If you love tramping, this is one you can’t miss when visiting Hawke’s Bay. It offers easy hiking, beautiful bush and scenic views, and plenty of photo opportunities. It is also pretty safe under most weather conditions, is family and child-friendly and is therefore the most popular tramp in the eastern Ruahine ranges, for good reason.
There is a toilet and a very useful information panel at the car park – well worth looking at (the sign, that is!). The start is over a stile just to the right of the panel, after which you follow an indistinct farm track for about 10 minutes, before arriving at another stile, which is the boundary of the Ruahine Forest Park. A couple of minutes after this you arrive at a track junction; to the left, the Swamp Track loop, to the right, to Triplex Hut, and straight on, the Sunrise track proper. If you have some time to spare, pop into Triplex hut for a look-see – it’s only a minute’s walk from the junction.
Ignore the track going off left to Waipawa Forks hut, and carry straight on, upwards, once again! Along this section there are some good viewpoints towards the east, as well as to the forested spur across the valley. Note how the vegetation starts changing the higher you climb – the lush bush starts giving way to horopito and mountain beech, and the canopy becomes lower and lower as you continue. About 1.5 hours after leaving the junction, one suddenly emerges from the bush onto Buttercup Hollow, and Sunrise Hut. There are superbly grand views from here, well worth a lingering break to take in their grandeur. Once you’ve had a good look and taken some photos, the hut’s a nice place to relax for a while, and enjoy lunch. Then take the opportunity to pop up a short rise behind the hut onto the ridge. There even more grand views open up. If the weather’s clear, the main Ruanhine range lies before you, across a valley forming the headwaters of the Waipawa River.
Once you’ve had your fill of what this place has on offer, the walk back to the car will take you an easy 2 hours or so. If not, there’s always the option of staying overnight, and rising early to catch the sunrise after which the hut was named. Note that there’s a charge for this, and that hut tickets can be purchased at the I-site in Waipukurau or at the Onga Onga General Store.
- Be prepared! Take clothing and provisions for all weather possibilities – the weather can change in a matter of an hour from beautiful sunshine and warm temperatures, to snow and sub-zero temperatures.
- Moderate to good fitness required – at least 4.5 to 5 hours total walking required, with an altitude gain of 700m.
- Suitable for children from about 8 years and over.
- Tell someone where you’re going, and what time to expect you back.
- Fill in the hut visitor’s books – it could save your life.
- Take a map – NZ Topographical map BK36 Taoroa Junction refers, which can be purchased from Sportsworld or Dave Hern in Waipukurau.