Kauaeranga Kauri Trail – The Pinnacles Track
The track up to the Pinnacles in the Coromandel Forest Park, is one of my favourite local hikes. I usually make it up and back in a day walk of under 6 hours, at a very leisurely pace with at least an hour or so at the top. The Web Creek track starts from the Kaueranga Road end via the Hydro Camp. There are a couple of alternatives – including a return via the Billy Goat Track, which adds an hour or so to the return journey, or you can make it an overnighter, and stay at the Pinnacles hut.
This was the first time I had been up the Kauaeranga Valley since some heavy flooding and slips blocked parts of the road and tracks a year or so ago, so I was interested to see how everything was looking. I drove around 13kms up Kaueranga Valley Road to the DOC Visitor Centre, via the (mostly) sealed road. It is definitely worth a stop at the visitor centre, for information on the local area, walking tracks, wildlife and much more. Past the visitor centre it was another 9km drive on unsealed road, which was in excellent condition. The repairs from the flood event was evident with new bridges and reinforced sections. I drove past the numerous campsites and parked at the Kauaeranga Valley road end.
Before entering the forest to head up the Pinnacles, I stopped at the new cleaning station to wash off my shoes. This prevents the spread of Kauri dieback disease which is sadly killing our beautiful native Kauri trees. This area was logged of most of its Kauri in the past (for use in the gold mining industry nearby). This makes it even more important to protect what we have now. Once clean, I headed off up the trail.
The walk to the Pinnacles hut is a moderate uphill walk and varies from being a wide and beautifully formed gravel track, to a long stretch of stone steps, to a rutted and washed out stony track. On this occasion it wasn’t very muddy, and there were only a few little river crossings, some swing bridges and alternative flood detour track options.
There were a couple of sections where the recent flooding was particularly evident, and in one case a warning of a still-unstable area.
If you need a rest on the way up to the Pinnacles, you can stop at the ‘Hydro Camp’ area, and from there it’s around 30 minutes to the Pinnacles hut. This section was less steep, more undulating and has some great views across to the rocky outcrops of the Pinnacles. It took me an hour and forty minutes at an easy pace to reach the hut from the car park.
The Pinnacles hut is a serviced 80 bed Doc hut (a palace compared to most huts) and booking are essential. On this weekend in early Spring the hut was fully booked on both Saturday and Sunday night.
To the summit
From the hut was a short slog up the final stretch of steps to the rocky pinnacles. I’ve been up here before in a howling gale, and have had to resort to crawling on my hands and knees before being forced by the weather to turn back. Thankfully, today the conditions were perfect.
The final section is the most exciting part of the trail. It involved climbing several vertical, exposed ladders, and scrambling up, over and through rocky sections. In some places iron rungs are bolted into the rocks for your convenience. If you don’t have a head for heights, you’ll need to take this part slowly 🙂
There are spectacular views from the 759m Pinnacles summit. The perfect lunch spot is on the main platform. This faces the coast and is sheltered from the wind.
It is also possible to scramble up and over the rock to get a view from the very top of the Pinnacles themselves. It’s well worth the effort. There are excellent views across the mountains and the bush to the Eastern Coromandel coastline, and down into the Bay of Plenty.
I ate my lunch and chatted to the other trampers at the top. While I was at the summit, I saw around 15 other people come and go.
I took a slow walk back via the same track, but an alternative is to take the Billy Goat track on your return. During my descent I passed the masses who were going up to stay at the hut that night.
Once down, I cleaned my shoes again at the cleaning station before the car park and then slowly headed home.
If you’re making the trip in summer the DOC Brochure details some extra, shorter walks in the Kauaeranga Valley. Be sure to stop in at the Hoffman’s Pools swimming hole on the way back for a bracing dip!!
More details on things to do in the Kauaeranga Valley can be found here.