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South Main Range Loop , Wellington

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South Main Range Loop Experienced

Submitted by Tim Carpenter

Info Info
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Trail Information







Back country - remote



Native bush
Open tussock/grasslands
Open ridges/tops


16:00 (Slow)
12:00 (Moderate)
10:00 (Fast)



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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.

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Features of interest

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)

Make Up of Run

Technical Single Track: 100%

Route Data


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Overlapping Runs

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Wild Explorers

I did it!
  • Access

    The Otaki Gorge Road is just south of Otaki on the other side of the bridge.
    Road is in good condition but there are a couple of gravel sections, narrow bridges and a small ford (this is on concrete)

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

    20 km

    27 minutes



  • Staying Safe

    Very hard.

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

    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.

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