The Waitakere Ranges is one of the best places for walking in the entire Auckland region. The 16,000 hectares which make up the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park are filled with trails of all kinds. Being steep and heavily forested, much of the terrain is steep, involves stream or river crossings and can take from several hours to several days to complete.
Nevertheless, if you aren't feeling too energetic or you don't have much time, it's still possible to experience the beauty of the area. Here are some of the shorter walks that are both easy and very enjoyable.
Auckland City Walk (Duration: 1 Hour)
This is a short walk that takes you through some of the finest examples of native trees (especially totara, kauri, and kahikitea) in the whole of the Waitakere Ranges. The immense size of some of these trees gives a good indication of how much of the forest must have been before the devastating timber felling by the European settlers in the nineteenth century.
Other highlights of the walk include several stream crossings (all by bridges) and some nice waterfalls. You will also hear tuis and kereru in the trees.
The trail is mostly level with a gravel base. It can get a little muddy in parts depending on the time of year, but this is certainly one of the most accessible walks in the Park. If you fancy a round of golf, the adjacent Waitakere Golf Club course must be in one of the prettiest settings in Auckland, surrounded on all sides by bush-clad hills.
Getting There: The Auckland City Walk is at the end of Falls Road. From Scenic Drive follow the signs to Bethell's Beach by turning into Te Henga Road. Falls Road is a short distance along on the left. Park your car in the carpark at the very end of the road.
Kitekite Track (Duration: 1 Hour; 1 ½ Hours If Including the Winstone and Home Tracks)
This is a beautiful walk if you fancy a swim beneath a waterfall. The first part of the trip passes through some lovely strands of native bush and follows the river to the forty-meter-high Kitekite Falls. There is a bit of a climb down to the falls themselves but otherwise, the gradient is very easy.
At the base of the falls, the pool is small and shallow enough for safe swimming. It's a great way to cool off on a hot day.
From here you have the option to continue on for a short distance and then loop back to retrace your steps. Alternatively, the track continues on and joins the Winstone and Home tracks in a larger route back to the carpark.
The terrain here is much steeper and can be rather muddy in places (sturdy boots are recommended). However, it is well worth the effort.
Shortly into this part of the trail the path rises steeply and comes out at the top of the Kitekite Falls. The pools here are a delight. You will likely be alone so it's a wonderful spot for a dip. The pool which reaches to the edge of the falls contains quite slow moving water and gives a great view down the valley. This would have to be one of the best infinity swimming pools you will ever encounter!
Getting There: Take the road to Piha. Just before the bridge at the bottom of the hill, you will see Glen Esk Road on the right. The walk starts from the carpark at the end of this road.
Arataki Nature Trail (Duration: 45 minutes)
This starts from the Arataki Visitor Center in Scenic Drive. A short tunnel under the road leads to a series of loop tracks, a couple of which are quite steep in parts. There is a very interesting Plant Identification Loop which contains examples of many of New Zealand's native trees and plants, all labeled and explained. At the top of the walk, there is a lovely grove of large kauri trees, well worth the effort to view.