The eerie scenes in The Return of the King as Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli ride along the Dimholt Road to meet the Army of the Dead were filmed against the surreal backdrop of the Pinnacles.
The Putangirua Pinnacles are hoodoos. It’s like stepping into another world once immersed in the fluted columns. The mighty columns thrust skyward and seem ready to topple at the slightest breath. The walls of the valley are weathered to curtain-like forms, the many small pinnacles resembling a fairytale castle. Mini canyons segregate pinnacle ridges, although you should be wary of exploring these as rockfalls are frequent, especially in high winds or during rain
3.6 km after Pirinoa, turn left into Whangaimoana Road (signposted Ngawi and Cape Palliser). Putangirua Pinnacles are signposted on the left after 13 km.
There’s a DoC camping area with toilets and picnic benches. The track starts from the far end of the campground.
The track effectively follows the streambed, with the variety of loose rock sizes sometimes making it tough going. Feet sink into the loose gravel and the larger pebbles make the footing uneven. Try and pick a route along the dried streambeds, where a deposit of mud and sand makes a more even surface.
After 10 minutes, a well-concealed signpost on the left marks the exit of the bushwalk. After a further 15 minutes another signpost marks the start of the track to the lookout. Shortly after, bear left to the side arm of the valley, where the main area of pinnacles begins to tower above. You will already begin to note the fluted erosion patterns on the valley walls. It will take around 40 minutes for a thorough exploration of this other-worldly landscape.
Return via the same track or follow the Bush Walk Loop via the lookout.
The track climbs steadily through the forest, occasionally aided with steps. After 20 minutes the lookout is signposted on the right. The elevated platform takes in the entire valley wall, with the rippled curtains of pinnacles sculpted into the gravels. This is a wondrous sight, ample reward for the effort of the climb. You gain a good perspective of the pinnacles’ form from here and how they link into the landscape.
Gorse bushes get friendly on the initial parts of the descent. Benches furnish the trackside, some placed in to take in views of the Rimutaka Range, Palliser Bay and Turakirae Head. The steady descent arrives on the streambed, 10 minutes above the carpark.
7-8 million years ago, the Aorangi Range was the only part of the region above sea level. Large alluvial gravel fans, similar to today’s Ngapotiki Fan formed on the southern margin, later to be submerged by rising sea levels. Tectonic upheavals have since re-exposed the consolidated gravel beds to form the ‘badlands erosion’ on show today.
The earth pillars, or ‘hoodoos’, form by rain washing off the soil surface, exposing a resistant layer of rock or large boulder, which forms a cap, protecting the rock beneath. When this cap is punctured the surrounding material is washed away until another resistant layer is encountered. This gives rise to pillars of differing heights. Where a cap still exists a fluted pinnacle forms. Heavy rain removes the softer silty matrix binding the conglomerate of gravels to expose the individual rocks.
The most severe erosion has taken place over the last 7,000 years. With forest clearance over the last 1,000 years the rates of erosion have been accelerated. Current rates are estimated at 1 cm per year, with some individual pillars being 1000 years old.
North Island ▷ Wairarapa ▷ Ngawi
Showing 13 reviews of 33.
01Oct18. We went up to the lookout first then down to the base of the pinnacles. The first part and the return is along the stream bed. A bit heavy going in places. The base of the pinnacles is the same and steep with it so hard work.
As for the pinnacles, it was a bit murky when we were there so not seen in their best light. Perhaps a sunny day would make it a better spectacle. Although a somewhat different place, and continent, check out Brice Canyon, Utah!
In spite of that, you have to go there at least once. Glad we did.
01Oct18. Damp start to the day but not cold. Walked to the lookout then down to the pinnacles base. Good stuff. Hard work walking on gravel but worth it. Don’t think we will go again tho. A bit out of the way. Glad we did it tho.
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Very impressive and more so the further you go up the streamside path. Beware this path though, for it’s really not a path but a scramble up the streambed. As noted you will be crossing back and forth across it several times and you really do make your own way. Good shoes are a must! It’s posted as 1.5 hours round trip but that’s only if you hustle and it is a challenging scramble both ways. Probably best to plan two hours at least.
Well worth the effort though and push all the way up, the view back down is amazing!
This was a really interesting walk amongst almost spooky pinnacles. Easy to see why it was chosen for a lord of the rings scene! We would recommend going up via the lookout first and then returning along the stream bed. 3 reasons for this: it's easy to miss the path up to the lookout from the stream bed, walking among the pinnacles is more impressive than the lookout so best to do second and finally it's just harder work walking up a stream bed! Wear good (preferably waterproof) shoes due to having to cross the river several times. Enjoy!
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We made the 'lookout' walk from topside to came back by the river side. The second part was a little bit complicated. Not enough signs. The first part was perfect.
The Pinnacles walk itself was OK. There is a viewpoint from where you can see the whole thing but it is all much more impressive when you walk up the gorge and you are looking up at them.
The stream walk was beautiful with steep pinnacles on both sides. The lookout was so/so. Lovely campsite at the beginning of the walk as well as the beach across the road.
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Nice walk, interesting rocks.
Nice walk, interesting spot/view.
We were positively surprised about the rock formations! They looked cool even in the poor and rainy weather we had! Took us about 2h to walk the stream bed up to the pinnacles and return via the lookout path. On the way we needed to carefully cross water streams several times. Good footgear is recommended. Beware of the falling rocks! Many of them fell near us because of the rain.
Not well signed, otherwise, great views, especially of the Lord of the Rings filming site.
A good family track to look down on the Pinnacles and there is a free campground at the bottom.
The walk takes you 1.5 hours return, more if you stop often to take pictures (and you will). The scenery is absolutely stunning. The path isn't very comfortable, I recommend steady shoes. Also the walk is very poorly signposted.
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