Exploring the wild west coastline near Auckland:
Hiking and trail running the Hillary Trail

21-23 February 2017: Fastpacking the Hillary Trail

We had a few days spare at the end of our NZ trip and were enthralled by descriptions of the Waitakere Ranges. We later realised that this area is home to the Hillary Trail, which is the site of a famous trail run! The record for the 80km trail run is just over 8 hours. Alternatively, it’s marketed as a four day overnight hike where you carry your tent and gear. We wanted to do something in between the two options and came up with a plan to fastpack it.

We did it in three days, leaving plenty of time to explore the mountains and beaches. We stayed at lodges in the seaside villages which meant that we got away with just carrying our small running packs.

The trail starts just 30 minutes from Auckland. But the sheer cliffs, rugged hills and black sands give it a wild remote feel. The trail traverses coastal cliffs through rainforests and waterfalls, from sleepy seaside village to sleepy seaside village. Despite the beauty of the trails, we barely saw another sole outside the villages. It’s easy to see why someone like Edmund Hillary would’ve loved this area!


How to…

Our fastpacking plan: I’m using the term fastpacking loosely as we stayed in a lodge and a B&B, rather than sleeping out under the stars!
Getting to the start It’s a point-to-point hike so there’s logisitics around getting to the other end. There’s a few different options – we left our hire care at Muriwai and got a lift to Arataki visitor centre from http://www.bikeandhike.co.nz/  who we thought were awesome! Alternatively, there’s public transport options outlined at http://regionalparks.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/hillary-trail however this means leaving the trail early and missing some amazing parts.
Night 1 we stayed at Whatipu Lodge, which is a beautifully kept, historic lodge about 24km along the trail. The lodge has linen and kitchen facilities so we bought some freeze dried camping food that we cooked up in the kitchen! Bookings are essential and it’s not open all the time, so e-mail them before making too many plans (without the Lodge you’d either need to run or carry a tent).
Night 2 we stayed in Piha, another 22km along the trail. There’s a few B&Bs to choose from here, plus a few cafes, eateries and even a mini-store to stock up on supplies.
Night 3 The trail ends at Muriwai, which also has a few cafes, eateries and B&Bs along with an amazing new campground. This was a pretty long day – 30km including a detour into Bethell’s Beach.

What we took We carried about 6kg all up between the two of us excluding water. We probably only got away with such small packs because it was summer and the weather forecast was perfect. We started out with food for two days (a freeze dried meal and heaps of muesli bars and snacks) as the only place to re-stock food on weekdays was Piha. Each day, we set out with 2-3L of water each, as water was pretty scarce along the trail.

Starting point: Arataki Visitors Centre
Distance: It’s between 70km and 80km depending on detours.
Notes: The trail is steep, technical and rutted out in many parts.


Map The trail is well marked and you can pick up a free map at the Arataki Visitors Centre. There’s also heaps of information at: http://regionalparks.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/hillary-trail/map

Links to other adventures: