Mangakara Nature Walk

Mangakara Nature Walk - Pirongia Forest Park.

Mangakara Nature Walk

Pirongia Forest Park.

Your Nature Guide

Marios Gavalas's avatar

Marios Gavalas

Author And Researcher

Nau mai, haere mai

Nau mai, haere mai

I'm Marios, delivering the best of Aotearoa's nature walks to your device.

I've personally walked hundreds of New Zealand's tracks and spent months in libraries uncovering interesting information on New Zealand/Aotearoa. And you'll find a slice of that research on this page - enjoy!


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The track is perfect for walks with young kids


2 km return | 1 hour return

Well-written and eye-catchingly designed information panels interpret the forest and some if its features in a language kids will appreciate.


Access is from the Grey Road carpark.

From Pirongia take SH 39 towards Whatawhata and after 5.5 km turn left onto Te Pahu Road.

After 1 km left again onto Hodgson Road.

After 1.5 km left again onto Grey Road and the parking area is 1.6 km further on the left.


At the carpark there is an information kiosk and toilet.

Shortly after entering the forest is a junction. Right leads to a lookout tower and left to the Mahaukura Track.

If you continue straight ahead along the metalled and stepped track, it descends to another junction. From here it performs a loop with two bridges over the Mangakara Stream.

Return via the same track.

Well-written and eye-catchingly designed information panels interpret the forest and some if its features in a language kids will appreciate.


Pirongia forms part of a volcanic chain in a belt of weak overlying sediments named the Alexandra Volcanics. Basalt lava erupted between 2.7 and 1.6 million years ago, flowing over 20 km to Kawhia.

These volcanic episodes pierced older sediments of limestone, mudstone and sandstone, dating to over 20 million years old.


This is an attractive forest with a floor of parataniwha, pukatea, tawa and rewarewa. There are also some fine podocarps like rimu and kahikatea.

At 14,000 hectares, this is the largest unbroken tract of native forest in the Waikato. Tawa are particularly predominant. 58 tree species, 44 shrubs and 110 different ferns are recorded in the forest park.

Polynesian History

‘Mangakara’ means ‘black water’.

The area around Pirongia was settled by the Tainui. The captain of the original waka, Hoturoa, after landing on the Waitemata side, instructed his people to portage the waka to the Manukau side. From here they paddled south, settling the areas around Kawhia and Karioi. He sent explorers inland and the Pirongia region became known as a place of abundant birds.

The name Pirongia is said to have been conferred by the high-priest (tohunga) Raka-taura. He married Kahurere, daughter of the waka captain, and exhalted ‘Pirongia te aroaro O Kahu’ meaning ‘the fragrant presence of Kahu’.


Feature Value Info


North IslandWaikatoOtorohanga


  • Walking
  • Free


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DOC Managed

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 😍

Nick Morrison's avatar

Nick Morrison

Rankers owner