Hiking the Lake Waikaremoana Track in New Zealand

Hiking the Lake Waikaremoana Track in New Zealand

Lake Waikaremoana, one of the Nine Great Walks, is not a highly-visited track in a remote location on the North Island. Located in the Te Urewera rainforest, this walk brings you through an area that is highly spiritual for the Maori people and still home to several Maori tribes.

While the Lake Waikaremoana Track is one of the least popular among the Great Walks, it is a unique walk around half of Lake Waikaremoana through the lush rainforest. Read on to learn about hiking the Lake Waikaremoana Track!

Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk
Lake Waikaremoana

Content and photographs provided by Yana Kogan and Timon.

Guide to Hiking the Lake Waikaremoana Track

Getting There

Lake Waikaremoana is within Te Urewera National Park about three hours southeast of Rotorua towards Napier. This rainforest is only accessible by 70km of gravel roads. The roads can get muddy and very slick when wet. This park was once managed by the DOC; however, it was recently given back to the local Mauri tribe to manage all of the huts.

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Best Time to Visit

Lake Waikaremoana Track
View from the road driving into Te Urewera

Lake Waikaremoana is a year-round track. Huts and campsites require prior bookings. Summer is the best time to visit Waikaremoana when it is not the rainy season.


How Many Days to Stay

This hike is a two or three-day hike. The track is easy with only one incline/decline up the Panekiri Bluff. For more details on hut locations, distances and maps, check out the DOC website for the Lake Waikaremoana Track.


How to Book

Huts and tent camping must be booked prior to hiking. Campsites cost $14 pp and huts cost $32 pp year-round. Book online for in-season at the DOC’s website.


Transportation

You have two options for traveling to and from Lake Waikaremoana – take your vehicle rental or take a pre-arranged shuttle from Wairoa. If you decide to drive yourself, a 4WD is not a must, but note that some parts of the road are unsealed. It can also be narrow and windy in some places, so be cautious.

You can pre-arrange to take the shuttle to Lake Waikaremoana with the Wairoa i-SITE Visitor Information Center either via email or phone.

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Our Experience Hiking Lake Waikaremoana

Distance and Elevation Gain

Waikaremoana Walk
Walking through the bush

Distance: 27.6 miles / 44.4 kilometers
Elevation: 4,659 feet (1,421m) ascent, 4,724 feet (1,440m) descent
Time: two days (11 hours 50 minutes)


Day 1: Hopuruahine dropoff to Waiopaoa Hut

Great Walk Lake Waikaremoana
Walking along the lake’s edge

From the dropoff at Hopuruahine, it is three and half hours to Marauiti Hut, the midpoint and a good place for lunch. It is another three hours to Waiopaoa Hut. This hike is moderately flat through lush rainforest with a couple of viewpoints of the lake.

Distance: 17.6 miles / 28.3 kilometers
Elevation: 1,690 feet (516m) ascent, 1,765 feet (538m) descent
Time: six hours 50 mins


Day 2: Waiopaoa Hut to Onepoto and shuttle back to Big Bush Holiday Park

Lake Waikaremoana Track
Some days come with no views…

From Waiopaoa Hut, there is a two and half hour incline up the bluff to Panekiri hut. Panekiri hut is atop the bluff and a good place for a stop, hopefully with clear views. This is known as the best view of the hike. From Panekiri, it is another two and half hours descending to the Onepoto track entrance.

Distance: 10 miles / 16.1 kilometers
Elevation: 2,969 feet (905m) ascent, 2,959 feet (902m) descent
Time: five hours


Day Hike Alternative 

With good weather, a day hike option would be to park at Onepoto and day hike up to Panekiri hut and return to Onepoto. This is the best place on the hike for views. Expect this return hike to take 5-7 hours including breaks.

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Important Things to Know

  • Be prepared for rain and mud. This track is in dense rainforest. With heavy rain, mud can be ankle-deep.
  • Bring dry socks and clothes for each day of the hike.
  • The only phone signal that works in Te Urewera National Park is Vodaphone.
  • Food is very limited and extremely expensive, do not expect to make any purchases around the lake. Stock up before you come.
  • Make sure to fill up on petrol in Wairoa or Murupara.  It costs $4 per liter in Te Urewera.
  • Huts do not have cooking stoves on this track.
  • Water is available at each hut. Water is not filtered and you can filter/boil it for your own precaution; however, hut water is almost always drinkable in all of New Zealand.

That’s it – have a wonderful walk trip at Lake Waikaremoana


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