Walking in Manawatū opens up ancient native bush, groves of kahikatea or tōtara, riverside beauty, adventures into high-altitude tussock country, or through magnificent gorges. Whether you’re looking for active things to in Palmerston North city itself or you don’t mind driving, we’ve brought you the must-do walks of Manawatū below: from super easy strolls, to trails for those who are up for a challenge.
Mt Lees Reserve (1.8 or 3km return, beginner)
This is a sheltered bushwalk in a gorgeously tranquil rural area. It has two easy loop trails and the gravel track is suitable for pushchairs. There are many huge trees that survived a fire years ago before the land was regenerated and made into the wonderful reserve it is today. Look out for the huge 1,000-year-old kahikatea tree, as well as the 600-year-old pukatea, which is listed as one of New Zealand’s most distinctive trees.
Mt Lees Reserve, Manawatū
Manawatū River Pathway & He Ara Kotahi Pathway (9.86km one way, 7.1km one way, beginner)
The shared Manawatū River Pathway is a great way to appreciate the Manawatū River, and it’s a flat asphalt walkway, with many access points along the way. He Ara Kotahi is another riverside pathway, a brand new one that connects the city with Massey University and Lincoln Military Camp. The 194m He Ara Kotahi bridge, designed to look like a fallen karaka tree from above, is lit up at night by luminous spheres.
He Ara Kotahi Pathway, Manawatū
Pettifar and Gilchrist Loop Tracks (4.2km and 3.2km, beginner to intermediate)
These two loop tracks in the beautiful Tōtara Reserve Regional Park – some 348 hectares of bush, river flats, and hills – and form a figure eight if you do them both (each loop takes 1-2 hours). They take you down some gorgeous terraces that lead to the Pohangina River. The wet areas hold groves of kahikatea forest, and the drier areas have a lot of tōtara.
Totara Reserve Regional Park, Manawatū
Rangiwahia Bush Reserve Walk (2.8km return, intermediate)
This is a stand of ancient virgin bush, preserved by settlers because it was considered to be a good water catchment for the village. The birdlife is prolific and many of the trees have been signposted – it’s one of the best places to see some magnificent giants of native trees, untouched through history.
Rangiwahia Bush Reserve, Manawatū
Rangiwahia Hut Track (4.2km one way, intermediate)
This pleasant walk takes you up through beech forest and onto the open tussock tops of the Ruahine Ranges, where you can stay at the DOC hut at an altitude of 1327m. In clear weather, the views are spectacular, with the central plateau and Manawatū plains far below. Make sure you check out the waterfall and its pristine mountain pool near the top of the track.
Te Āpiti – Manawatū Gorge Walk (11km one way, intermediate)
For native bush, trails past greywacke ranges, rich birdlife, and awe-inspiring views of Te Āpiti – Manawatū Gorge, this one-way track is magnificent – it’s a way to get a feel for one of the most significant landmarks in the area. If you’re walking all the way through you’ll need to organise transport at the other end. Alternatively, walk halfway and then go back the way you came.
Te Āpiti, Manawatū
Tawa Loop (4km return, intermediate)
This track is also in Te Āpiti – Manawatū Gorge, and is a good shorter option to the Gorge Walk, but with all the same wilderness and beauty. Halfway through, you’ll come across a 6m-tall metal sculpture of ancient Māori chief, Whātonga.
Te Āpiti, Manawatū
Bledisloe Park to Old West Road (3.2 km one way, intermediate)
You’ll see all sorts on this beautiful section of the Te Araroa trail – native bush, pine forest, farmland, views, and access to the Massey Arboretum with rare, exotic trees of all sizes. Bledisloe Park is a gorgeous place to linger before or after your walk, with Turitea stream nearby. When you get to the open space at the Atawhai Road access point, you can finish here or carry on to the Turitea Walkway.
Fern Walk, Tōtara Reserve (5km return, intermediate)
For ancient forest, bird life, and sweeping views of the Ruahine Ranges, it’s hard to beat the Fern Walk. Don’t forget to stop at the epic lookout point on the upper terrace.
Ruahine Ranges, Manawatū
Sledge Track (11km, beginner to advanced)
The first half-hour of this track is very easy, with waterfalls and swimming holes along the way. After this, it becomes quite steep, but experienced trampers will love seeing some of the region’s most spectacular scenery. At one point, there is a bridge that takes you into Arapuke Mountain Bike Park, which is also great to walk, but make sure you look out for cyclists.
Argyle Rocks, Sledge Track