Distance: 11.7km Loop
Time: 5-6 Hours

The Karaka-Waiotahi Track is my favourite day hike. With beautiful views and gentle inclines, this track made for a day well spent.

The track is in the Coromandel Forest Park and starts from Karaka Road behind Thames hospital and heads up into the forest before looping back down to meet Waiotahi Road. There is ample parking at either end or in Thames along the road between the track ends.

From Karaka Road, the track follows Karaka Stream through the bush and past old gold mining shafts for about 20 minutes before crossing the stream.

After the stream the track narrows and becomes muddy as it climbs up to the ridge to reveal views deep into the forest park. Weave through giant kauri stumps before emerging onto a rocky ledge known as “Redrocks”. These rocks are dyed red and orange by lichen.

Continue through the forest until the Karaka Waiotahi Junction. The track to the right leads to Crosbies Hut. Take the left path down the Waiotahu Track back to Thames.

The Waiotahi track is wider and easier going than the Karaka Track and offers great views over the firth of Thames before coming down to join the Waiotahi Stream.

The track passes some more mining tunnels before coming out at the carpark on Waitahi Road, a short walk from the Thames Monument. From here, it is a gentle walk through town back to the Karaka carpark.

After spending a few months exploring the shorter hikes of the Coromandel Region, I was sceptical about my fitness levels going into this hike, but even though we got up to an elevation of 580 metres above sea level, it felt gradual and offered spectacular views over the area.

I had been so focused on training for the Te Araroa Trail that I had lost the sense of why I liked hiking. But emerging onto the outcrop of bright red and orange rocks, with views overlooking the whole forest park, I was reminded why I so passionately love the outdoors. I had never known that such scenery existed just a few steps from my back door and here I was experiencing it.

This track reinvigorated my love for hiking, and with just over a month to go before I hike the Te Araroa Trail, it could not have come at a better time.