Papatahi Hut

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Where: Papatahi Hut, Remutaka Forest Park, Wellington
Distance & Time: Three hours, 30 minutes
Take: Lots of water, food, sunscreen, boots you don’t mind getting wet, togs in warm weather!
Amenities on route: .Bathroom at the start of the walk and half way. Hut has gas cooking, mattresses, and crockery/cutlery
Cost of the walk: $100 for exclusive use of the hut, which sleeps up to 10 people


A hut where you are guaranteed to have the whole place to yourself? Where you have to cross a river numerous times to get there? Where you don’t have to carry crockery or cooking equipment, leaving room for a bottle of wine in your bag? Sign me up!

Papatahi Hut is in the Remutaka Forest Park, just outside of Wainuiomata in Wellington. The hut must be booked and paid for in advance, as entry is via a lockcode. It’s so nice knowing you can take your time with walking in and you don’t have to rush to make sure that you have a bed for the evening, like you do with some other huts. The cost is $100 a night and it doesn’t matter whether there are two or ten of you, although obviously if there are more of you the cost is going to be less per person! We had five of us which was quite a nice number and made the hut nice and cosy – with the fire going and mugs of wine or tea, we were quite content!

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Learning the different native bird calls at the beginning of the walk!

The drive to Remutaka Forest Park from Wellington doesn’t take long at all, and if you need to pick up some last minute supplies you’ve got Petone and Wainuiomata to stock up on anything you need. The five of us met at the carpark and knowing we didn’t have to rush to secure a bunk in the hut was such a nice feeling as it meant we could take our time (in fact, we didn’t start walking until after lunch!)

There are a couple of different routes you can take to get to the river, but we took the most direct route, which took around an hour. Once we got to the river we had the choice of whether we wanted to get to the Hut by following the river upstream, or following the bush track. We decided to go with the bush track heading up there as we weren’t too sure what the height of the water was going to be like and didn’t want to arrive soaking wet!

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Photo taken from the bridge – this is the point where you can either walk up the river to the hut, or continue up through the bush.  On the return it’s where you leave the river bed and head back to your car following the bush track

We passed another couple of huts on route, both of which you can also book privately through DOC. There weren’t too many people on the track though, I think most people had either come through earlier in the day or it was just that time of year. Either way, it made for easy walking.

There are no massive hills to tackle here and the track is fairly standard, the interesting part comes when we drop down into the river bed. You can try to stay on one side and stay dry….but that probably won’t work! If it helps, the water was mostly at our ankles and I think it may have got up to our knees once. The water was incredibly clear and we could easily see where  we needed to step and the flow wasn’t too fast. It would actually be incredibly refreshing to do this walk in the middle of summer to cool off while walking.

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Heaps of room to walk either side of the river, but you will have to cross it several times!

It was really peaceful just walking up the river bed, with the sun shining and the sound of flowing water accompanying us on our stroll. While I had hiking boots on, you could easily do this walk in sturdy sneakers as the river bed is fairly easy to navigate.

We were keeping an eye out for the orange markers that told us to leave the river bed and head up to our accommodation for the night. They are fairly obvious (you can’t miss them in daylight) and while it’s only a five minute walk up stairs to the hut it is so well hidden that we couldn’t see it from the river.

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Papatahi Hut!

The hut is amazing. It had a lockcode to get in and it’s got everything you could want: a well stacked firewood pile, gas cookers, cooking equipment, crockery, candles, cups and even puzzles and board games! We hung up our wet things to dry in front of the fire and settled ourselves in with a heap of food and wine and tea and had a great night of card games and trivial pursuit and puzzles! The hut was cosy with the fire going and we even had to open the door at one point to let some heat out because it was getting too warm!

Amy’s Advice – you only need to bring your clothes, sleeping bag and food, EVERYTHING else is already there! So that leaves more in your bag for a few luxury items (wine, games, togs for river swims when it’s hot etc)

The next morning we woke to sunshine and we took our time getting ready and leaving the hut clean and tidy for the next guests to arrive. It’s the same way out as we walked in but we decided to change it up by walking along the river bed the whole way until we came to the bridge where we had to go back up the hill to the car. I thought it was shorter but it was probably the same amount of time (I don’t know about you, but I always find the last day/return trip always goes much faster than the trip in)

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First time I’d seen this bridge sign while hiking!

With the sun on our backs and no time constraints it was quite glorious walking along the river. We criss-crossed it several times and came across a few others on our walk. Again, the deepest crossing we had was up to our knees, so nothing to worry about. Back at the bridge we headed back up the hill to our cars and back into the city – all in all a good wee overnight trip out of the city!

Photos by Paul, Julie and I! 

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