The Pylon Peak Track in the Waiorongomai Valley was opened up in 2015 and currently does not appear on the DoC web site or signs in the area. The track branches off the Low Level Pack (or Low Level Drive) Track near the end of Waiorongomai Road, crosses the Waiorongomai River, climbs to a ridgeline which it follows before climbing quite steeply to the Pylon Peak and joining up with the Kaimai Ridgeway Track (formerly the North-South Track).
There are still a few remains of the steel power pylons which were used for the power line linking the Horahora hydro-electric power station with the Waihi gold mine and Victoria Battery in the Karangahake Gorge. The power station was the first large power station on the Waikato River and on the North Island, built in 1913 and commissioned in 1914. The power station was sold to the Government in 1920, expanded, supplying power to Paeroa and further afield to Cambridge, Hamilton and Auckland, before being submerged by Lake Karapiro after the Karapiro Dam was completed in 1948.
Several tracks lead to the summit of Mt Te Aroha, the highest peak in the Kaimai Range. The most direct track leads directly from the Te Aroha Domain to the summit. A formed road, sometimes called Mountain Rd but on Google Maps shown as being part of Tui Rd, runs from the parking area by Tui Rd on the outskirts of Te Aroha to the summit. A series of walking tracks also lead from Tui Rd to the summit. This walk was done using the Tui tracks from the parking area on Tui Rd to the summit, returning back down on Mountain Rd.
The walking tracks from Tui Rd to the summit of Mt Te Aroha consist of a short part of Tui-Domain Track, Tui Link Track, the continuation of Tui Link Track (Tui Mine Track?) to the Tui Saddle, the Ridge Track to Dog Kennel Flat, and then an unnamed track (perhaps Dog Kennel Flat Track?) from Dog Kennel Flat to the summit.
The lower end of Horseman’s Track, on the western flanks of Mt Te Aroha, is near the Mokena Geyser behind the spa building in the Te Aroha Domain, at an elevation of about 50 metres above sea level. The upper end is at a junction with Mt Te Aroha Summit Track at an elevation of about 360 metres. The track can be used as an alternative to the lower end of the summit track. The lower end of Lipsey Track is next to the Te Aroha Water Treatment Plant, next to the Tui – Domain Track and accessible from Miro Street.
Both of these tracks are narrow, and mostly quite steep, with steps on many of the steepest parts. Continue reading
The Tui – Domain Track, also signposted as Tui Domain Track and on some old signs as Tui Mine Track, connects Tui Road and the Te Aroha Domain. Various side tracks lead to viewing points or other points of interest. The track is also accessible from Hamilton Street and Miro Street.
Most of the track is narrow, but with a gentle contour. Only the short track between Hamilton St Track and the Water Race Track is steep and rough. Some of the side tracks are also steep and rough. Continue reading
The Howarth Memorial Wetland is a wildlife reserve created in a disused former rubbish dump by the Waihou River in Te Aroha. The walkway runs around the perimeter of the wetlands, and is also used by cyclists.
There are several access points to the walkway. The former railway bridge off Terminus St has been converted to a walking/cycling bridge, leading across the Waihou River directly to the walkway. It’s also accessible from the netball courts on Spur St where there are also parking facilities. There is also an entry off Ritchie St, a residential street.
Mount Te Aroha in the Kaimai Range at the edge of the Hauraki Plains towers above the town of Te Aroha. At a height of 953m it is the highest mountain in the area, with the summit being used for a transmission and communication tower. Previously the mountain has seen mining (gold, silver, tin, etc) and forestry activity.
There is a road leading from Tui Rd to the summit, but this is not open to the public. Several walking and tramping tracks also lead to the summit, with the shortest and most direct being the track from the Te Aroha Domain. This is the most frequently used track. With the Domain only being about 35 metres above sea level, there is a more or less direct climb of about 920 metres to reach the summit. Continue reading
One option when returning to the carpark on Waiorongomai Rd from the upper end of the Piako County Tramway is the High Level Pack Track to the head of Butlers Incline, then the Cadman (or Buck Rock or Ruby’s) Track down to rejoin the High Level Pack Track, and the Low Level Drive. From Cadman Track there is a short but steep and rough climb to the pinnacle of Buck Rock. The total distance is about 7 km.
The Piako County Tramway in the Waiorongomai Valley was built and financed by Piako County Council in 1882-1883 to transport ore from the gold mines in the valley to the Firth and Clark Battery at the base of the valley near Waiorongomai Village. The tramway was about 5km long, and consisted of 3 level sections, joined by 3 self-acting inclines. The longest and best preserved of these is Butlers Incline, at 400m long and 25 degree slope.
The rails on the lowest incline, Fern Spur Incline, have almost all been removed or stolen. Only two very short sections at the bottom end and at the top end have been reconstruction. There is no track following the exact route of the incline, but the High Level Pack Track does give access to both ends of the incline, and goes through a cutting where the incline passed over the track.
The Waiorongomai Valley, on the south-eastern side of Mt Te Aroha, has some of my favourite walking tracks. There is a combination of easy, well-formed tracks, steeper tracks, and difficult tracks, combined with rail and gold-mining history, regenerating forestry, and expansive views.
The valley is accessible from the carpark at the end of Waiorongomai Rd, off Te Aroha – Gordon Rd, just a few kilometres from Te Aroha township. There are basic toilet facilities near the carpark. The Waiorongomai Village was situated on the flat farmland next to the carpark.
Today’s walk contains a mix of track types. It starts on the Low Level Track, continues on the Water Race Track, climbs up the steep New Era Branch Track, follows the tramline to the Butlers Incline headframe, and then takes the High Level Pack Track back to the carpark.
The Wairere Falls track is accessible from the end of Goodwin Rd, off Old Te Aroha Rd. There is a carpark at the end of the road, and the track starts by the carpark.
The track to the falls lookout is a relatively easy walk, with some steps on the way, but the track from the lookout to the top of the falls is quite steep in places. There is a lookout at the top of the falls, but the falls themselves are not visible from this lookout.
The falls are at their most spectacular after heavy rainfall over a longer period of time. During the summer months with little rainfall the stream becomes just a trickle, and not as interesting to visit. Continue reading