family vacation stories Hamilton Gardens, Hamilton City, New Zealand

Mount Pirongia

Mount Pirongia is a distinctive Waikato landmark. Its many peaks are actually volcanic cones created by successive eruptions about 2.5 million years ago.

The Taupo eruption of 380 AD also helped shape Pirongia; a thick layer of ash coated the mountain and destroyed the forest cover.

A period of regeneration followed, with rimu and kahikatea developing in light conditions and shade tolerant tawa and kamahi developing in the understorey.

In this way the podocarp-hardwood forest seen on the Nature Walk evolved. The Mangakara Nature Walk at the end of Grey Road in Pirongia Forest Park, takes about one hour to complete.

It is accessible to people of most ages and fitness levels but is not negotiable by wheelchairs. Numbered posts have been installed along the walk and this pamphlet describes the points of interest at each station.

The mountain has always loomed large in the lives and traditions of people in the King Country/Waikato regions. It was first named 'Pirongia te aroaro o Kahu', by a tohunga of the Tainui canoe ( 'the fragrant presence of Kahu'- his wife)

Prior to European settlement the King Country/Waikato region was home to a thriving Maori population. Pirongia's forests were a rich hunting ground, providing the local people with berries, roots, birds and many other foods.

The first European settlers valued the forest more for its ready supply of timber to meet their building needs. Fortunately this part of the Park escaped the woodsman's axe, leaving this outstanding nature walk for your enjoyment.

To the north-west of Mt. Pirongia, and also part of the park, another ancient volcano, Karioi, rises sharply from the sea to 756 metres.

Altogether, four seperate blocks of land make up the park, which is managed by the Department of Conservation. Although protection of the park's natural and historic values is paramount, there are also many recreational opportunities for visitors to enjoy.

Plants and Wildlife

Forests as large as Pirongia are rare in the King Country/Waikato region today, and are of considerable conservation value due to the variety of plant life and animal habitats available. Podocarps such as rimu and totara, are found at lower altitudes along with tawa and tree ferns.

As you go higher, the forest changes; hardy plants like kamahi and horopito, are found on exposed ridges and, near the summit, thick mats of mountain flax, coprosmas and ferns are common. Northern Rata and kohekohe are stillpresent in the canopy, but have been devastated by possums. Pest control programmes are now in place to help save these and other vulnerable species.

Native birds have diminished in number over recent years, but you are still likely to see grey warblers, fantails, tomtits, and, around the park margin, harriers, kingfishers and pippits, New Zealand falcons, kereru, tui and bellbirds. Several species of native fish and a huge variety of aquatic invertebrates are found in the park's streams.

Recreation Information


The weather conditions can change rapidly, especially at higher altitudes. Always carry a change of clothing, wet weather gear and sufficient food to cater for any emergency.


Fires are not permitted on the summit ridges (Ruapane through to the cone, Mahaukura and Hihikiwi) or at the hut. Visitors need portable cookers. Firewood is not available at the camp or picnic sites. During periods of extreme fire danger, the park may be closed to visitors.


The high level tracks on Pirongia and Karioi follow steep sided ridges. Water is difficult to find, especially in summer, so you must take water with you.


There are picnic areas at the end of both Corcoran and Grey Roads and alongside Kaniwhaniwha Stream on Karamu Limeworks Loop Road.


Pirongia has two campsites. One, with toilets, is situated in a grassy clearing, 45 minutes walk up the Kaniwhaniwha Stream. The other is a remote tramper/ hunter site, half way along the Bell Track. Use of these sites is free.

Pahautea Hut

This is the only hut in the park. It sleeps 6-8 on two platform bunks. The hut has mattresses and a water supply but does not have a fire or cooking facilities. A camping shelter and campsites are located adjacent to the hut.

Fires are not permitted in this area. Overnight visitors must carry their own cooking equipment and all rubbish must be packed out. Leave the area clean and tidy.

Hut tickets ($5/adults) can be purchased from any Department of Conservation office prior to your stay.

Hunting and Fishing

Pigs, goats and possums are present in low numbers. Pigs are found mainly on the western side of Pirongia. Permits to hunt in the park are available from the Department of Conservation in Hamilton.

Brown and rainbow trout are present in Kaniwhaniwha Stream. Fly fishing only is permitted.


There are many entry points into the park. Some access ways cross private land. Keep to marked tracks and use stiles at fences. To protect the Te Awamutu water supply, access is not encouraged in the Mangauika catchment.

Search the following links for further infomation on Pirongia.

Pirongia Hiking Trails and Walking Tracks

Pirongia History

Pirongia Business Directory

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