Last Updated: 16th Nov 2023


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Dobson Loop

Upper Hutt, Wellington

Submitted by Carys Coleman

Last Updated: 16th Nov 2023


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Grunt Factor: 31 ?

Gnarl Factor: 86 ?








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Trail Map

Type of Run

Front country - easily accessible


Very hilly

Native bush


Run Makeup


Technical Single Track

Average Uphill Gradient: +12.7%

Average Downhill Gradient: -15.1%


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Estimated Times to Run







This provides a shorter alternative to the Block XVI and Kaitoke Omega loops.

From the car park the route passes through the adventure ropes course for the YMCA camp, the route is signposted. The climbing starts almost straight away, gentle at first and becoming steeper as you go. At 1.5km you will come to a fork in the track, take the left fork uphill signposted for the Marchant Ridge, the climbing is steeper from here but it doesn't last for long. Once you get to the top of the climb the route follows a wide ridge, the bush is lower so you can take in some of the views (if it isn't clouded in!).

At 5km you will reach a second fork, take the right fork downhill towards Smiths Creek and the shelter. The downhill is steep and technical, it will be slippery if the weather is or has recently been wet, take your time here. Once you are down in the valley turn right following the Dobson Track along the valley floor, the track crosses some small side creeks and over some very technical terrain. You will be climbing gently for the length of the valley track, at 10km the main climb back up to Puffer Saddle commences, this will be about 2kms. Once you get to the top of the saddle you will recognise your location from earlier, this time take the left fork back down the hill and retrace your steps to the car park.

This is a great introduction to running in the Tararuas, lots of technical terrain but not a long distance run and nearer to Wellington than the usual drive over the hill to the Wairapara.

Plenty of parking available, I would avoid leaving anything on view in your car but reasonably safe parking. No public transport.

16 km

17 minutes




The loop is fairly well sign posted and there aren't many other trails to take. Just keep an eye on the signs at the main junctions and in the valley look out for the orange DOC triangles as parts of this track can be tricky to follow. At a minimum have topo maps or view ranger on your phone for reference.

Very patchy.

Long-sleeved thermal top, Seam-sealed waterproof jacket, Windproof jacket, Gloves, Beanie/thermal headwear, Personal Locator Beacon (PLB), Whistle, First aid kit, Extra food for emergencies, Survival bag, Cellphone, Compass, Map, Gaiters

There isn't any water available on the loop but it is shorter distance run so two soft flasks or a bladder should suffice.

Expect mud and slippery conditions at any time of the year, in winter expect it to be VERY muddy and slippery - go with the grippiest trail shoes you have. Great, fun loop even in the mud.

The terrain is very technical in places and although it is close to Upper Hutt you are still in a remote and difficult to access location at the further point. Be sensible and take your time on the downhill and through the valley.

Trail Legend


Rob McCrudden

has completed Dobson Loop twice in the last year.

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Trail Reviews

Completed on 25 November 2023, a day after heavy rain, and still raining intermittently. We ran anti-clockwse. The trail was very wet - the stairs down to Smith's creek were a waterfall and we sometimes stepped in mud over our shoes. The diversion around the slip was 'interesting' - including a climb up a ladder of tree roots. Downhills on clay were very slippery, and the lower trails had been mashed up by the WAI2K runners that came through while we were up on the ridgeline. Likely to be much more runnable in the dry, but still a great day out and some beautiful bush. Definitely something a Wellington trail runner has to do at least once.

Pip Guthrey

November 26

Looking forward to running this again in summer, was a bit slippery under foot now it’s winter. Epic fun though and if you enjoy rugged Trails and getting out in nature then this trail is for you. The slips along the valley floor are passable but you need to be careful.

Daniel Bowbyes

June 5, 2021

Awesome trail! I've not (yet) run it, but have day hiked a couple of times. Will be back to run it eventually. In winter - common to see a lot of fresh pig-rooting. In summer ... common to hear the snuffles of the pigs snoozing in the bushes, and a lot of native and honey bees enjoying the Manuka along Marchant.

Going clockwise, the drop from Marchant to Smiths is pretty steep - I find this the real slow-going part. Don't know how these speedsters smash it out so quick! The clay on Puffer Saddle can become a real slippery mess (spent a lot of time on the ground slipping down this in winter!)

As you're properly in the ranges, the only toilet available is the DOC longdrop at Smiths Creek (no paper). So make sure to take whatever you need to enjoy the forest responsibly!

Jemma Buckland

January 18, 2021

Enjoyed running this track on an autumn late afternoon sun. Quite technical in places but the beautiful bush made up for that.

Rita Onosa

January 6, 2020

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