Detailed information panels by numerous specimens along the trail highlight interesting and little-know facts about the relevant species. They bring the ecology of the forest to light.
This is a good educational walk to attempt with children.
The gate is open in summer 6 am to 8 pm. In winter 6 am to 6 pm.
Access is via Coast Road and signposted 12 km south of Wainuiomata. The gates are closed at dusk and reopen at 8 am. There is a visitor centre with toilets near the valley entrance and a campground 2 km further along the road. Most of the tracks start after a further 100 metres at the road end , where there are information boards and toilets at the large parking area.
The start of the track is signposted from the roadend carpark. Cross the 2 bridges to enter the forest.
The gentle, wide track threads through the lush forest past the information panels to the junction after 15 minutes.
You can either return via the road (10 minutes), or continue along the Nature Trail (a different track) (15 minutes to the road). Head left along the road back to the carpark (15 minutes).
The main ridge of the Rimutakas rises from it’s snout at Palliser Bay and runs north-east to a merger with the southern Tararuas 50 km to the north. The average elevation is around 800 metres and its extreme exposure catches a rainfall of between 1500 and 5000 mm per year. The volatile weather conditions fuel an intense cutting by streams, which deeply dissect the fractured bedrock.
Most rocks of the Wellington region, including the Rimutakas, were formed 200 million years ago in an ocean basin. The sediment was laid down and compressed into greywacke rock, which has since been uplifted, fractured and faulted. 150-115 million years ago the land was uplifted and denuded by the sea and rivers. These erosive powers winnowed the rock to form a peneplain. 12 million years ago a second period of uplift raised the remnant range to the peaks seen today. Large slumped areas fan from the vertical summit ridge and form raw erosion pavements. The debris eventually finds its way to the river beds, which become filled with gravel and form braids in the river’s course.
The range is riddled with fault lines The West Wairarapa Fault runs along the eastern side, while the Wainuiomata and Orongorongo Rivers both follow old faults. The Catchpool Valley is a splinter fault from these main weaknesses in the crust.
The altitudinal range contributes to a wide variety of flora. Beech-hardwood, montane beech, podocarp hardwood and scrub-hardwood forest types all clothe the hills. The hardwood tress such as kamahi, rata, and hinau produce flowers and seeds and form a patchwork of tall scrub. The beech trees are often of a similar height and diameter. The dense leaf canopy and delicate architecture of the branches produces an open forest with dappled light and a spartan forest floor.
Different beech species occupy a variety of sites. Silver beech (tawhai) predominates on the upper ridges and spurs and overtops a secondary storey of kamahi. Horopito and coprosmas inhabit the understorey. Hard beech and black beech are common on the lower southern and central areas of the range, where soils are drier and less fertile. Kamahi forms the sub-canopy with mingimingi as the scrub layer. Only small pockets of podocarp-hardwood forest inhabit the wetter gullies. Over 100 fern species are recorded in the park along with 60 native orchid species.
According to one Maori story, the range was named by Hau, an extensive traveller of southern parts of the North Island, while searching for his estranged wife. ‘Rimutaka’ is said to be a corruption of the word ‘Remutaka’ meaning to ‘sit down and rest’.
Around 800-1000 years ago Kupe, the great Polynesian explorer, settled in Palliser Bay (Te Kawakawa). The discovery by archaeologists of moa bones and tools at the mouth of the Orongorongo River shows evidence of these early settlements. In the 1600s Ngati Kahungunu, Tini-o-Awa and Ngati Ira are known to have inhabited the Rimutakas with Rangitane. From the 1820s onwards Te Rauparaha encroached into these traditional tribal areas.
New Zealand Company surveyors were the first Europeans to venture into the inhospitable country. In 1839 Charles Heaphy and Ernst Dieffenbach explored the range in search of the huia. The first crossing of the range was made by Robert Stokes, a New Zealand Company surveyor, in 1841.
From the 1850s sawmilling of totara commenced on sites alongside today’s Coast Road. The Proust, Strand and Sinclair sawmills started production in the Wainuiomata Valley. Present day evidence of these operations is exhibited by large stumps littering Catchpool Valley.
Catchpool Valley was named after Edward Catchpool, an original New Zealand Company settler, who farmed land at the mouth of the valley from the 1850s.
North Island ▷ Wellington Region ▷ Hutt Valley
Very clear tracks, named, distances, times and grades provided.
Thanks to all the good people working for the NZ Department of Conservation - for all your hard work - making NZ more beautiful, accessable and healthy! Cheers 😍