If you’re looking to do an overnight tramp this summer then without a doubt one our top picks is the Rangiwahia Hut Track, located in northern Manawatu. Here Phil Hildred shares his experience of walking the track with a group of friends and their sons.

I’ve been making plans for this summer, which got me thinking about one of my favourite walks in the Ruahine Ranges – the Rangiwahia Hut Track.  Last summer, a group of friends and our teenage sons were considering an easy overnight tramp, not too far from Palmerston North or Feilding and decided on Rangiwahia Hut Track. Given it’s within an hour of the city, and the fact that we could book beds (required only between November and April), this gave us peace of mind knowing we had a guaranteed bed for our group of ten.  

Walking up the stairs on the Rangiwahia Hut Track walk

The weather was on our side, although like any alpine track you need to be prepared for all weather, as it can change dramatically even on the hottest summer’s day.  From the carpark we chose the direct route instead of Deadmans Track. The 2-3 hour walk up is on a well-marked track with a steady climb through native forest with some great viewing spots, perfect for catching your breath. The track crosses a spectacular deep ravine with great photo opportunities of the beautiful arched-wooden bridge that you have to cross. The track is slightly steeper from here and the trees turn into shrubs, until you pop out into open tussock tops of the Ruahine Ranges to reach Rangiwahia Hut. 

Walking through the tussock at the Rangiwahia Hut Track

On a clear day there are incredible views from the hut, stretching from northern Manawatu, Rangitikei, the northern Ruahine Ranges and the Central Plateau – we were lucky enough to wake up to a view of Mount Ruapehu.  The hut has 12 beds, a wood burner, a water tank, a large table and plenty of space, make sure you pack a gas burner if you’re planning on a hot meal or drink, candles and a torch.  DOC keeps a supply of firewood for the wood burner.  The two toilets (long drops) would be one of the cleanest and most modern I’ve seen in a DOC hut in New Zealand and they are beautifully painted on the outside with a mural to blend in with the native bush backdrop.  There is limited mobile reception at the hut, which is great if you need to contact home, just don’t tell the teenagers!   

At the top Rangiwahia Hut Track

After a great night’s sleep and with good weather forecast, we decided to take the long way back to the carpark via Deadmans Track. This is a well-marked track that takes your further up the Ruahine Ranges to Mangahuia Trig at 1583m. From the trig, there are marker poles to help lead you down the tussock ridge and back into the forest. This route from the hut back to the carpark took us around 4-5 hours and even though we were very happy to see the carpark, it was a very rewarding tramp. 

Walking down the Rangiwahia Hut Track

Words and photography by Phil Hildred.

For more details on these tracks and for up to date weather information and alerts please visit the Department of Conversation website.

Looking to stay a little longer?

To discover more stunning landscapes, activities and friendly locals see

our guide to exploring northern Manawatu