Probably the quickest way to get above the Tararua bushline from Wellington, a return walk to Marchant Ridge made for a decent day out in the hills. It’s only a 45 minute drive from central Wellington to the DOC car park on Kiwi Ranch Road, allowing access into the Kaitoke Regional Park area of the Tararua Ranges.
On the way I stopped at the Stuart Macaskill Lakes lookout for early morning still reflections.
Marchant Ridge Track is reached from the Dobson Loop Track, which rises steadily with the occasional view.
There is some varied and attractive bush.
Soon after joining the Marchant Ridge Track the bush opened up, and later I found some unexpected snow in the shades in mid-September.
Back into atmospheric bush, climbing steeply with plenty of tree roots and some mud to tackle.
It was worth it though to reach above the bush line for lunch with a view.
After refueling I wandered along the top of the ridge, taking in the huge views of the Tararua Ranges, the flat plains of the Wairapapa, and the snow dusted 1,361m peak of Alpha ahead. I’d headed this was on a three day circuit a few years ago, one of the most incredible, if scary at times, hikes I’ve done.
Today though I just took in the views and headed back the way I came, relived to re-enter the bush as there was a freezing wind on the tops.
In the distance I could see Upper Hutt, Lower Hutt, and Wellington City in the distance.
Unexpectedly I found views to match these returning to the Dobson Look Track, before heading steeply downhill to Smith Creek Shelter there is an open section with colourful views.
Tauherenikau River looked good from a height.
If less spectacular once down by and walking alongside it, with a couple of slips to navigate carefully.
The bush was rather pleasant though.
After Puffer Saddle there was a final view for the day before returning to the car park.