I was blown away on a recent overnight hike with a few friends on the Urchin/Umukarikari Loop in Kaimanawa Forest Park. The tent we carried “just in case” was definitely worth the extra weight. We ended up meeting friends on the tops and camped overnight as the clear weather and awesome views kept us from travelling further on to Waipakihi Hut. We also did a key swap with them to keep things easy as there is some distance between the Urchin and Umukarikari road end. The hike in for me and Jack that day on the Umukarikari Track was an easy but steep few hours and once on the tops all we had to do is pitch our tent and wait for sunset. There are a few streams up here not far from the junction for drinking water too. We had perfect views of Lake Taupo’s waters, Ngauruhoe’s cone and Ruapehu’s top and could even see the tendrils of smoke from Ketetahi Springs chuffing away and drifting North. We shared kai and stories and layered up for a chilly night. The stars were awesome, a vast trail of glitter with the perfectly aligned “pot” (Orions belt) and the Southern Cross above our heads.
Our friends had it a bit harder as we found out the next day as the Urchin Track is a bit more arduous compared to its friendly neighbour but after a couple hours the trail opens up and evens out. We bumped into a few hunters trying their luck down at the Waipakihi River but being a Sunday, and the trails growing popularity, the deers were elusive. The sun stayed with us all day. Again views for days as we descended back into the trees and out to the road end to meet with our friends. A banger of an overnighter, I can’t recommend this tramp enough. We’ll be back again soon.