Dobson Loop Track - Tararua Ranges (Day Walk)
Updated: Sep 8
Friday, 18 June 2021
Location: Marchant Road, Kaitoke, Upper Hutt. Turn off State Highway 2 onto Marchant Road at the YMCA Camp Kaitoke turnoff. Near the end of Marchant Road is the entrance. It looked like the original car park was closed so we parked at the bottom and walked up the gravel road (maybe 1km) to the start of the track.
We completed this walk with another family, having other kids along is always a winner. This is a pretty full on walk/tramp so be prepared!
The first part of the hill climb goes up a car park road then once past the bee hives (and what looks like the original car park) it cuts into a single file track through the bush to the top of the hill. While there were some grumbles this wasn't actually very onerous (that award goes to the puffer saddle at the end).
You soon come to a fork where you can chose to walk clockwise or anticlockwise. We took the left turn (clockwise) to the top of the ridge line and around to the northeast, leaving puffer saddle for the end.
There is a bit of a slippery scramble as the track turns to clay. Once up the clay track you enter a beautiful goblin forest. This goes on for quite a way until you emerge into alpine scrub which our kids absolutely loved. The kids hadn’t really walked in an alpine landscape before so found it fascinating. We had lunch by the turn off to Alpha hut.
From here you cut down (and by down we mean straight down) to the valley below popping out just five minutes south of Smiths Creek Shelter. The walk down was stunning (and pretty technical).
The path home winds gently back up the valley, crossing a few creeks until you reach the bottom of the puffer saddle. You then scramble back up the hill until you are looking out over Kaitoke (there’s a reason it’s called puffer saddle). It‘s also slippery here so we were glad to have good tread on our shoes.
From the top of puffer you retrace your steps back down the hill to the car.
Another amazing walk! It said on all the reviews we found online 4-6 hours, but we took a good 7 hours. We left as the sun was pretty low in the sky. Everyone was exhausted but happy.
This is a great walk to get an idea for what it’s like to tramp in the Tararua’s.
Age of Kids: Miss 6 & Master 8
Walking Time: 6.5 - 7 hours
Difficulty: Medium/Difficult, but certainly manageable.
Wet Feet: Yes :), but given the track you'd want to be in your boots anyway.
Amenities: Nothing, so be prepared.
Dogs: Yes, but on leads.
Cellphone Reception: No, not out of sight of Kaitoke.
Be Aware: We came across a couple of hunters along the track so be aware of that.
Also we went around clockwise and would recommend that. The first clay track climb up from Kaitoke would be diabolical going down, as it was with the way we went Master 8 playfully counted how many times he slipped. On top of that, heading up from Smith Creek Shelter to the top of the ridge line would have been a slog. This is a serious walk so make sure you’re prepared, there’s no cellphone reception and the alpine section is exposed so you need appropriate clothing and to let someone know your plans.
Kids Rating (0-10)
Overall Fun Factor: 7
Legendary Factor: 8
Would we do it again?: 8
Exhaustion Factor: 8
"Very fun with lots of things to play with and lots of interesting places to spot. We liked the goblin forest, and the magnificent view."