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.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Waiatarua Reserve

Once upon a time, before Kelvin and I moved in together, I lived with my Mum and a cat called Meg (short for Megatron) in a house near Waiatarua Reserve. I wasn't feeling very adventurous this week and this is a nice familiar run, so I stopped by here on my way home from work today.

Waiatarua Reserve loop track

Waiatarua Reserve has wetlands in the middle and is surrounded by a walking track and small pockets of bush.

It's a comfortable run, with no real hills (just gentle slopes). There's the added bonus of an off-leash dog park within the reserve, so there's plenty of entertainment on offer. I couldn't quite capture on camera the black lab which leaps into the pond like a missile, with all 4 legs tucked up close to its body. Must be one hell of a belly-flop!

One circuit of the gravel track encircling the park is about 3k, but more if you explore more of the outer and inner bits of the park aswell.


I started the run from the northern entrance to the reserve on Grand Drive, St John's park, where it's easy to park on the road and the car is pretty visible all the time. You can also park at the main carpark on the corner of Abbot's Way and Grand Drive.

Click on the map image on the left to open up the mapometer map.

Here is the Waiatarua Reserve page on the Auckland City Council website.

Upcoming events at Waiatarua Reserve
  • Distance: One loop is about 3k - but one lap doesn't feel like enough, and there's lots of different routes to try on the second time around
  • Terrain: Flat and tiny hills
  • Shade: Only in some parts
  • Track type and condition: there is a gravel track all the way around, but you can run beside it on the grass if you prefer
  • Mud: Nope, none at all - not even in the winter
  • Views: of the wetlands and birds from the interesting viewing points
  • Novelty: For me, not at all but if you've never been here it's a nice park worth checking out
  • Remoteness: Not at all
  • Toilets: Yes - at Abbots Way/Grand Drive carpark
  • Crowd factor: Can get lots of people and dogs but there's heaps of space
  • Watch out for: Not much to watch out for, except perhaps don't go here too early in the morning as I did hear of an incident of a woman being confronted. But then again that probably goes for all off-road areas. Oh, and I did get a facefull/mouthful/nosefull of bugs in one of the inner tracks closer to the wetlands
  • Extra for experts: You can cross Grand Drive and head to the smaller reserve on the other side of the road - would add perhaps another 1km or so
Nice all round inner city run, or walk, or dog walk, or dog-coveting walk (I really want a dog!)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Huia Ridge Track, Waitakere Ranges

Finally, a trailophile run in the Waitakeres – Auckland’s off-road running Mecca! I’m amazed that it’s taken us this long to get out here, but that’s testament to how many great off-road runs there are closer to the city – and I'm sure we haven’t found them all yet!

Huia Ridge Track

I chose this track solely on the basis that it was the longest one I could find on the Auckland Regional Council (ARC) website. It's a 6km (one way) 'tramping track', to use their terminology, which means that they may "have limited track formation, and steep grades". That description was certainly true - this track is hard going and we ran as much as we could for 45 minutes but still weren't anywhere near the Karamatura Forks, where the track ends. Misguidedly, I had thought that 'ridge' in the track name might denote a less hilly track, but I was completely wrong! There were views, but only in certain places. And there really isn't much to see along the way. I guess we probably ran for 3km before turning back because it was getting late and dusky - and kinda spooky.

Maps and how to get there

OK, so is useless in the Waitakeres, as it only shows roads. Some Google maps do show the track, but you can't draw on them like you can in mapometer. So the map on the left is my attempt to create something useful and specific for this particular run with the mapping tool from the Huia Ridge Track page on the ARC website. The ARC mapping tool is not that intuitive, but you can figure it out with a little experimentation!

The binoculars denote the Huia Ridge Track, which starts at Piha Rd and ends at Karamatura Forks. There is no parking on Piha Rd, so turn down Lone Kauri Rd. About 500m or so down the track entrance is on the left, with parking space for 2 cars.

  • Distance: total track from Piha Rd to Karamatura Forks is 6km, so there and back would be 12km
  • Terrain: Up and down like a rollercoaster!
  • Shade: Yes
  • Track type and condition: a 'tramping track' (see above). Probably about 1/3 runnable; the rest you simply have to walk due to fallen trees, steep slopes etc. The top layer of the track is very 'loose' and slippery with fallen leaves, twigs etc. I don't think very many people use this track
  • Mud: Oh yes. After about 3 weeks of straight sunshine in Auckland the mud was solidifying in most places, but still wet enough to have to avoid
  • Views: in some parts you can see across the valley until the West Coast, but the track is mostly tree-covered. On the plus side, there are beautiful Kauri trees, and we saw a couple of kereru (which gave us a massive fright when we disturbed them, as their flapping wings are really loud!)
  • Novelty: Novel, but quickly became tiring as not much variety of scenery
  • Remoteness: As soon as you are away from Piha Rd, you feel like it's the middle of nowhere. And this became quite spooky when the sun began to set
  • Toilets: Nope
  • Crowd factor: Completely deserted
  • Watch out for: Barbed wire fences - some fallen down onto the track - near the Lone Kauri Rd entrance. And I have to mention...I wasn't completely comfortable leaving the car there for anyone to break in to - we took all our credit cards in our camelback 'cause you just can't be too careful!
  • Extra for experts: Um, do more of the track than we did! And if that's still not enough, then there are plenty of other tracks that branch off or continue on from this one

Good training for one of those hardcore off-road events like the Totalsport West Coaster, but for a weeknight after-work amble it was a bit too difficult! I would allow at least 3 hours in the middle of the day to fully explore and enjoy this track.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

One Tree Hill and Cornwall Park

And now for one of my favourite, most accessible off-road runs in Auckland. I’ve been saving this run up for a hectic week because it’s so central – and so good for the soul. Running here yesterday made me remember why I love Auckland (even on a week where we are fighting to keep an off-license liquor store – to be open 9am-11pm 7 days a week – from opening up on our residential street).

One Tree Hill and Cornwall Park

Together these two parks make up the largest parkland in central Auckland. It’s like being in a stately home in England (or what I imagine one would look like, having never been there). I can imagine ladies from Jane Austen novels walking in their voluminous dresses and holding parasols, walking beside the hedgerows or under the massive oak trees. And I love features like the rock staircases and walls made with volcanic scoria from One Tree Hill. There’s plenty of livestock - sheep and cattle – too. And plenty of space for off-road running!

Dick Quax's 4.5 mile loop

I was introduced to this run by my running friend Stephen Duxfield, who lives nearby and has run this route many times. It’s well known by local athletics clubs who do the route for cross-country training. According to the Athletics New Zealand newsletter, Dick Quax (a former Olympian and who has just missed out on being Councillor for Howick on the new Auckland Council) made this run popular and used to do it two or three times on his training runs. But one lap at 7.2km is usually enough for me!

The run covers the park in a sort of star shape, heading out to Greenlane West (twice), Manukau and Campbell Roads before heading back inwards, towards the mountain. It doesn’t actually go up to the summit.


Athletics New Zealand featured this run in their September 2010 newsletter – ‘Athletics in Action’ as part of their ‘Great Training Runs in NZ’ series.

Here is a version of the above run – approximately as Stephen and I run it. You can add bits on as you choose – there’s plenty extra to explore in this park that this run doesn’t cover.


  • Distance: approx 7km
  • Terrain: A bit hilly
  • Shade: The great thing about this run, in the afternoon at least, is that a large part of it is under shade. In summer that's such a relief for someone like me who burns in 2 seconds
  • Track type and condition: grass
  • Mud: Winter: yes. Summer, no.
  • Views: nearly 360 degree views all around Auckland, even from this run which doesn't go up to the summit
  • Novelty: Not novel for me and this track is reasonably well known, but I love it every time
  • Remoteness: Even though it's in the middle of the city, this park is so spacious that some areas feel like they are out of the city
  • Toilets: There are 3 opportunities for toilet stops on this run. And a couple of water fountains too
  • Crowd factor: You'll usually see a few other people on this route, but it's never crowded. The roads around One Tree Hill are more crowded so this is a nice alternative
  • Watch out for: Weird guys cycling past and trying to hand you things (drugs? love letters?) concealed in an envelope - this seriously happened to me earlier this year. It was getting near dusk and I was running through the Twin Oak Drive area. Best not to run here at night.
  • Extra for experts: Cross Greenlane West and head through the park alongside Puriri Drive until Market Rd. It's nearly an exact 1k between the two roads, so you can use it as a time trial.

This run is just as great as ever. And always will be. Thanks Sir Logan Campbell for gifting this park to Auckland those many years ago, and thanks Dick Quax for the great track.