Mr and Mrs Walking with Kids
Gentle Annie/River Ridge Loop - Tararua Ranges (Day Walk)
Updated: Dec 12, 2021
15 October 2021
Location: Mount Holdsworth Road, Carterton 5791
Firstly, before we even start - you're heading into the Tararua's so we'd class this as a Tramp (limited cellphone coverage, unpredictable weather, rough terrain).
You begin at Mt Holdsworth carpark where there is a toilet and information site. Take the main track up and make sure you fill in the Intentions Book (outside Holdsworth Lodge) before you begin, even if it's just a day walk.
Follow the sign posts that take you to Rocky Lookout via the Gentle Annie Track. When we first went up the Gentle Annie, we were a little confused as to why it was called 'gentle'. Having ranged a wee way through the Tararua's now, the Gentle Annie is definitely gentle in comparison to the Waiohine tracks. In saying that it is a 500m climb over 4.5km so we needed lots of stops along the way (it starts to feel like a bit of a slog). At the top of the Gentle Annie you come to Rocky Lockout which is a great spot for lunch, you can admire the view, briefly freak out while the kids climb the rocks and have a bite to eat and some respite - the big climb is over! Now everyone can relax.
After lunch we kept going along the track and came to the first intersection where you take a right and head up to the top of the ridge towards Mountain House and Powell Hut. You get great views as you cruise along the ridgeline boardwalks.
There is another tee intersection where again you take a right that leads you down the River Ridge Track. River Ridge Track is the only technical part of the loop where root dodging and orange triangle spotting is really important. It was quite boggy when we were up there too which just added to the delight of our children ("mud mud glorious mud, nothing quite like it for cooling the blood" ...it's become a tramping singalong favourite). Not far down is another tee intersection, this is where the sign looked like it was falling over in the photo below, again you hang a right and keep going down the ridge line.
More roots, more bogs and a few big trees later (some upright and others had been pushed over by Tāwhiri-rangi, the kids tried to come up with the reasons why these particular trees had been pushed over).
You'll then hear the river before you see it. Once again you're on the flat and will come across the Atiwhakatu Track where you take a right and head back towards the car park. The Atiwhakatu Track, like the Gentle Annie, is a very well made and maintained track that is easy to navigate and requires little effort for foot placement . The Track follows the river back down the valley to the car park. Just before getting there, there is one final intersection where you can veer left to follow the river through a camp ground with a couple of toilets/long drops, or you can keep to the other track and veer up slightly and follow the other half of Donnelly's Loop track around and back to the car park.
An awesome walk! You get great views (Rocky Lockout), a large variety of different forest types, a tiny feel of the alpine (a boardwalk before you cut back down River Ridge) and a beautiful river meander at the end.
Age of Kids: Miss 6 and Master 9
Walking Time: 5 hours
Difficulty: We'd grade this as moderate/hard. It's a 15km walk and there is a technical leg.
Buggy Friendly: No
Amenities: There's a toilet at the Holdsworth carpark and a long-drop if you take the left at the Donnelly's loop (right at the end of the walk... we'd personally just hang on until Holdsworth ;))
Dogs: Generally no, there is often poison drops in the Tararua's which can cause trouble.
Be Aware: Like everywhere in the Tararua ranges the weather can change quickly and there are exposed places so make sure you bring the right gear.
Kids Rating (0-10)
Overall Fun Factor: 8
Legendary Factor: 7
Would we do it again?: 6
Exhaustion Factor: 8
"It had a beautiful view but the track down was very muddy. At the top there was a big boulder which had lots of nooks. So we had to climb it :)"
Below are some screen grabs from our All Trails App (we still just have the free version)