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3 hikes in 3 days - the ultimate guide for active explorers in Manawatū


A long weekend in nature is a chance to reconnect with what matters. Swap the concrete jungle for the lush native bush, the sound of traffic for colourful birdsong, and the chaos of the city for the calm of the forest.

Whether you’re a local or visiting from afar, get ready to roam and tick off this trio of iconic Manawatū hikes. Accessible to a range of fitness levels, you can also enjoy these hikes with tamariki in tow.


3 days


- Te Āpiti - Manawatū Gorge Track
- Sledge Track
- Rangiwahia Hut Track


DAY 1.

Palmerston North & Manawatu | Walk | Te-Apiti Manawatu Gorge
Te Āpiti - Manawatū Gorge

Day 1.

A national taonga nestled in the outskirts of Ashurst and Palmerston North, Te Āpiti Manawatū Gorge is where the Ruahine and Tararua ranges meet – with the dramatic landscape and great divide known as Manawatū Gorge flowing from east to west. 

There’s a large parking area with toilet facilities before you pass under the intricately carved entrance way – as the cultural history and legends of this place come to life right from your very first steps. 

Popular with walkers, hikers, and runners alike, the 4km Tawa loop track takes you from flowing streams and waterfalls through to stunning nikau palms, tawa and podocarp forest. The steady 5% gradient offers a solid cardio challenge with a  variety of native birds and plants that will keep budding active explorers entertained along the way. 

If you’re an early bird, the morning light at Te Āpiti Manawatū Gorge is also a little bit magical – a mesmerising sight as the first rays of the sun filter through the lush evergreen foliage with native bird song abound. 

Eager for more? If you’re searching for a longer challenge, take on the 11km Manawatu Gorge one-way track that follows part of the Tawa Loop but continues towards the tops.

Before you turn off from the Tawa Loop, make sure you pay homage to the mighty Whātonga, a majestic ancient Māori Chief nestled within the lush green forest. Over 6 metres tall, this impressive steel structure is an artistic feat to behold as it looms over ancient trees.

Day 2.

Swimming holes, waterfalls and even a Love’s Crossing, the Sledge Track is another popular spot for active explorers wanting to escape to the great outdoors, , without driving for hours. 

Located behind Massey University up along Kahuterawa Rd, the Sledge Track is another hidden hiking gem. With its fairly easy-to-moderate 10.9km return track, you’ll be surrounded by pristine wilderness after a short 20 minute drive from Palmerston North city. 

The Sledge Track is also dog friendly so you can take your four legged pal with you – on a leash of course. The track starts smoothly, with a leisurely 30 minute meander along the river, winding past scenic picnic spots and swimming holes. 

From the Argyle Rocks, the track begins to climb towards the Toe Toe junction for the next 1.5 kms. 

Keep an eye out for an epic swing bridge along the way, where some walkers choose to cross for a loop journey over the gully and through the popular Arapuke Mountain Bike Park. After the swing bridge there is a steady incline to the top of the ridge. Keep an eye out for mountain bikers traveling at speed if you decide to take on these shared paths. 

Otherwise, continue to Toe Toe junction, where the Platinum Mines Loop Track and the Otangane Loop Track are beckoning – both of which are suited for more experienced trampers. 

sledge track walk Manawatu

Day 2.

Sledge Track

DAY 3.

Palmerston North & Manawatu | Rangiwahia track walk Manawatu
Rangiwahia Hut Track

Day 3.

Located in Northern Manawatū just outside the charming village of Āpiti, the 4.4 km (2-3 hrs) hike up to Rangiwahia Hut Track is a great day hike or overnight hut experience offering dramatic views across the magnificent maunga, as far as Mt Ruapehu. 

Once renowned for its skiing history, the track today is well-graded and takes you through some remarkable vistas – a stunning arched wooden bridge, deep ravines, red beech forests and enchanting Middle Earth scenery are sure to take your breath away. 

Calm the mind amongst the quiet serenity and sweeping native bush of the Rangiwahia Hut Track. The steady incline to the tussock tops along the Whanahuia Range is a decent cardio fix but is absolutely doable and definitely worth the effort. 

Stay overnight in Rangiwahia Hut, a serviced, cosy 12-bunk hut with water from tap (not treated so you’ll need to boil before use), a wood burner (firewood is supplied) and the most incredible views of Mt Ruapehu. Photographers and are in for a treat – your Instagram feed will be alight with spectacular sunset skies, a gorgeous bubbling waterfall and rugged tussock grasslands. Even the beautifully-painted toilets are a highlight – and are certainly a loo with a view. 

Strap on your hiking boots, pack extra warm layers and bring a camping stove for the ultimate overnighter. Book online at the Department of Conservation website to secure your bunk for the night. 

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