Less than an hour by car from the centre of Auckland, Hunua Ranges Regional Park is the largest area of native forest in the city. Hosting more than 400 species of native plants, it’s an oasis of green chocka with walking and cycling trails, wildlife, as well as rivers and waterfalls.
Here’s a “how to” visit and take care of this natural paradise right on the doorstep of Aotearoa New Zealand’s biggest city.
Walking and cycling in Hunua Ranges Regional Park
Hunua Ranges Regional Park in the Auckland Region is crisscrossed with a range of trails of varying difficulty – there’s something for everyone, whether you’re into walking, hiking, mountain biking, bird watching, or even horse riding.
On local fav is the Cossey-Massey Loop, which combines the Cossey Gorge and Masseys Road Loop Tracks. The combo gives you an eight-kilometre (about three-hour) walk. It’s steep, and involves a bit of rock hopping across Cossey Creek, but it rewards with gorgeous-as views and up close encounters with the giant kauri trees that populate the region.
Or, for a shorter option, hit the Suspension Bridge Loop, which takes in the Suspension Bridge Track plus a bit of the Wairoa Cossey Track. Head out across the suspension bridge over the Wairoa Stream, climb up to the lookout over the Wairoa Reservoir, the head right at the junction with Wairoa Cossey Track to get back to the road.
On your bikes in the Hunua Ranges
Prefer to explore on two wheels? Hunua Ranges Regional Park has a range of mountain biking tracks made for fat tyre adventure. The big selling point is the native bush (as opposed to the pine plantations of some of the other more well-known mountain biking destinations in the region).
Valley Loop Track is an easy 13-kilomtre loop that is mostly on gravel roads, a good starting point if you are new to off-road riding. There are multiple intermediate options, with favorites including Girl Power, and the tight, downhill singletrack of Freaky Styley. And the advanced Challenge Track is full of steep up and downs. It’s hard work, but it offers some cool views, including of Auckland’s Sky Tower in the distance.
A gem within a gem: Hunua Falls
One of the most popular attractions in Hunua Hunua Ranges Regional Park is Hunua Falls.
The short 20-minute Hunua Falls Loop track takes you up to the falls through the forest to a lookout platform. The 30-metre-high plunge waterfall is part of the Wairoa River. An iconic New Zealand waterfall, it’s a must-do photo stop, and the waterfall even featured in the TV series Xena: Warrior Princess, which was, obviously, awesome.
After you have taken in the views of the waterfall, carry on along the path and head back down through the bush to where you started.
Look for the sign at the car park: accessing Hunua Falls
The Hunua Falls Loop track is signposted from the Hunua Falls car park. Note, the park is open 24/7, but vehicle access is limited to 6am to 9pm in summer (during daylight savings), and 7pm in winter – there’s an automatic gate at the park entrance.
Water water everywhere
As well as being one the most beautiful nearby attractions in the Auckland Region, the Hunua Ranges are an important part of the city’s water system.
There’s are four dams (Wairoa, Mangatawhiri , Cossey and Mangatangi), which, along with the Hays Creek Dam, are known as the Hunua reservoirs, provide more than half of Auckland’s water supply.
The Hunua Ranges are suitable as a water supply for the Auckland region thanks to an annual rainfall that is 1.5 times that of Auckland. Also, it’s all downhill to Auckland from the Hunua Ranges, meaning water can flow freely to the city without too much pumping.
Check for open and closed tracks, and help protect our kauri
Unfortunately, kauri trees, including those in the Hunua Ranges, are threatened by kauri dieback disease. Kauri dieback is a fungus-type pathogen that damages the kauri trees’ root systems, and it can be spread by footwear.
Auckland Regional Council has been working to mitigate this threat, sometimes by closing tracks. Always be mindful of track closures, and follow instructions carefully at track heads about cleaning and disinfecting your shoes to ensure you don’t contribute to spreading the disease further in the Auckland Region.