
    The Urchin and Umukarikari tracks are (unofficially) used by mountain bikers. In my experience, they have been courteous to other trail users - due to the technical nature of the descents they've got to be quite experienced.

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