The Hillary Trail – For once, it is not about the emails

Timeframe: September 2017 – March 2018


I am planning to do some Tramping this season, both in the Auckland Area, and possible over in the Coromandel, and other places. I wanted to open this up to my friends and such to drop in and drop out whenever you want to do a trek. My overall goal is to walk the Hillary Trail twice this season. There are several options to complete this, and I will lay the options out below. However, I want to get into tramping, and also camping this season, so I want to do some walks this season and give friends a chance to come and join.

1.     Background (On the Trail and this project)

The Hillary trail was developed by the Auckland Regional Council between 2005 and 2009 to create and commemorate Sir Edmund Hillary’s time training in the area ahead of his expeditions in mountaineers and climbing Mount Everest. The self-guided 77km Track tramps through the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park west of Auckland.

The Trail starts at the Arataki Visitor Centre and will end at Muriwai Beach. However, there are points to get on and off the track along the way.

So… why are you walking the Hillary Trail?

I have always enjoyed hiking on some level. Mountains, hiking, the hills have always interested me, and there are periods of my life where I have taken to walking alone in parks and go hiking. One of the luckiest things in my life in that I get to live in New Zealand, a land that is awe-inspiring and diverse. For the past three years, I have worked through a lot in my life. From adjusting to life in New Zealand to the death of my close friend, and then the Bariatric Surgery, I have had a rough emotional journey. With the surgery and the resulting weight loss, a lot of the hurdles that kept me from doing the things I love have been removed. And so, after initially looking at the Milford Track, and missing out on securing accommodation, I have decided to walk the Hillary Trail to challenge myself and to finally do what I have long wanted: see and photograph the beauty of New Zealand. Being able to walk in the ranges, see the amazing stars at night away from Auckland, and taking in a whole different world than the American Midwest where I grew up.
To work up to the Hillary Trail, I will be training up in the area in the regional parks, to get to know the land better and to have some excellent walks. We will also look at walking some parts of the Hillary Trail as well.

2.     The Plan

Starting the weekend of September 16th, weather permitting, I will be looking to do a Saturday morning walk in the Auckland area. These walks will start off with between 5-10kms, and will gradually build up to 10-20kms. The walks will start between 8:00-9:30 am depending on who wants to go and where to walk (for Example, Rangitoto may be even early to catch the discounted ferry over.)  I will say that I am an early riser, so I like to start at the beginning of the day with the goal of trying to finish around midday.

Regardless of your interest in the Hillary Trail, you are more than welcome to join on a Saturday walk. If the weather is bad on Saturday, but right on Sunday, may shift days as well. There will be either a group or information on my blog about what we are doing.

3.     Training Trails

In the lead up to the Hillary Trail. Here are the tracks and trails I am looking to walk on over the course of the season.These will grow and change as we walk them. And find ones we like, ones we don’t like and new suggestions.

Name of Trail Length Average Time to walk Website Map Notes
Cossey Massey Loop Walk (Hunua Falls) 8.3kms 3 hours Auckland Council Cossey Massey Site Map of the Hunua Falls Region Park The partial closing is not bad; you walk along a road.
Montana Heritage Trail 8.0kms 4 hours Auckland Council Montana Heritage Trail Site Map of Cascade Kauri Park One of the largest remaining stand of mature kauri trees in the Auckland region
Fairy Falls-Old Coach Road Circuit 5.6 2.5 Fair Falls Trail and Old Coach Road Track Map of Cascade Kauri Park
Zion Hill – Buck Taylor – Pãraraha Valley Track Circuit 8km 4 Hours Pohutukawa Glade Walk, Zion Hill, Buck Taylor, Pãraraha Valley Track Map of Karekare Park Contains a portion of the Hillary Trail, and can walk a lot of loop trails from here.
Rangitoto Wharf, McKenzie Bay, Summit Road/Track walk. 10kms 5 hours McKenzie Bay/Summit walk details Map of Rangitoto Island A Good day Trip.

This list is just a starting list of locations and will always be researching and adding more. Also, since I am planning on camping on a portion of the Trail, I may look at doing an overnight at a campground to test out how I fare (which makes me excited), I am thinking a weekend in October or November on a portion of the Hillary Trail or nearby.

4.     The Hillary Trail

The Hillary Trail is a 77km walk that is broken up into 7 Sections.

Section name Length Time Website Travel/Accommodation Notes
Section 1: Arataki Visitor Centre to Karamatura Valley 12.3 km 4.5-6 hours Section 1 Can be picked up in Huia, or can stay and camp there (or Private accommodation)
Section 2 Karamatura Valley to Whatipu 10km 5-6 Hours Section 2  Campsite here is likely the bet, there is a lodge, but need a group to stay, and there is a minimum charge. This will be a tough day with some steep climbs. There is a short 20-minute Detour to see the summit of Mt. Donald Mclean
Section 3: Whatipu to Karekare 10.2 km 3-4 hours Section 3 Likely Pararaha Campground (or Tunnel Campground). Have contacted Karekare Beach Lodge about renting out for one night. Awaiting word back. Another challenging day, with some substantial climbs. Ocean views
Section 4: Karekare to Piha 11 km 4-5 hours Section 4 Good day, but can spend the afternoon at Piha with friends. Maybe this can be the Air BnB night? Some town walking here it seems, but also some real bush walking.
Section 5: Piha to Anawhata Farm 4.7 km 1.5-2 Hours Section 5 No stopping.
Section 6: Anawhata Farm to Te Henga 12.5 km 5-6 Hours Section 6 May need private accom here. Checking with Ara Station and Bush Sand and Sea B and B Big Descent and then ascent from a valley.
Section 7: Te Henga to Muriwai Beach 15 km 5-6 Hours Section 7 Go home. Famous Gannet Colony. And getting to the official Hillary Trail finish.


5.     Two Main Options for the Hillary Trail

I have decided that I want to try and conquer the Hillary Trail in two ways: a full, continuous walk over six days, and doing 1 stage every weekend for six weeks.

Continuous Walk Option

Duration: Jan 2-7


Day 1: Section 1 –  with a camp stay.
Day 2: Section 2 – with a camp stay
Day 3: Section 3 – with a camp stay
Day 4: Section 4 – (Friday) Afternoon at Piha Beach – Possible Group Airbnb with friends for a night at the beach.
Day 5: Section 5 and 6 – Accommodation at Ara Station, or Bush Sand and Sea BnB.
Day 6: section 7 and Finish

Notes: With this, it is a pretty big first three days of camping in the wilderness. On Day four, I/we start early and make it to Piha, where (weather permitting of course) friends and Seb are there to enjoy the afternoon on the beach. That evening, we can have an Air BnB nearby and enjoy the night away from the city. It would fall on Friday so even if people are back at work, they can come out after work. I think this is a pretty awesome idea. If not on that Friday, we may be able to book out Ara Station on Saturday, which means we can have seven people staying (with a two-night stay). This option may be good for people who want only to walk 1-2 days towards the end of the track.


Weekly stage option

I am also contemplating a less strenuous plan to the Hillary Trail. For each successive weekend in Jan and Feb, we tackle a leg of the track, with someone picking us up at the end of each day and bringing us back to our cars. People can drop in and out as they want, and it is super casual. It would be like the training Saturdays but on the actual Hillary trail.

6.     Conclusion

Overall, I would like to walk the Hillary Trail twice over the season. Doing it all at once would be a challenge I would like to work towards, and Ia m comfortable with doing that either alone or with 1-2 people if they are interested. Now, that said, the Hillary Trail is not desolate, and there will be many people on the trail, so I will not be isolated if I decide to walk on my own. I will likely fall into groups of people who are also travelling. I will also follow safety rules as well.

The weekly option is good too, and I know I will get more people who will join for some (or all) of the trail. So… I kinda want to do both if there is interest? We will see.

I am going to use my blog as well as Facebook to set up a group of people interested. If you are interested, just message me, and I will create a group/group chat. In the end, I want to push myself and accomplish this goal. I feel motivated and excited about this tramp. If I can do this, then the Milford will be easy, and who knows, maybe this will be something I enjoy doing. I know it is a big thing, and of course, I have put my planning mark on it, but don’t let that scare you. Even if you want to just go for a walk once or twice, just shout, and I will let you know where I am going next and when.

I’m really excited that I have finally found what I wanted to do. Wish me luck!

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