Casey and I were in the Wellington area. We had explored the city, but it was time to get back into nature. We were planning a trip to canoe the Whanganui River and would be heading north. We were also looking for places to hike in the area.
My husband Casey found the Paekakariki Escarpment Track. Getting to Paekakariki is a short drive from Wellington (about 30-40 minutes). The trail goes up along the hills of the coast and overlooks the Pukerua Bay, where you can spot Kapiti Island.
Finding the trailhead can be difficult, as some of the instructions we found were a bit hard to understand. The GPS took us to the wrong location first, then upon reading the directions from a website we managed to find what looked to be the right starting place. We needed to walk to the end of Ames Street, where SH1 intersects, cross the bridge and then proceed down the stairs. The stairs will lead you under the bridge where the trail officially starts.
The Paekakariki Escarpment Track is part of the Te Araroa Trail. It is 10 kilometers long and could take 3 to 4 hours to hike (depending on your fitness level). This is a one-way trail, not a loop. So if you are planning to walk back to the beginning of the trail then you will need to adjust the time it will take to complete.
There is no covered shelter along the trail, but you do occasionally go through some bush and trees that offer some shade. You will also find a couple benches to sit at along the way and enjoy the stunning views! At the highest elevation you are ~220 meters above sea level.
We started the trail on the north side at Paekakariki. The beginning of the trail is flat and through some bush. Eventually it becomes exposed and the incline of the trail increases.
This hike was tough at times for me. We started later in the morning, and with little shade and having to hike many, many sets of stairs – I was hot and sweating!
The stairs continued to increase. With the curve of the hills, I sometimes would think we were done and soon the trail would be flat again – but nope, just around the curve would be yet another set of stairs!
Near the end of the trail, around 8 kilometers, the trails will start to move down the hillside. My husband and I decided not to walk to the end of the trail. We turned around a little after the second swing bridge to walk back towards Paekakariki, where we parked our campervan.
If you decided to walk the entire trail, and not back-track like we did, then you will end up at the (now closed) Muri Train Station. You will need to have arranged a way to get back to Paekakariki if your car is there. There is an operating train: Pukerua Bay Railway Station, and you can get a 10 minute ride back to Paekakariki.
I think this day hike was one of our favorites. It has amazing views and it a great workout with all the stairs! Just make sure you dress appropriately (proper footwear and gear for sun exposure) and take enough water with you (there are no places along the trail to get more).
*There are special conditions to hiking the Paekakariki Escarpment Track. It is important to stay on the trail, and not wander off from the path. The landowners have granted the public access to enjoy the trail and views, so let’s be courteous and follow the rules marked by the signs. Happy tramping!
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