While most people would think of the Waitakere Ranges as being the place to go hiking in Auckland, there’s another water catchment area with dams and a mixture of gentle and rugged walking tracks: the Hunua Ranges.
The area has been undergoing some fairly intensive predator trapping and so birdlife has been improving. There was an abundance of tuis, fantails (below) and kereru (above). If you’re really lucky you’ll hear my favourite bird, the kokako, which has a steadily growing population in the ranges where pest control is intense.
Kauri dieback disease isn’t evident here and the trees are full of epiphytes. There’s a kauri grove that’s a little side track off the dam loop track, but what’s just as interesting is the large variety of fungi growing on the forest floor, from woody bracket fungus to soft cylindrical puffballs to the bright orange cup fungi like below.
There’s a waterfall with a picnic area for less active options. This area gets really busy in summer and while you can swim in the plunge pool, people have drowned there. To go hiking you can cross over the bridge and do the loop to Cossey Dam. It’s signposted three hours and we did it in 2.5 without pushing.
If you turn left at the fork you’ll get to the dam in under an hour and this way is the best way to go due to the gradient. Once at the dam, walk across the dam face and follow the signs back to Hunua. There are other tracks in the Hunua Ranges, but they’re much longer and cross the ranges towards Miranda.
The middle of the ranges has some very steep and rugged tracks whereas this loop to Cossey Dam is well-formed with plenty of sections having steps and gravel.
You’ll find plenty of tuis wherever these are flowering.
There’s one stream to cross – fairly easy because there are plenty of boulders.
Hunua sits about 50 minutes’ drive from downtown Auckland. You can walk dogs on the track.