Falls, fungi & fables – a hike to Karamatura Falls and scenic Mt Donald McLean lookout

Historians, nature lovers, romantics and fitness enthusiasts will all be satisfied with walking the Karamatura to Mt Donald McLean Track in Huia Regional Park in the Waitākere Ranges.

The 11.6km track encompasses Karamatura Falls where forbidden lovers from opposing Māori tribes were said to have hidden behind the water’s veil when their illicit love affair was discovered.

A pou stands at the beginning of the Karamatura Loop Walk, their love story carved into the wood. As the story goes, love won out and there was a happy ending and the pou “recognises that this is a special place, somewhere to be enjoyed and respected by all”.

There are several walking tracks around the Huia area, with many connecting and intersecting. You can do the Karamutura Falls loop trail – an easy 3.2km – or add on a section. The Karamatura to Mt Donald McLean Track includes a small stream crossing and guarantees a sweat with a solid 30-minute stair climb. The reward for reaching the top is spectacular views from the Mt Donald McLean lookout towards Manukau Heads and the harbour, and west over the Waitākere Ranges. It’s a great spot for a picnic lunch and rest after the uphill climb.

It’s also a great circuit if you are training for a big event or multi-day hike. A friend of mine did it four times in 12 weeks as a training hike purely because of the steps!

Throughout, you are surrounded by beautiful bush, birdlife, and there are viewing platforms and rest stops along the way.

May and June are great months for spotting native fungi along the trail, including the iconic blue werewere-kōkako mushroom, which features on the New Zealand fifty-dollar note, so named because its colour is similar to the blue wattle of the kōkako.

In summer you can cool off in many of the swimming holes along the Karamatura Stream.

To get a good view of the beautiful, secluded Falls, which cascade from a height of 15 metres, you need to scramble over a few boulders.

Aside from the boulder-hopping side trip, the path is well formed and easy walking (not suitable for prams or wheelchairs), undulating in parts and a steady incline. There are also several boardwalks – part of the upgrade the tracks recently received in the area to protect the precious root systems of the kauri tree.

Track notes

•          Access: Trail starts at the Huia Rd carpark (opposite Huia Settlers Museum, 1251 Huia Rd). There is a toilet at the carpark.

•          Distance: 3.5km to 11km depending on whether you choose the Karamatura Falls loop or there and back hike to Mt Donald McLean. Allow four and a half hours for the latter.

•          Moderately challenging.

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