The Kaniwhaniwha Nikau Loop Walk, on the northern flanks of Mount Pirongia in the Pirongia Forest Park, starts at the Kaniwhaniwha Reserve on Limeworks Loop Road. The track follows the Kaniwhaniwha Stream from the road to the forest park, before branching off in various directions, including tracks to the summit of Mt Pirongia. The track alongside the river and the Nikau Loop Track are well formed with a very easy gradient, suitable for pushchairs or wheelchairs. The track to the Kaniwhaniwha caves branches off from the loop track, and is rougher but not steep. Mountain bikes are permitted on the Nikau Loop Walk, but dogs are not allowed without a special permit, except for guide dogs
Parking is available by the Kaniwhaniwha Reserve on Limeworks Loop Rd, both ends of which connect to Te Pahu Rd. Entry to the parking area and reserve is adjacent to a one-lane bridge over the Kaniwhaniwha Stream. The address should be 602 Limeworks Loop Rd if a number had been assigned, since it’s next to the entrance to number 600. A basic DoC toilet is next to the parking area and the start of the track, and there are toilets at the campsite about 45 minutes walk from the road and adjacent to the Nikau Loop Walk.
The entry off Limeworks Loop Rd to the carpark and Kaniwhaniwha Reserve. The smoke is from 3 kettles used to heat water, with the fires lit by DoC workers.
The reserve when returning from the walk, after the smoke has cleared. There are swimming and picnic spots within the reserve. The parking area is on the right.
The access to Pirongia Forest Park and the Nikau Loop Walk is next to the toilet by the carpark. The initial part of the track is only a few metres long, before reaching and crossing Limeworks Loop Rd.
The crossing point on Limeworks Loop Rd, with the one-lane bridge over the Kaniwhaniwha Stream on the right.
Judging by the rope swing this is used as a swimming spot in summer. Only a few metres from the Limeworks Loop Rd crossing point.
Information panels (visible in the above photo just to the left of the tree trunk) show details about the walks in the Pirongia Forest Park.
The Nikau Loop is the small loop track just above the Campsite icon. North is actually to the right, so the access track and the loop run more or less in a north-south direction.
The unnamed track passing the Kaniwhaniwha Caves and the tallest kahikatea tree is the Bell Track to the summit. The Tahuanui Track to the summit is part of Te Araroa, the walking trail from Cape Reinga to Bluff.
The track from Limeworks Loop Rd is used as a vehicle access road for servicing the campsite. It is bordered by regenerating native vegetation for most of the way on both sides. The Kaniwhaniwha Stream is on the right, just behind the narrow strip of vegetation.
An old ford across Kaniwhaniwha Stream.
Looking upstream towards Mt Pirongia. The summit is not easily visible from the track, but is off-picture to the left, but hidden by foreground hills and vegetation. Part of the forest park can be seen above the stream, to the left of the grassed area.
Shortly before reaching the campsite and the Nikau Loop the campsite service road continues on alongside the fence, while the walking tracks branch off to the right.
The walking and cycling track is narrower, but still well formed and with a very easy gradient. There are no steps or steep areas on this part of the track.
The track across the bridge leads to the Nikau Loop and the Bell Track to the caves and the summit. The track on the far left leads to the campsite and the Tahuanui Track to the summit of Mt Pirongia.
The campsite, with toilets and access to the stream for water supply. Tahuanui Track continues at the far end of the campsite, just to the right of the toilet buildings.
Returning from the campsite to the bridge leading to the Nikau Loop and Kaniwhaniwha caves.
A short distance from the bridge is the northern end of the loop track. Cyclists are advised to ride the loop in a clockwise direction, and walkers in an anti-clockwise direction. The right hand branch also leads to the start of the track to the caves and Bell Track to the summit.
Bell Track to the caves branches off to the right from the Nikau Loop track. The caves are about 300 metres and a 5-minute walk from this junction.
The Bell Track to the caves is slightly uneven in places, but still with a gentle gradient.
The cave access is a short track branching off Bell Track. There are a few steps, and an information panel on the left.
The information panel, showing the cave layout, both in a birds-eye view and a side view.
The cave entrance, with warning sign. Apparently it’s possible to walk through the 30 metre long cave, but it is narrow in places and may require getting down on hands and knees.
The cave entrance drops down quite steeply, and only a few metres from the entrance it was too narrow to walk through with a backpack, so the caving venture ended here.
Back to the Nikau Loop walk, a few of the nikau palms can be seen here alongside the track.
There are bridges on all the stream crossings, making for an easy family walk.
Mount Pirongia seen from Te Pahu Road.
The GPS tracklog shows the tracks walked, starting and ending at the carpark at the top of the picture. An attempt was also made to visit the tall kahikatea tree by Bell Track after visiting the caves, but time and tiredness necessitated turning around before reaching the destination. The various distances and times were as follows:
Total distance shown on the tracklog: 7.8 km, including visit to campsite and caves.
Carpark to junction: 2.5 km, 35 minutes (30 minutes on return).
Carpark to campsite: 2.8 km, 40 minutes.
Nikau Loop Track to caves: 300m, 5 minutes.
Loop track from/to junction: 1.75 km, 25 minutes.
Doing the Nikau Loop alone would have been 6.75 km, 1 hour 30 minutes.
The aerial image, from Google Maps, shows the same area, with the access track alongside the Kaniwhaniwha Stream clearly visible from the reserve at top right to the forest boundary.
The topographic map extract shows the area covered by the walk.
The tracks were walked on June 10, 2018.