TRAVEL DESTINATION: Mt Karioi, Raglan, Waikato, North Island, New Zealand
TRAVEL DURATION: Whole Day Hike
Mt Karioi is an extinct volcano that is located in the Waikato Region near Raglan. Even though I visited this area many times before, I’ve never completed any hiking in this part of New Zealand.
There are 2 track options you can choose from to reach the summit at 756m. First one is Mt Karioi Track that is steeper of the two. It takes around 3h to 3:30h to reach the top while passing many scenic lookout points along the way. The other one, Wairake Track, will take 2-3h one way. It’s a bit shorter, isn’t as steep and also doesn’t have all the amazing views that the first one offers. For me, the decision was a no-brainer, really. Going that extra mile and hoping for amazing views while filling the day with many challenges and adventures was what I went for.
Mt Karioi Track starts at Te Toto Gorge. For me, the general theme of Mt Karioi hike was MUD. Mud in all possible places and corners, although not right at the start of the track. I was actually amazed and questioned how did all the people, who were completing the hike and were already returning back to the car park, manage to get so dirty and muddy. Of course, I wasn’t aware of the challenging parts of the hike that would patiently await me.
The first part of the track was leading through a grassy slope and kānuka grove. Even though it was all uphill, it was easy on the feet. Strong tree roots provided for quite a manageable grip. Soon the track started following steep-sided ridges, sometimes quite narrow and hidden in the flax bush. There were nice vantage points along the ridge for those moments when I wished to stop and enjoy the views of the lush Waikato farmland. I recommend taking 10-minute side track at around two-thirds of the hike to the lookout point for amazing views of the Raglan Harbour. For me, this was the favourite spot of the hike.
Coming back to the main track soon revealed washed out and extremely muddy part of the trail. Luckily, there were a ladder and long chains provided in a couple of places so I could haul myself up these steep parts. It took another hour along the ridge to reach the summit (756 m). The vegetation along this part varied from tawa forest to kamahi and tāwheowheo towards the top. The summit offered extended views of the neighbouring Waikato landscape and places of interest: Mt Pirongia, Hamilton, Raglan, Kāwhia and Aotea Harbours. You can also spot Mt Taranaki on a clear day.
The Mt Karioi track is clearly marked and can be easily followed. However, on the day I was many times forced to find and make parallel paths through the bush to escape the immersion into the mud right up to my ankles on the main road. Such challenges made the track much harder than it actually was. Sidetracks consequently took a bit more time to be completed altogether.
For me, the descent was special, mainly because of the setting sun, which made me linger on the lower mountain slopes for a while longer. The Te Toto Gorge was beautifully lit in the late evening sun and provided an amazing foreground to the views of the Tasman Sea on the horizon.
I learned there is a Raglan Karion Trail event held here across the mountain every year. Next to the wet weather, this might also be the reason for the track getting so worn out and muddy at certain times of the year. Mt Karioi, an extinct volcano, is truly a perfect playground for a one-day activity, may it be trail running, hiking or short walking to the viewing platform. I enjoyed every bit of it, even the dirty patches on my skin.
TRAVEL TIP: No white socks for this hike.