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“Hiking is a bit like life:

The journey only requires you to put one foot in front of the other…again and again and again. And if you allow yourself the opportunity to be present throughout the entirety of the trek, you will witness beauty every step of the way, not just at the summit”


Mt Karioi is an extinct volcano in the Waikato Region of the North Island. It provided the (often harsh) backdrop to mine and my friend, Mark's day out in the bush one wintery day. Mt Karioi enabled also me to tick something off my 33 things to do before I turn 33 list: climb a mountain.

Mt Karioi map

Quick Stats:

Time: 6 - 7 hours return

Fitness Level: this track is pretty much all uphill to the summit, with the steepest part being at the beginning so you need to be fairly fit to tackle it (note: I wasn't)

Difficulty: some parts of the track are quite difficult, ropes have been installed to help you get up the almost vertical rock faces.

Access: 13km from Raglan (the last 4km being windy gravel road)

More info: check out the Department of Conservation website for more info

Mt Karioi, just the beginning

What is Mt Karioi?

Mt Karioi is an ancient, extinct volcano in Ragland, in the Waikato Region of the North Island. It is quite old (approximately 2.4 million years to put a number on it). It is also quite spectacular. And a little challenging.

The track to the summit is often unformed with steep, rough or muddy sections. The track is marked by poles but sometimes there is some guesswork involved as to where to go next.

There are two tracks to the summit, you can choose to go to the summit and back or all the way over. If you choose to go all the way over you will need to arrange transport or leave a car at either end.

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The track

While Mt Karioi is not the tallest Mountain New Zealand has to offer, it is still pretty darn steep and climbs a high altitude in a short amount of time, leaving the unfit desperately gasping for air. Also possibly the need to throw up (not speaking from experience at all). Mt Karioi is probably one of the most challenging walks I have done in a long time. In saying that, it was also the most satisfying and fun trek.

The ropes you have to climb to get up the rock faces, the vertical stairs and ladders, the oozing mud and dramatic views all made for a marvellous adventure.

The sign at the beginning of the walk state 2 hours to the lookout and an extra hour to the summit. It took us about an hour and a half to get to the lookout and another hour and a half to get to the summit. So the total time was accurate for us. Allow about 3-3 hours 30 to get to the summit.

There may be the need for a few more ropes and ladders along the way but handily placed tree roots do the trick just as well. The track can get rather steep in places, almost crawling up or down rock faces. But it adds to the adventure of it all.

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An alternative route

There are two ways to get to Mt Karioi summit, the way we took (from Te Toto Gorge) or from Ruapuke Rd. The track from Ruapuke Rd is easier but has less dramatic views. This route has little exposure to heights and no chains (which is the fun part). The track uses a farm road for the first kilometre until the track is signposted up the hill alongside a fence on the right and a stile leads into the bush.

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The view from the top

If you have a clear day you can see Mt Taranaki, Pureora, Maungamangero, Te Aroha, Pirongia and Maungatautari. Unfortunately, we got an overcast day but the views were still very humbling and awe-inspiring. Sitting on the rock looking at the stretching view of the land and ocean it definitely felt worth the aching, mud covered legs.

Top of Mt Karioi

Look Out!

On the way back we took the quick 10-minute detour to the lookout. Spread before us was Raglan, the ocean and towards Waitakere in all its glory. The cloud cover even managed to clear for us for a few minutes while we enjoyed the view. Very courteous.

Plus there was a rock that totally looked like a dolphin head along the way. See if you can spot it if you decide to tackle this climb.

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A well-earned sit in the sunset

Once we got back to the carpark a well earned sit down was in order. We stumbled the short distance to the viewpoint from the car and marvelled in the setting sun from the 150m high cliff. A cold beer would have topped the day of spiffingly. Unfortunately, this was something that we didn't think about until we sat down and craved a cold beer. Hindsight huh?

Luckily there was a freedom camper relaxing with his guitar on the bench seat also taking in the view. This provided us with some chill background music.

Good to remember

  • Always tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back
  • Check weather conditions before you go and remember it can change quickly and without warning
  • Take plenty of water and snacks. This is a steep track and you will need to stay hydrated
  • Wear appropriate tramping (hiking) boots and layers
  • Have fun!
  • For more hiking tips check out my hiking tips post

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All in all Mt Karioi was well worth the hike. The outstanding views and different challenges throughout the walk made this a varied and rewarding climb.

What's the most challenging trek you have ever done?

Let me know in the comments



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