Middle Ridge, Clay Ridge & McKerrow Loop - Remutaka Forest Park (Day Walk)
Updated: May 11
Saturday, 8th May 2022
Location: 1039 Coast Road, Wainuiōmata, Lower Hutt. Follow the Coast Road for 10km until you reach Remutaka Forest Park (there is a big sign on your left), continue down the Catchpool Valley Road until you reach the car park and information area at the end. You will lose cellphone reception before you reach Catchpool valley.
Mum really wanted to do another Orongorongo Loop walk. We couldn't find one on the brochure that quite matched the length or challenge we were looking for, so we designed our own. Essentially, walking up the Main Ridge Track to Clay Ridge and then back down McKerrow, returning along the Orongorongo Track. We had two of our lovely friends join us, they're 9 & 10 years old. We knew the walk would be challenging but trusted that these two were tough little troopers. Luckily, we were right about that:)
The first test here is to find the beginning of Main Ridge Track. When you arrive at the Catchpool carpark, there is a large entrance with a map and information about the park. All your instincts will lead you to this gate, but it’s actually the wrong entrance. What you're looking for is a smaller opening on the north side of the carpark that leads down past a small lawn to a bridge over a creek.
As with the other trailhead, there are several of the windup information stands which discuss the park and its bird life. Our kids love these, so factor in 10 minutes for everyone to try everything.
From here you can a) take a hard right back to the main Orongorongo track, b) take a left to the Five Mile Loop track or c) straight on up the hill to the Main Ridge Track.
Main Ridge Track
Now that we'd found the start, we were ready to get going. Enthusiasm saw us up the first half of the hill, "surely you're not tired yet?!", did the rest.
That first climb was probably the hardest, but luckily everyone had fresh legs. There were a couple of views when we stopped for a breather.
After about 20 minutes, we reached the top of the ridge. From here it flattened out and the forest changed, with towering beech trees, manuka and mahoe. There were quite a few open areas to stop and eat and a few views north towards Mt Grace. There were a couple of points where the gorse had grown across the track and we had to push our way through (which the kids, in shorts, did not enjoy).
Once we reached the junction to Clay Ridge, we reflected that maybe we should have taken the Five Mile Loop to this point, as it would have been much easier going around the ridge.
Note: If you wanted a shorter walk, you could always just return down the Five Mile Loop Track from here.
Clay Ridge Track
Having completed Main Ridge, we were ready for Clay Ridge. It started relatively easy, continuing up the ridgeline.
We came across some still flowering rata, things to climb under, around and over ...and lots of new and novel plants and trees. Master 9 couldn't believe that some trees had other trees growing in them, so we got to have a little chat about what an epiphyte is.
About halfway along the ridge the track went from gradual to challenging.
As the ridge got higher it became more exposed and the forest became more vibrant. We started seeing signs showing that we'd entered the kiwi zone. The signs said to be careful and keep quiet so not to disturb them. We were only capable of one of those things, so we hoped the noise didn't upset anyone.
Everyone was 'tired' so we had a quick break. 'How much rest did we get?' I hear you ask. 'None'. We had turns swinging on vines for 10 minutes.
Near the top of the ridge there were a few spectacular views out towards Wainuiomata and the Wellington harbour. Our newly minted tramping friends (Master 9 & 10yr) were blown away at how high up we were. We celebrated with high fives and lollies. The kids observed that the wind must be fierce at times as the trees were stripped bare on their windward side.
Finally, we made it to the turn off to McKerrow Track! Everyone screamed with delight.
We'd previously decided that if we didn't make it to the top by 3pm we'd have to retrace our steps back down Clay Ridge. We were worried we’d run out of sunlight, and we knew walking the Orongorongo Track in the dark would be fine, but we weren’t sure about McKerrow.
It was 2:55pm so the kids were ecstatic.
The first part of McKerrow was beautiful, everyone's spirits rose as they realised that it was all downhill from there.
They started "boosting" - racing ahead and then waiting for us slow non-nimble-kneed adults to catch-up.
We sped down the hill in record time (running most of the way).
In just over an hour, we popped out on the Orongorongo Track. It’s flat, wide and a breeze compared to the previous 11km. We‘d originally planned to head down to the river, build a fire and toast marshmallows but we realised we were out of time. There was consensus that toasting marshmallows at home over the brazier would suffice. The kids were tired by now but managed to settle into a steady pace. Quietly chatting to each other as the light began to fade.
We took the mandatory photo on the arm of a tree.
We still had just enough energy to make the swing bridge wobble.
The sun then started to set, so we pulled out the torches to help us see the way.
The kids thought this was pretty cool.
Whoop! We made it back to the carpark, 762m up and 15.8km later. Everyone was tired so we dished out biscuits and headed home for pizza and s’mores.
Absolutely loved our day. Exhausted but happy. Sometimes you have to be challenged to get a real feeling of accomplishment.
*Below is our All Trails Map (the black dot is the carpark).
Age of Kids: Miss 7 & Master 9 (and Master 9 & 10)
Walking Time: 5.5 hours (we'd suggested giving yourself 6-7 hours as we did quite a lot of boosting).
Type of Track: Loop
Difficulty: Difficult, it’s a real tramping track. We even brought our boots.
Buggy Friendly: No
Wet Feet: Not really but we would recommend boots and tread on your shoes as it looked like it could get very slippery.
Amenities: Catchpool car park has a toilet and there is a DoC campsite at the beginning with BBQ's. There’s also a toilet at the river.
Dogs: Yes, on lead only as this is a kiwi sanctuary
Cellphone Reception: It’s a bit patchy but good reception on Clay Ridge.