For the first part of this tramp/hike, refer to the article on Sunrise Hut.
Top Maropea Hut is completely different to Sunrise Hut – it’s a lot smaller (6 bunks, compared to 24 for Sunrise Hut), and is a restored old Forest Service type hut. However, for tramping satisfaction, this is the real deal – it is miles away from anywhere, and gives one that real sense of isolation, as there is no sign or view of civilisation or environmental modification in any direction.
You can do this walk as a long day hike (only for the fit/very fit!), or preferably as an overnight excursion. Total walking time from Sunrise Hut is between 1 and 1.5 hours there, and at least 1.5 hours back. These times should be added to those from the car park to Sunrise Hut, to arrive at total walking time for the journey. The best time to do this hike is on a clear, sunny, day. If, at the car park, you see clouds rolling over the tops from the west, perhaps consider just going as far as Sunrise Hut, as it’s almost guaranteed to be blowing a strong gale on the tops, often so strong that it’s hard to remain standing.
From Sunrise Hut, walk up behind the hut onto the ridge, turn right, and follow the well defined track up to Armstrong Saddle. Take a short break here, look back to Sunrise Hut and marvel at the expansive views before you. At the saddle, the track veers left up the ridge, and follows it for about 15 minutes. As you go along, views to the west open up, and if it’s a clear day, you might see the snow-capped volcanic peaks of Ruapehu and Ngaruhoe before you. I found it very hard not to stop and marvel at the views – it’s a 360 degree paradise that I just can’t get enough of. Photo opportunities are endless!
A short distance further down the track a signpost appears – turn right here. The track immediately starts dropping down a spur into a valley, and subsequently into the bush. Take extra care from here on, as the track becomes quite steep, and it’s not hard to trip or slip. A short while later the bright orange hut suddenly appears out of the bush – a welcome sight for the weary. It’s a comfortable, if small, hut with individual bunks and mattresses, an open fireplace, and has an outside toilet and water tank. Heaps of character! There is also a clearing near the hut for tents, if the hut is full.
The return walk to Sunrise is regrettably back up the steep track, but as going in the opposite direction gives one a totally different perspective on the surroundings, it feels quite new and fresh, and I hardly noticed the effort required to get back to the signpost. Again, many opportunities present themselves to take photos, or just drink in the views.
This hike absolutely stands out in my mind as one which is unforgettable, and which I will do again a number of times.
On your way home, as for the Sunrise Hut hike, do stop at the historic General Store in Onga Onga for the traditional (ours) cuppa and muffin! That latte really tastes better after a solid, satisfying hike as long as this one!
- 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.
- Good to very good fitness required – at least 7 to 9 hours total walking required (from the car park), with an altitude gain of 800m.
- Suitable for children from about 10 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.
- There is a small charge for staying overnight at this hut – tickets available from the I-site in Waipukurau, or the General Store in Onga Onga.