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The summit and slopes were set aside as a Scenic Reserve over a century ago. More recently, the Kakepuku Mountain Conservation Project initiative is aiming to restore some native biodiversity to the mountain. Like the rest of the Waikato, the fertile, well watered soils are a boom for animal products, but at the expense of habitat for native wildlife. Since 1995, predator control, weed removal and plantings of tawa, kohekohe and rewarewa have allowed reintroductions of birds such as robins and captive-bred karearea.
Kakepuku is signposted 3.3 km from the junction with Te Mawhai Road and Kakepuku Road. There’s a large parking area with a toilet, just after the start of the track.
The farm road is mostly grassed but nearer the top can become slippery when wet. A lookout platform and several benches provide views over the misty Waikato paddocks. This bottom section is shared with mountain bikers.
Where the farm track ends the steps begin. A tomokanga and welcome poem grace the entrance to the terraced pa - a sacred site and historic reserve.
The viewing platform will have to be heightened soon as the surrounding forest is competing. Nevertheless there are expansive views all the way to Ruapehu. The other sister volcanoes - Pirongia, Karoi and Maungatautari are all there.
Between 2.7 and 1.6 million years ago a series of volcanic eruptions formed 7 cones in the Waikato region. Pirongia, Karioi, Te Kawa and Tokanui were others. Kakepuku was one such composite cone of basaltic lava, ash, pumice and other volcanic ejecta.
Ngati Unu and Ngati Kahu claim mana whenua. The pa, Hikurangi, atop the hill, was never captured.
Kaepuku was named by the Tainui tohunga, Rakataura, a flattering allusion to the form of his pregnant wife, Kahurere.
Another story related to Kakepuku wondering in search of his estranged father. At the Waipa plains, he fell in love with Te Kawa, a daughter of Pirongia and Taupiri. Another suitor, Karewa, challenged Kakepuku for Te Kawa’s love, but lost and was banished to the west.
Governor Hobson climbed the mountain in 1842, by which time the pa were abandoned.
North Island ▷ Waikato ▷ Otorohanga
Thanks to all the good people working for the NZ Department of Conservation - for all your hard work - making NZ more beautiful, accessable and healthy! Cheers 😍