Auckland off-road running blog

Welcome to Trailophile - a blog with information about off-road running trails in and around the Auckland area.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Cascades Part 1: Fence Line and Robinson Ridge tracks

Look at the Kauri canopyCascades is well-known for its short walk to the waterfall, but there are plenty of other tracks to explore here for the keen off-road runner. This week we did an approximately 7km loop on the Fence Line and Robinson Ridge tracks. This run is ‘Cascades Part 1’ because we’ll definitely be back to explore further.

Some dedications and reflections

I’d like to dedicate this week’s post to Tatsuru, my running friend who also featured in my Rotorua Redwood forest post, as he has broken his leg and will be out of action for a couple of months. Get well soon Tatsuru!

And I also humbly dedicate this post to the Pike River miners. They and their families and friends are still very much in my thoughts. I was thinking of them during this run on Wednesday evening, as I didn’t yet know about the second blast at 2.30pm that afternoon after which they were all presumed dead. After spending 5 days continually refreshing my computer screen for news updates, I was still hoping like everyone else that they would be alive and rescued. But it wasn’t to be. When I got home and saw the news, I was so sad.

I am now reflecting on the issue of mining – a hot topic in New Zealand at the moment with the possibility that our government will allow mining on Department of Conservation land. I’m full of questions. Talking about coal mines in particular, should we have open cast mines to remove the possibility of explosions due to methane buildup, or should we try to keep our mining underground and still be able to use the land above (for activities like tramping and off-road running)? I’m a dyed-in-the-wool greenie so I’m all for preserving nature, but I abhor the thought of people working in dangerous conditions so deep underground. Yes, there are supposed to be safety measures but this tragedy has shown they’re clearly they’re not infallible. And even though the business of mining coal contributes to the economy, shouldn’t we be trying to curb global warming by finding alternatives to our dependence on fossil fuels? Fellow readers and runners, what do you think?

OK, back to normal business:

Getting to The Cascades
The Cascades are accessible from the end of Falls Rd, off Te Henga Rd. There is enough space for cars to park and wide open grassy spaces - perfect for family picnics. From central Auckland there are a few ways of getting there, but I recommend exiting the motorway at Lincoln Rd and heading out through Swanson. Here’s a Google Map showing Falls Rd.

Cascades: Fence Line and Robinson Ridge track loop
Starting from the carpark first clean your shoes to prevent the spread of Kauri dieback, and follow the Cascades Track until the turnoff to southward-heading Fence Line Track.

The first section of Fence Line is pretty steep uphill but provides a good warmup even if you walk most of it. From there it’s a very well-maintained gravel track down to the Waitakere Reservoir. Fence Line then takes you southwest along the reservoir before turning northwards. Then it’s up a gradual hill until the Fence Line track meets the Robinson Ridge track.

Now, I thought Robinson Ridge was going to be slightly easier, but turns out it’s quite a challenging track, with some very steep, narrow and overgrown parts. Not quite as challenging as Huia Ridge, but close. After a couple of stream crossings, Robinson Ridge meets Cascades track again, and heads through the Kauris back to the carpark. Watch out for the massive Kauri that fell down (about 4 weeks ago according to another runner we met) and took the track with it. There’s something distressing about seeing such a mighty tree fallen down. I don’t know if it’s due to Kauri dieback or not, but the truck certainly looked healthy enough. In any case, I gave my shoes an extra good scrub upon leaving the track. With all this running I don't want to be spreading Kauri dieback around!


Map of tracks around The Cascades

Click on the photo for the best map we found, which is just a photograph of a map taken in the park itself!


  • Distance: I estimated the loop was about 7k; Kelvin thought about 10!
  • Terrain: Quite rugged but a mixture of nicely formed tracks and more rugged ones
  • Shade: Covered except for a small section on the Fence Line track beside the reservoir. We were running this in the evening after work and while on the Robinson Ridge track I got a bit of sunstrike with the low angle of the sun!
  • Track type and condition: Cascades track is very wide and well maintained, with wooden tracks in some parts to keep you off the Kauri roots. Fence Line was also good - being part of the Montana Heritage Trail ensures that it is kept in top condition. Robinson Ridge is more of a tramping track but mostly still runnable
  • Mud: Some dried muddy bits. In winter this would definitely get muddy, but probably not too badly
  • Views: Beautiful views out over the Kauri treetops from upper parts of the track. The reservoir is pretty nice too, apart from the massive concrete spillway structure
  • Novelty: Being a popular destination for my family and friends, this park is not really novel but I discover new things every time I come here
  • Remoteness: Yes, but having the Cascades carpark at the end of Falls Road ensures easy access to most of these tracks
  • Toilets: Yes – of the long drop variety. At the end of Falls Rd
  • Crowd factor: on the Fence Line and Robinson Ridge tracks we didn’t see anyone at all. Could be because it was after work on a weekday though. On the Cascades track we bumped into only two other people
  • Watch out for: Fallen trees obscuring the track, slippery stones on river crossings (Kelvin fell in and got his feet wet but I managed to balance – normally it’s the other way round!)
  • Extra for experts: Plenty of other tracks to explore here – watch this blog and we will review more of them!
A lovely place to run – enjoy the beautiful location, great tracks, and being up high amongst the Kauris. This run the perfect distance for after work provided you can get out there in time. Highly recommended.


Glen said...

Hi, nice idea with the blog posts - and there are hundreds of amazing places right here in Auckland, its amazing.......

Just an FYI - i run the 'bold red line' on that map (same first half as yours, but then long road and upper kauri). The track condition is awesome for running, and the total distance is ~9.4km. I can flick on a GPS track for google earth if youre interested.... :-)

trailophile said...

Hi Glen, thanks for the feedback! I'd love to do the longer loop sometime, perhaps that will be Part 2 of Cascades :) By all means send me the GPS map and I'd be interested to hear how you do that - do you record it as you're going or do you map it online?