Orongorongo Track

Orongorongo Track - Catchpool Valley, Rimutaka Forest Park

Orongorongo Track

Catchpool Valley, Rimutaka Forest Park


3 Rankers Reviews

2 Face-to-Face

10 Hutt Valley

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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View of the Suburbs - Orongorongo Track
Groves of mature trees


10.4 km return | 4 hours return

The verdant forest is full of character, and changes noticeably along the track’s course. The marked contrast between the light airy beech forest and the dense tropical-like broadleaf is breathtakingly apparent. Standing amid the towering emergent podocarps or bathing in the dappled light from the beech forest, it is easy to understand why this is one of the most popular walks in New Zealand.


The gate is open in summer 6 am to 8 pm. In winter 6 am to 6 pm.


Access is via Coast Road and signposted 12 km south of Wainuiomata. The gates are closed at dusk and reopen at 8 am. There is a visitor centre with toilets near the valley entrance and a campground 2 km further along the road. Most of the tracks start after a further 100 metres at the road end , where there are information boards and toilets at the large parking area.

The start of the track is signposted from the roadend carpark.


The well graded, metalled track undulates gently along the valley floor, crossing bridges and passing interpretation panels. This popular walk is maintained to a good standard so most people can enjoy the luxuriant forest.

The only section with gradient is the final 10-minute drop to the Orongorongo River.

Return via the same track, or for a more strenuous walk return via the Cattle Ridge Track and Butcher Track.


The final section of the walk to the Orongorongo River catches framed glimpses of the braided milky waters, draining the western flank of the Rimutakas. The high, scared hillsides are on a vertical tilt and tell the stories of many violent storms and earth tremors. Huge slips show the beginnings of recolonisation, while more stable slopes are smothered with a dense canopy topped by occasional rimu and rata.

The Orongorongo River starts at an altitude of 620 metres above Whiteman’s Valley and flows 32 km. For most of its length, it follows an old fault line at the western flank of the range. It is responsible for transporting massive quantities of eroded debris to the coast.

The main ridge of the Rimutakas rises from it’s snout at Palliser Bay and runs north-east to a merger with the southern Tararuas 50 km to the north. The average elevation is around 800 metres and its extreme exposure catches a rainfall of between 1500 and 5000 mm per year. The volatile weather conditions fuel an intense cutting by streams, which deeply dissect the fractured bedrock.

Most rocks of the Wellington region, including the Rimutakas, were formed 200 million years ago in an ocean basin. The sediment was laid down and compressed into greywacke rock, which has since been uplifted, fractured and faulted. 150-115 million years ago the land was uplifted and denuded by the sea and rivers. These erosive powers winnowed the rock to form a peneplain. 12 million years ago a second period of uplift raised the remnant range to the peaks seen today. Large slumped areas fan from the vertical summit ridge and form raw erosion pavements. The debris eventually finds its way to the river beds, which become filled with gravel and form braids in the river’s course.

The range is riddled with fault lines The West Wairarapa Fault runs along the eastern side, while the Wainuiomata and Orongorongo Rivers both follow old faults. The Catchpool Valley is a splinter fault from these main weaknesses in the crust.


The sparsely populated beech forest, with its gentle architecture and small leaved branches allows a high degree of light penetration. The forest floor is dotted with crown ferns.

The broadleaf forest is a jungle of green, with predominance of hinau, tawa and emergent podocarps, hung with empires of epiphytes and strung with miles of liana. Shrubs include five-finger, kawakawa, putaputaweta, heketara and hangehange. The dark forest floor is daubed with mosses, ferns and liverworts, all taking advantage of the moist conditions.

The altitudinal range contributes to a wide variety of flora. Beech-hardwood, montane beech, podocarp hardwood and scrub-hardwood forest types all clothe the hills. The hardwood tress such as kamahi, rata, and hinau produce flowers and seeds and form a patchwork of tall scrub. The beech trees are often of a similar height and diameter. The dense leaf canopy and delicate architecture of the branches produces an open forest with dappled light and a spartan forest floor.

Different beech species occupy a variety of sites. Silver beech (tawhai) predominates on the upper ridges and spurs and overtops a secondary storey of kamahi. Horopito and coprosmas inhabit the understorey. Hard beech and black beech are common on the lower southern and central areas of the range, where soils are drier and less fertile. Kamahi forms the sub-canopy with mingimingi as the scrub layer. Only small pockets of podocarp-hardwood forest inhabit the wetter gullies. Over 100 fern species are recorded in the park along with 60 native orchid species.

Polynesian History

According to one Maori story, the range was named by Hau, an extensive traveller of southern parts of the North Island, while searching for his estranged wife. ‘Rimutaka’ is said to be a corruption of the word ‘Remutaka’ meaning to ‘sit down and rest’.

Around 800-1000 years ago Kupe, the great Polynesian explorer, settled in Palliser Bay (Te Kawakawa). The discovery by archaeologists of moa bones and tools at the mouth of the Orongorongo River shows evidence of these early settlements. In the 1600s Ngati Kahungunu, Tini-o-Awa and Ngati Ira are known to have inhabited the Rimutakas with Rangitane. From the 1820s onwards Te Rauparaha encroached into these traditional tribal areas.

European History

New Zealand Company surveyors were the first Europeans to venture into the inhospitable country. In 1839 Charles Heaphy and Ernst Dieffenbach explored the range in search of the huia. The first crossing of the range was made by Robert Stokes, a New Zealand Company surveyor, in 1841.

From the 1850s sawmilling of totara commenced on sites alongside today’s Coast Road. The Proust, Strand and Sinclair sawmills started production in the Wainuiomata Valley. Present day evidence of these operations is exhibited by large stumps littering Catchpool Valley.

Catchpool Valley was named after Edward Catchpool, an original New Zealand Company settler, who farmed land at the mouth of the valley from the 1850s.


Feature Value Info


DOC Wellington/Kapiti

Central government organisation


North IslandWellington RegionHutt Valley


  • Walking
  • Free


  • 3 Rankers Reviews

    Rating Distribution

    Rating Count Percentage
    10/10 1
    9/10 0
    8/10 2
    7/10 0
    6/10 0
    5/10 0
    4/10 0
    3/10 0
    2/10 0
    1/10 0
  • Reviewed about 8 years ago and experienced in February 2014


    A very popular walk not so far from Wellington.

    3 hours return but it is a very pleasant walk along the river and for all levels. Under the shades of the trees and very peaceful!

    Roy Matthieu's avatar

    Roy Matthieu


  • Reviewed over 8 years ago


    Great track.

    Miss 3 enjoyed the ladders made from tree roots.

    Brenda Wallace's avatar

    Brenda Wallace

    New Zealand

  • Reviewed over 12 years ago and experienced in January 2010


    This is an excellent track great for the whole family.

    2 hours one way. Recommend you rent a hut from DOC and stay overnight for fun.

    Don Morgan's avatar

    Don Morgan

    New Zealand

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 😍

Cymen Crick's avatar

Cymen Crick

Rankers Owner