Field Hut from Otaki Forks - Tararua Ranges (Overnight Tramp)
Updated: Mar 11
Saturday 20th November - Sunday 21st November 2021
Location: Shield Carpark, Otaki Gorge, Otaki
**before you start this tramp check the status re the slip
We loved this tramp! Such a great one for young trampers (although we wouldn’t suggest it as their first tramp). It’s challenging - but you get all the benefits of altitude.
Park your car near the locked gate on the flat just past Shield Hut. The temporary track is 300m along the road on your right. Follow the orange arrows (this wasn't so obvious to us). The temporary track is designed to take you around a pretty significant slip on the main road (it’s about a 3 hour detour). Some people walk across the slip, although there is lots of signage saying no pedestrian access. We'd be super dubious crossing the slip if there had been a lot of rain.
Once at the Otaki Forks campground you cross a very sturdy swing bridge (there's an intentions book just before the bridge - make sure you sign it). From here the track starts to climb towards Field Hut, we thought it never got too steep but it also doesn't let up - it's about 3-4 hours uphill. We think that's why it's such a great walk for the kids, it's challenging but manageable. The first part of the track winds up over the forks with great views of the surrounding ranges. It's open to start with so we pulled out our sunhats and sun screen. We all got too hot so ended up taking quite a few water breaks. We used most of our ‘incentives’ up in the first half of this day…luckily there wasn't much need for them on the second day :)
About an hour up you reach the bush line. The shade was a welcome relief and everyone's spirits rose as we started to gain altitude and to catch glimpses of our beloved Tararua Ranges through the trees.
Field Hut is about 800m and has some spectacular views from the helipad (just above the Hut). The Hut is one of the oldest in the Tararua Ranges but it has all the usual comforts, it's also two stories - which the kids thought was superb. There's even a window on the top floor that acts as an emergency exit. Because of it's altitude it does get quite cold overnight, if you're used to the valley huts you need to be prepared for that.
From Field Hut you can head further up to Table Top (there is a sign outside the hut). It says it's an hour walk up (2 hours return). We dropped off our packs and had a good 1-2 hour break before deciding that we had just enough energy to check it out before dinner time. The good news was that it only took us 40min up and 25min back. The even better news was that it was the highlight of the tramp. We were blessed with a perfectly still, sunny day. The views were breathtaking, it felt like we were on top of the world (it's 1050m high). The kids could see from the South Island up to Mt Taranaki. If you are going to get all the way up to Field, you'd be mad not to go that little bit further to Table Top.
They loved playing in the flax at the top of the world.
Back to the hut for dinner, marshmallow's and a beautiful sunset from the helipad (the girls now have charcoal war paint tradition)
Day two we returned along the same track - because we'd done all the hard work climbing the day before it was an easy walk, pretty much all down hill. Once back at the Otaki Forks campsite, we popped down to the river to bathe our hot feet. A storm was heading our way so we didn't have a swim. There's a lot of beautiful swimming holes though so we'd highly recommend putting that onto the To Do list.
Age of Kids: Miss 6 and Master 9.
Walking Time: 5 hours in and 4 out.
Length: We're not 100% sure but think including Table Top it might have been around 14-16km (all trails says 12.4 but it stopped for a while + we didn't record the extra time from Field Hut to Table top.
Difficulty: We would put this down as moderate because of the good condition of the track and the gradient not being too steep. There are a couple of technical parts, albeit infrequent (so some scrambling is required.)
Buggy Friendly: No.
Amenities: The campground has a toilet and the hut has all the usual things, including a long drop.
Dogs: Generally no, there is often poison drops in the Tararua Ranges so check out the DOC website
Be Aware: As always, keep an eye on the weather. Field Hut is 800m up and the weather is unpredictable and can get very cold. We've also been told there are frequent car break-in's down at Shield Carpark so if you can get dropped off/picked up that might be a good idea. In saying that there is no cellphone reception at the carpark. We did find spots of cell reception along the walk.
Kids Rating (0-10)
Overall Fun Factor: 8
Legendary Factor: 8
Would we do it again?: 9
Exhaustion Factor: 6
"We loved jumping around in the bushes and enjoyed the view at Table Top. We built our own fire and that was pretty cool too"