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Walks in Manawatū

Take a wander through ancient native bush, groves of kahikatea and tōtara, riverside beauty, high-altitude tussock country, or through magnificent gorges – Manawatū’s trails are full of surprises.

Whether you’re looking for a short stroll close to Palmerston North city, or you’re keen to stretch your legs further out in the region, we’ve brought you the must-do walks of below: from super easy strolls, to trails for those who are up for a challenge. So strap on your boots, pack some snacks and get set for an adventure. 

Manawatū River Pathway & He Ara Kotahi Pathway (9.86km one way, 7.1km one way, beginner)

The jewel in Manawatū’s trail network, venture along the shared Manawatū River Pathway and you’re just as likely to find parents pushing buggies, kids scooting along the flat asphalt walkway, marathon runners in training and locals on their daily loop.

He Ara Kotahi is another riverside pathway that connects the city with Massey University and Linton Military Camp. Be awestruck by the 194m He Ara Kotahi bridge, designed to look like a fallen karaka tree from above. Lit up at night by luminous spheres, it’s perfect for an after-dark adventure 

Pettifar and Gilchrist Loop Tracks (4.2km and 3.2km, beginner to intermediate)

Take your pick from two loop tracks in the magnificent Tōtara Reserve Regional Park –348 hectares of native bush, river flats, and hills – or combine them for a figure-of-eight circuit, each taking 1-2 hours.). Traverse gorgeous terraces that lead to the Pohangina River, through groves of kahikatea forest, and amongst the mighty totara trees reaching towards the sky. Keep an ear out for the colourful chorus of tūī, fantail, bellbird and kererū along the way. 

Rangiwahia Bush Reserve Walk (2.8km return, intermediate)

Early settlers preserved this area of ancient virgin bush because it was an ideal water catchment for the growing village.

Nowadays, it’s a pristine nature reserve abundant in birdlife, and one of the region’s top spots to encounter  magnificent giants of the forest, untouched throughout history. Take some time to read the informative signs at the base of the trees and learn something about New Zealand’s natural taonga (treasures). 

Rangiwahia Hut Track (4.2km one way, intermediate)

Perfect for those new to overnight tramping, this pleasant walk takes you up through beech forest and onto the open tussock tops of the Ruahine Ranges, where you can stay at the 13-bunk DOC hut at an altitude of 1327m.

Those hiking the track on a clear day are greeted with spectacular views towards the central plateau and Manawatū plains below. Don’t miss the waterfall and its pristine mountain pool near the top of the track. 

Te Āpiti – Manawatū Gorge Walk (11km one way, intermediate)

For native bush, greywacke ranges, bountiful birdlife, and awe-inspiring views of Te Āpiti – Manawatū Gorge, this one-way track is jam-packed full of scenery.

Lace up your hiking boots and get a feel for one of the most significant landmarks in the area, from the river to the rails and to the wind farms above. Immerse yourself in the gorge’s rich history as you tune into the birdsong of tūī and bellbirds, pausing at the five viewpoints to snap some pics for the ‘gram. Walk all the way through and organise return transport or walk halfway and return the way you came. 

Tawa Loop (4km return, intermediate)

Short on time? For all the same wilderness and beauty of the Te Āpiti – Manawatū Gorge, but in under half the distance and half the time, the Tawa Loop is for you.

Part way through, you’ll come across a 6m-tall metal sculpture of ancient Māori chief, Whātonga – a warrior who famously journeyed across the Pacific to Aotearoa in the 12th century 

Bledisloe Park to Old West Road (3.2 km one way, intermediate)

Close to the city yet a world away, you’ll see all sorts on this beautiful section of the Te Araroa trail – native bush, pine forest, farmland, and the gently-flowing Turitea Stream. Follow the track to the Massey Arboretum where you can find a moment of calm and tranquillity surrounded by rare, exotic trees of all sizes.

Bledisloe Park is a gorgeous place to linger before or after your walk, with the peaceful birdsong the perfect soundtrack for your nature escape. Arrive at the Atawhai Road access point and finish here, or carry on to the Turitea Walkway. 

Fern Walk, Tōtara Reserve (5km return, intermediate)

A gem of nature that’s a perfect backdrop for a round or two of I-Spy, spot tūī, fantail, and kererū dancing throughout the tōtara, matai, rimu and kahikatea trees along the Fern Walk. The combination of ancient forest, bird life, and sweeping views of the Ruahine Ranges is hard to beat. Don’t forget to stop at the epic lookout point on the upper terrace to snap that 10/10 selfie. 

Sledge Track (11km, beginner to advanced)

Reconnect with nature on this much-loved meander through the heart of the Kahuterawa Valley. The first half-hour of the Sledge Track is perfect for families – let the sound of pīwakawaka and tranquil waterfalls guide the way. Cool down on a hot day with a refreshing dip in the swimming hole, surrounded by leafy green ferns and fronds.

After this, it becomes quite steep, but experienced trampers will be in their element surrounded by some of the region’s most spectacular scenery. At one point, there is a bridge that leads into Arapuke Mountain Bike Park - be sure to look out for cyclists as you walk this multi-use track 

Manawatū is chocca with beautiful walks, from the easy to the challenging – it’s certainly the best way to immerse yourself in the stunning natural landscape of the area, and it’s good for the soul!

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