Last Updated: 18th Dec 2023


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South Main Range Loop

Otaki, Wellington

Submitted by Tim Carpenter

Last Updated: 18th Dec 2023


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I've done it Done


Grunt Factor: 128 ?

Gnarl Factor: 87 ?








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Trail Map

Type of Run

Back country - remote



Native bush

Open tussock/grasslands

Open ridges/tops

Run Makeup


Technical Single Track

Average Uphill Gradient: +15.3%

Average Downhill Gradient: -14.0%


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Estimated Times to Run







Best run clockwise.
Take the signs to Waitewaewae Hut, this is in bush, can be wet, and there is around 750m elevation to the hut. Run time 2:10 (for a 12 hour circuit).
Follow on from the hut trail, cross the river on the swingbridge, and follow the orange arrows up the hill. This is around 1000m of vertical climbing to Junction Knob.
Turn R) at Junction Knob (signposted) toward Anderson Hut.
You will now be on the tops and basically stay here for the next 7 hours or so.
The ridge is very narrow in places, there are very steep ascents and descents and what will feel like never ending ridges.
Pass Anderson Hut and continue to Mangahuka Hut - this is 4km from when you first spot the hut. After Mangahuka you get to attack the Tararua Peaks Ladder a 20m vertical steel ladder bolted to the rock face.
There is then still significant climbing to get to Hill Mound, turn R) and head down.
With tired legs you then have 1400m of descent to get back to the start, mixed trail, and pass Field Hut on the way down.

This trail includes the peaks Aokaparangi, Maungahuka and Kahiwiroa.

You will run past part of an old milling rail system, numerous back country huts, with gorgeous views from Masterton to Otaki Beach (on a clear day)

If you know of any public toilets near the trail start or on the route, please login and then let us know so we can update this section.

Plenty of parking, follow the signs, ensure good parking safety

20 km

27 minutes



Very hard.

The tracks are overall well marked with the orange markers, if there is poor visibility take care.


Thermal leggings, Lightweight fleece top, Short-sleeved thermal 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, Compass, Map, Headtorch and spare batteries, Crampons / microspikes (for winter conditions), Gaiters

Available from the Waitewaewae river and at each of the huts.

Weather can change suddenly at any time. Winds can be very high and the ridges are very exposed.

The elevation profile does not do justice to the difficulty of the traverse along the peaks. There are a lot of short and sharp ups and downs, with more walking and scrambling than running.
The peaks ladder can be tricky in the wet and the wind. There is also a section with a chain attached to the wall for extra support.

Trail Legend


Kelly Davenport

has completed South Main Range Loop once in the last year.

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Trail Reviews

A true Tararua classic and rite of passage. A favourite training loop since way back for many a mountain man and woman. Not to be underestimated, a good forecast will make this run much more fun. If you manage to get some views, savour them as the Tararua gods don't often give them up easily!

Hamish Laing

May 3, 2020

Nice mix of terrain.Easy warm up to YTYY hut then tough for a long time along Tararua peaks. Knife edge ridgeline is exciting but slow going in high wind. We ended up shooting up to Kime hut for the night as I was puking on the last climb and it seemed like the sensible thing to do.Easy downhill run out early the next morning.

Richard Persson

April 3, 2019

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