Hey! I was looking through the archive and was shocked to find that I have never talked about this walk on the blog. This is the main hike I do when in Whanganui, and I love it for so many reasons. We have featured it in a few videos, including this very old one, a Chico hiking one and a recent adventure video.
You will find the Waitahinga Trails nestled in the Waitotara Forest which is about a 45 minute drive from Whanganui. The trails are made up of a range of different length trails and pathways through the forest. These trails are made for all fitness levels, and range from a casual 30 minute walk, to a full day hike to the dam.
I have done the Chicken Run loop track multiple times, and it is honestly one of my favourite easy hikes out there. It is about an hour return, and is a gentle incline to two amazing view points of Mt. Taranaki and Mt. Ruapehu. The funny thing is, I say they are amazing view points but it is very rare to get a good shot of both the mountains. In all the times I have been up there, it has been only perfectly clear once. That was a magical day though, and well worth the risk of not seeing them to have that slight chance of getting to see them. Generally though when it isn't a clear blue day, you can still see an amazing view over the rest of the forest. Most of the time you can make out the sea to your left hand side as well.
The Chicken Run is one of those hikes that you can take anyone on and they will generally cope. This is the track that I go on if I have mum or Summer with me as they are not long hikers. It is also the perfect length for Chico since he gets tired super easily, especially in the Summer months. The hike itself is quite leisurely, and just slowly goes up hill. I would consider it meandering through the forest personally. Just bear in mind, these tracks are not pathed well so you will still be stepping over, around, through, under all sorts of rocks, trees and roots.
I am actually yet to explore much of the longer hikes on the other side. I have done the walk to Cropper's Clearing a couple of times, but nothing past this. The Cropper's Clearing walk is another good easy one, and although longer than the Chicken Run, it is about the same gentle incline. Nothing too extreme, and easily navigated through.
Some things to note with these hikes is that they are closed during July and August for forestry work. If you go after rains, it can be quite muddy. With that aswell, because you are also walking through forest, I would suggest comfortable, sturdy footwear to be worn at all times. Since we are talking about forest, there are also wild animals that roam these trails. You will want to keep your dogs on leash at all times. Trust me, I have made this mistake and it is not a pretty sight.
If you are coming from Whanganui, it is generally going to be a few degrees colder up at the trails. Make sure you do pack and dress for any weather condition because I have found that sometimes even the most brilliant day in Whanganui, doesn't turn out to be that nice out there.
The drive to the trail is long, and is on a dirt track for majority of the time once you hit Bushy Park. I have found that it is a fairly nice dirt track and have driven it in a couple of cars that were not 4WD. Although, now that I have driven it in my 4WD, it is a lot more comfortable if you can. You will want to be a confident driver as closer to the carpark, it does have a single lane with a drop to your left hand side. It's not too bad, but just a pre-warning in case you are more nervous.
Finally for the important mentions, there is little to no cell service out these ways so make sure you prepare for that!
I am definitely going to look at doing one of the longer trails as soon as I can, possibly this weekend if it is fine. I really want to see the dam at the end! Of all my times here, I have seen only a handful of people so it's one of those trails that is perfect for reactive dog owners. I have never seen other dogs out those ways, although they are definitely allowed. It is just a bit out the way, and not very known, which means if you want a trail to yourself, you've got it in this one.