Access: The Kiriwhakapapa Rd turn-off is 6.3 kilometres N of where the Masterton bypass rejoins SH2. From here, it is 7 km to the road-end. The last 4 km of narrow gravel road require care.
Overview: There is about a hectare of level grass at the road-end, several fireplaces and picnic tables in the forest margins, and plenty of camping space. A large shelter and a toilet block complete the facilities. There are no electric power points or caravan facilities, and the road is rather narrow for towed vehicles.
One of the smaller catchments in the Tararuas, this stream has two branches, Reef Creek flowing from the north; and the main Kiriwhakapapa Stream headwaters from the south-west. There are plenty of forested terraces in both branches, but the only significant grass flats are at the road-end.
Running into the foothills is the ground formation of two principal tram-lines and a number of their spurs. Both tram-lines lay on the TR of their respective streams, and their formations offer short easy walks in the bush nearby. They also give access to the Blue Range, the Mikimiki Valley, the upper Waingawa Valley, and the Northern Tararua tops somewhat more distant.
The 2002 ed. of NZMS260 S25 shows correctly the roadend end foot bridge which crosses the stream to forest flats on the TR of Reef Creek. A little up the SW headwater stream from the roadend, a footbridge crosses from the Loop Walk of 3.2. (Another rather trivial bridge is marked up the Reef Creek track.)
Two hours of easy travel between road-ends; less in the reverse direction.
Follow the tram-line formation up the SW valley (the Kiriwhakapapa headwaters) from the carpark; cross neither the Blue Range footbridge, nor the Loop Walk bridge. Old tramway formation is followed for about 25 minutes to just beyond where the stream takes a northerly bend. The well-graded trail now climbs to the saddle, 20 minutes distant, in the vicinity of (Topo50 BN34 130 783, NZMS260 S26 230 400), at the edge of the map. Fifteen minutes of gentle downhill leads to the first crossing of the northerly branch of Mikimiki Stream, about (Topo50 BP34 124 776, NZMS260 S26 224 393), where its old logging formation is picked up. This logging track keeps to the TR, except for a pair of stream crossings some 15 minutes on. Five minutes downstream of these, the westerly branch of Mikimiki Stream is crossed on a good wooden bridge, and another 15 minutes brings the Mikimiki road-end.
A 30-minute or longer, local along well-graded tracks.
Cross the footbridge and follow the Blue Range Track for 2 minutes to where, past a tiny stream, the loop walk departs L. This gentle trail, benched and graded, reaches its high point in 10 minutes or so. Good views are obtained of the surrounding forest, and many rimu can be seen on the higher hillsides beyond the reach of the older-style valley-floor logging. This country was milled in the 1930s and partially replanted. Five minutes or so of gentle downgrade brings you to the bridge at (Topo50 BN34 143 789, NZMS260 S25 243 406) across the SW stream branch. Turn L and a further 10 minutes returns you to the road-end.
A good 100 minutes from carpark to the Blue Range hut, over a trail that is well padded but not otherwise well marked.
From the road-end cross the footbridge and follow the level Reef Creek tram-line formation N for 10 minutes. A good hour of climb then brings a third knoll at a small dracophyllum-fringed clearing, and 20 minutes beyond this is the Blue Range Hut turn-off.
The hut, which sleeps four, is located 10 minutes down a northerly spur off the main ridge, through regenerating beech and grass trees.
OT grade above this turn-off. Five minutes up-ridge from the hut turn-off, the route forks again. The route to Te Mara continues up the spur (perhaps 20 minutes distant, but not well padded); and that to Cow Creek, etc., leaves the ridge to swing R through the head-waters of Paddy's Creek and regain the ridge beyond.
The trails from Blue Range Hut vicinity to Cow Creek are fairly well padded but not otherwise well marked. A good 2 hours to Cow Creek Hut via the ‘direct’ route, and 30 minutes or so longer but via the gentler ‘Cow Saddle’ route.
Five minutes beyond the turn-off to Blue Range Hut, the route to Te Mara continues up the ridge, and the track to Cow Saddle, etc., swings R through the headwaters of Paddys Creek; (probably around the 980-metre contour - not quite as high as shown) to regain the main ridge in 15 minutes.
Two minutes beyond this reaches a highpoint giving views of the Waingawa watershed from Mitre opposite to the slopes of Waingawa more northerly.
From here the trail descends for a while then passes the Cow Creek ‘direct route’ junction, 60 minutes from the Blue Range Hut turn-off. From the 'direct route' turn-off, local high point 970 is 5 minutes along the ridge, followed by a gradual descent to Cow Saddle, approximately 60 minutes distant. The route segment from the 'direct route' junction to Cow Saddle is a little indistinct, and not now shown on NZMS260 S25 ed. 2002. [??]
The trail deserves comment. On the pull up from the last gully across the sidle, across the Paddys Creek headwaters, do not follow the rocky runnel to its top as the trail departs sharp R part-way up. On the descending portion of the ridge to the Cow Creek ‘direct’ turn-off, there are a couple of sharp L jogs that should be watched for. The remainder of these trails are listed under the Waingawa section (5.10 and 5.11).
From Cow Saddle the trail to Cow Creek Hut turns L and drops across the crush zone of the Cow Creek basin, to emerge on the TL of the Waingawa just opposite the hut, 30 minutes down from Cow Saddle.
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