Where is it?: This tramp is in Remutaka Forest Park, Wellington region. The main trailhead is at Catchpool Valley, a 45 minute drive from central Wellington city. The car park is closed overnight, making it safer for vehicles.
From Catchpool Valley car park, the Ōrongorongo track runs along a mostly flat 5km stretch to reach the Ōrongorongo river valley – a wide open valley with a huge variety of tramping huts. The track is well graded, with a large suspension bridge around the midway point. Walking time is approx 2hr to reach the Ōrongorongo river valley, with huts a little further ahead (0.5km-4km, depending on which hut you are headed for). The track quality is less maintained after the end of the Ōrongorongo Track (beyond Turere Bridge).
The Ōrongorongo river valley is home to over 50 huts, many of which are private and not available for public use. There are about six DOC huts, and two tramping club huts, all of which must be booked well in advance (the DOC huts are sole occupancy). Jans Hut (sleeps 9) is possibly the most child friendly, on account of its indoor flushing toilet, separate bunk room, gas cooker, and well-equipped kitchen, though it does require a crossing of the Ōrongorongo River – often ankle deep, but impassable in heavy rain. Haurangi Hut (sleeps 10) is a good option that doesn’t require a river crossing.
Good to know:
Remutaka Forest Park is home to a population of about 200 kiwi, thanks to the efforts of the Remutaka Conservation Trust and other groups. You might be lucky enough to hear them calling at night, or even see one out wandering. Dogs are permitted, though they must be leashed, and kiwi aversion training is encouraged. There are also plenty of other birds around, including bellbirds, tui, kaka, kereru and ruru.
The huts are quite popular on account of their proximity to Wellington, so it pays to book as early as possible (or right when the bookings open).
We (Ed & Cindy) have taken wee Evelyn to Jans Hut at 5mo, and Haurangi Hut at 7mo. Winter tramping was not a problem – the huts are warm and dry, and well stocked with firewood. The tracks aren’t pram friendly, but are easily manageable with a backpack baby carrier, though we’re looking forward to lighter packs once Ev is able to walk on her own!