The 10 Top Walks in Manawatū


There’s no better way to explore a region than by enjoying its walking tracks. Visit where the locals go on short walks that still allow for a whole day of exploring, dining and adventure. Venture deep into nature on an overnight hike to get a true sense of what makes an area unique. In the mighty Manawatū, you’re guaranteed to see some incredible sights on these top walks.

Stretching across the lower half of the North Island of New Zealand, it’s a place of rugged mountain ranges and beautiful rivers. Explore Palmerston North on leisurely tracks that wind through bustling areas, and experience the Ruahine and Tararua ranges on native bush trails.

1. Te Āpiti – Manawatū Gorge Track

Discover one of New Zealand’s best day walks, just 20 minutes from Palmerston North. The Te Āpiti – Manawatū Gorge Track separates the Manawatū and Hawkes Bay regions and lies between Ruahine Forest Park and Tararua Forest Park. With mountains and ancient forests paving the way, this natural playground simply has to be experienced when visiting Manawatū. Listen out for native birds as you walk under the dense canopy of trees, and climb high above the Manawatū River and Gorge for incredible views on this 11.2km track. Encounter the sculpture of Whātonga along the way, a warrior standing guard over the ancient forest, and a spectacular giant Totara tree standing proud.

Te Āpiti – Manawatū Gorge Track showcases a unique piece of forest in the region. The proximity of this track to the major city of Palmerston North paired with the outstanding natural beauty makes this walk one of the best things to do in Manawatū.

For a shorter walk, check out the Tawa Loop Track. This 4.1km loop is the perfect way to enjoy the Manawatū Gorge in all its glory in half the time.

2. He Ara Kotahi Pathway

Wind along the He Ara Kotahi Pathway in Palmerston North for an incredibly scenic day out. This stunning riverside pathway takes you alongside the Manawatū River and to the Linton Military Camp. This 9km track will be bustling with people commuting to work or university, and people seeking the best riverside sights. Pass through native bush, farms and historic pā sites. One of the best parts of the track is the He Ara Kotahi Bridge. Stretching 194m across the Manawatū River, it’s designed to look like a fallen Karaka tree. The bridge is a spectacular sight by night, lit by glowing spheres and lines making the bridge look like it’s floating. Other top attractions include the eel feeding platform at Turitea Stream where large native eels (tuna) reside throughout the year. Walk a short leg of the pathway, or connect onto the Manawatū River Pathway for an additional 9.8km to explore.

If you’re looking for walks in Manawatū that paint a picture of the region, its history and its beauty, this track is a go-to. Manawatū, a name that means ‘heart standing still’, is easy to fall in love with thanks to picturesque spots like this.

3. Rangiwahia Hut Track

Reignite the senses and escape the crowds on the Rangiwahia Hut Track. This one-three hour one-way walk provides an overnight hiking experience that suits families and less experienced trampers. Walk through the bush on a well-maintained track and steadily climb up to the tussocks. Along the way enjoy birdsong, a beautiful wooden arched bridge and a waterfall before arriving at Rangiwahia Hut. The hut is perched on top of the Ruahine Ranges with an incredible outlook, making the uphill climb well worth the effort. Be sure to book if you plan on staying at the Rangiwahia Hut overnight.

Not keen to stay in the hut? Make it a day walk instead and enjoy the sights from the huts vantage point before returning the way you came.

4. Sledge Track

Quintessential Manawatū scenery of stunning rivers, rock formations and swimming spots; the Sledge Track offers a blend of natural beauty and adventure. Located just a short drive from Palmerston North, this track is a local favourite for those seeking a taste of the region’s rugged landscape. The Sledge Track begins at the Kahuterawa Reserve and follows the picturesque Kahuterawa Stream, providing plenty of opportunities for streamside picnics and bird-watching. As you continue along the trail, you’ll encounter native bush, tranquil swimming holes, and impressive waterfalls. The track is well-marked and offers several route options, catering to both casual walkers and more experienced hikers.

For those looking for more of a challenge, the track extends to the Arapuke Forest Park, where mountain biking trails and more advanced hiking paths await. Whether you’re in for a leisurely stroll or an invigorating hike, the Sledge Track promises an unforgettable experience in the heart of Manawatū.

5. Rangiwahia Scenic Reserve Walk

The Rangiwahia Scenic Reserve is somewhat of a hidden gem, boasting 130 acres of undisturbed native bush and the historic settlement of Rangiwahia Village. Two walking tracks give outdoor enthusiasts the opportunity to experience this natural playground: the Reserve Track and the Reserve-Lookout Track.

The Reserve Track (2.1 km return): This shorter, more accessible route is perfect for those seeking an easy walk through the stunning native bush. The well-maintained path meanders through lush greenery, allowing walkers to immerse themselves in the tranquil forest atmosphere. Along the way you can enjoy birdsong and glimpses of native flora like rimu, miro, matai and rātā.

The Reserve-Lookout Track (4.5 km return): For those looking for a bit more adventure, the Reserve-Lookout Track offers a more challenging hike. This path climbs steadily, providing rewarding views of the surrounding landscape. As you ascend, you’ll pass through diverse bush and encounter various bird species. The highlight of this track is the lookout point, which offers breathtaking panoramic views of the Ruahine Ranges and the valleys below. It’s the perfect spot to pause, take in the scenery, and snap some memorable photos.

6. Bledisloe to Old West Road

The Bledisloe to Old West Road Track offers a slow-paced adventure through some of Manawatū’s most picturesque countryside. This walking track, situated in a tranquil rural setting, provides an excellent opportunity to explore the region’s natural beauty and pastoral charm.

Starting at Bledisloe Park, the track winds its way through rolling farmland, native bush, and alongside serene streams. The path is well-defined and suitable for walkers of varying fitness levels, making it an ideal choice for a relaxing day out or a brisk, invigorating walk. As you meander along the trail, you’ll be treated to sweeping views of the surrounding landscapes, with the distant ranges providing a stunning backdrop.

One of the highlights of this Manawatū walk is the opportunity to observe the local wildlife. Keep an eye out for native birds, such as fantails and tūī, as they flit among the trees. The track from Bledisloe to Old West Road also offers a glimpse into the agricultural life of the region. As you pass through the farmland, you may see sheep, cattle, and other livestock grazing peacefully.

7. No.1 Line Track

If you’re considering the walks in Manawatū, the No.1 Line Track is all about the lookout and won’t disappoint. The walk itself is moderately challenging with those all-important rewarding views of the Manawatū region and out to the west coast stealing the show. Located near the picturesque Pohangina Valley, this track offers a great mix of native bush, open ridgelines, and stunning vistas, making it a favourite among local hikers and nature enthusiasts.

Starting at the end of No.1 Line Road, the track begins with a steady ascent through lush native forest. As you climb, you’ll be enveloped by greenery and the sounds of native birds such as tūī and bellbirds. On a clear day, you can enjoy panoramic views stretching across the Pohangina Valley and out to the Ruahine Ranges. The track continues along the ridge before descending back into the forest, offering a loop option for those looking for a longer walk. 

For those looking for a bit more adventure, the No.1 Line Track can be extended by connecting with other nearby trails in the Ruahine Forest Park, providing opportunities for multi-day hikes and further exploration of this stunning region.

8. Manawatū River Pathway

If you’re eager to explore the parks and gardens of Palmerston North by foot, the Manawatū River Pathway is the perfect place to spend some time. With 14 different access points to the trail, you can seamlessly weave in and out of this scenic route during your day. The Manawatū River Pathway is over 10km’s long and it’s your gateway to the picturesque Hokowhitu Lagoon, native bush, mountain biking trails, barbeque and picnic areas and of course, Manawatū River. The pathway even includes part of the Te Araroa Trail, New Zealand’s longest walking route spanning from Cape Reinga to Bluff.

9. Deerford Track to Makiekie Creek

On the edge of Ruahine Forest Park in the Manawatū region, near the small township of Āpiti is the Deerford Track to Makiekie Creek track. This captivating route offers hikers an immersive experience in the heart of this incredible region’s wilderness. This track is ideal for those who enjoy a more rugged and less-travelled path, providing a sense of adventure and tranquillity.

Starting from the Deerford Road end, the track initially winds through dense native bush, with the forest canopy overhead creating a cool and shaded environment. The track gradually descends towards Makiekie Creek, where the forest opens up to reveal the pristine waters of the creek. This section of the walk is particularly enchanting. The clear, clean water of Makiekie Creek is a highlight of the journey, offering a perfect spot to take a break and enjoy the natural surroundings.

10. Alice Nash Heritage Memorial Lodge Track

The Alice Nash Heritage Memorial Lodge Track is a fantastic hike into the heart of the Ruahine Ranges, offering hikers a blend of natural beauty, historical significance, and a touch of adventure. One of the key highlights of this walk is the Alice Nash Heritage Memorial Lodge itself. Named in memory of Alice Nash, a dedicated conservationist, the lodge is a comfortable and welcoming shelter for hikers. Situated about 1.5 to 2 hours from the trailhead, the lodge provides a perfect spot to rest and refuel. If you’re staying overnight, the lodge is equipped with bunk beds, a wood burner, and other basic facilities. This track is ideal for both day hikers and those looking for a night in a historic backcountry hut. Walks in Manawatū don’t come better than this.

Read more on the best walks in Manawatū here.

This article was created in paid partnership with Manawatū NZ.

Manawatu NZ

Sarah Campbell
Sarah Campbell
Founder of one of New Zealand’s largest independent travel media brands New Zealand Guide. Sarah is based in the tourism capital of New Zealand, Queenstown. She is well travelled across all of New Zealand and loves to help people get the most out of their travel across the country.

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