Hamilton is home to an extensive network of walking and cycling trails that traverse various parks, gullies and rivers. Not only that, it is also quite handy for reaching some of the finest hiking destinations in the wider Waikato region. Come take a look at some of this New Zealand city’s major offerings for those who wish to get active.
Here’s a simple, city-bound walk that everyone can enjoy. A winding path around the edge of Hamilton Lake (Rotoroa) will lead you on a 3.8-kilometre (2.4-mile) journey across natural vegetation, grassed parkland, playgrounds, and even the park’s Verandah Café – a nice place to chill out once you’ve finished exploring your surroundings. The boardwalk trail is for pedestrians only, meaning you’ll get to amble at your own leisurely pace without the need to worry about giving way to passing cyclists.
A shared walking and cycling route runs along both sides of the Waikato River, pretty much snaking through the entire city. Park benches are grassy areas are dotted throughout the trail, allowing people to take in the scenery and watch the native birds fly by. The Hamilton Gardens are situated towards the south end of the river track too. Naturally, there are quite a few entryways to choose from: take a look at this map to a better idea of the different pathways you can explore.
Taitua Arboretum is a great spot for seeing mature native trees, various lakes, woodland gardens, farm animals and bird life – all of which can be accessed through a pleasant stroll around its network of walking routes. A longer journey, taking about 30 minutes, would start at the Tills Lookout on Melba Street, with a path that follows onto the arboretum. This lookout offers some great views of Hamilton city that are sure to complement the wider, tree-lined expedition.
Jubilee Park in the Claudelands suburb is a good option for those who seek a peaceful, easygoing, inner-city amble. The trail is quite short – ideal for those travelling with children – navigating through the remnants of a pre-settlement forest lined with native Kahikatea, Rimu and Matai trees. A loop around the boarded walkway usually takes around 15-20 minutes to complete. Be careful during rainy periods as the track can be a little slippery when wet.
Mt Pirongia Forest Park is situated 25 kilometres (15.5 miles) south of Hamilton. Within its lush green slopes lies a treasure trove of walking options, ranging in intensity and difficulty levels. One of the easiest is the hour-long Mangakara Nature Walk circuit, which meanders past various native trees before reaching its namesake stream. The two main Ruapane Lookout routes are ideal for those with moderate fitness – choose between the Ruapane or the Tirohanga Tracks and prepare to navigate a series of stairways, steep climbs and rocky outcrops. For a longer adventure, try the Kaniwhaniwha Caves Walk, which ventures into a 20-metre (65.6-foot) cave, plus a smaller one that’s quite tight and narrow, before branching into the Nikau track.
If you’re eager for an opportunity to test your endurance, look no further than the Hakarimata Summit trail. Your expedition will begin with a 335-metre (just under 1200 feet) climb up 1349 wooden steps. Needless to say, it’s not a feat for the faint-hearted. As you reach the top, you’ll be met by the Hakarimata Walkway. This in turn will take you back to starting position – that is, as soon as you’ve caught your breath and have taken the time to admire the native trees, scented Daphne plants (which are at their most aromatic in the spring season), and coastal views of the Waikato Basin.
Another popular option around the Hakarimata Reserve is the Kauri Loop Track. Like its steep cousin, this trajectory connects to the wider Hakarimata Walkway; it does have a flight of stairs at the beginning that is challenging, but not too hard to manage. The climb will lead you into a lookout with expansive vistas, continuing onto an ancient Maori settlement site (also known as a pa) before traversing the native forests that will expose you to the majestic trees that give the route its name. All up, the full return journey should take approximately two hours to complete.
A relatively easy, wheelchair-friendly walk off the Hamilton/Raglan highway that is just bursting with natural beauty, walk through the native forests along the Pakoia River before scaling up to the two viewing platforms that will give you front-seat glimpse of the remarkable Wairenga/Bridal Veil Falls. A steep staircase ensues, descending into a midway viewpoint before continuing down to the bottom bridge. It should take approximately 20 minutes to walk to the top and the base of the falls.
Mt Te Aroha offers a full 360-degree panorama of the Waikato and Bay of Plenty Regions – on a clear day, you can even see as far away as Mounts Ruapehu and Taranaki. To get to this picturesque summit, simply follow the deeply forested trail that starts at Te Aroha Domain (which is approximately an hours’ drive from Hamilton). The three-hour, one-way journey passes through the Whakapipi Lookout, the Kaimai-Mamuku Forest Park and a small saddle before continuing on to a steep, rugged climb for the final two-hour stretch of the trajectory. Alpine weather conditions are the norm, so make sure to prepare for it accordingly.