Mangahao Flats Hut

Burn hut • By john dutchie. Licence: C.

A tramp to the Mangahao Flats Hut in the Tararua Forest Park is an excellent weekend trip for everyone including family groups, as you work your way up this Northern Tararua Valley passing beautiful deep green pools and lovely beech forest.

The tramp to Mangahao Flats Hut will take between 5 to 7 hours depending on how much time you want to spend in the river swimming in the fantastic pools or just checking out the beautiful surroundings. This valley is not visited a lot compared to many other Tararua Valleys. Camping is available beside the river on bush terraces.


Access to the Mangahao Flats Hut track is by road off SH57 at Shannon, where you follow the road signs to the Mangaore Power Village for approximately 5 kms. From here you pass the Mangahao Hydro Electric Power Station which was completed in 1924 and begin a very winding metal road for at least 30 minutes passing the smaller Tokomaru No 3 reservoir and the Mangahao No 2 reservoir before arriving at the Top No 1 Reservoir dam.

The Route

The track starts straight away from the edge of the car park and enters the bush on the true left side of the Mangahao River.Views across the impressive dam show the huge amount of work that was required during its construction. Leaving the dam behind the track soon crosses a swingbridge over an unnamed stream and then, shortly after, Roaring Creek is reached, which is not bridged. For the next hour or so the track sidles up and down a little until a big swingbridge crosses the Mangahao River to the true right side. Once across a lovely spot beside the river is available for a lunch stop or a swim in one of the many pools.

During summer months or when the river is low, travelling up the lower section of gorge is possible if you don't mind swimming or pack floating some of the many huge green pools. If in any doubt stick to the sidle track which carries on up and down a little until Dick Creek is reached. A little more sidling and the valley starts to open up (2 to 3 hours from Lunch spot).

Mangahao Flats Hut,Tararua Forest Park • By tararua.

Harris Creek Footbridge marks  the beginning of  easier travel up the valley, where the Red Beech Forest leaves litter the track sometimes hiding the depth of the muddy sections of the track. Once again if the river is low the easiest travel is boulder hopping up the river itself all the way to Mangahao Flats Hut.

If sticking to the track Barra Stream Bridge arrives unexpectedly. DOC recently completed this to make the majority of the route dry all the way to Mangahao Flats Hut. A little more sidling is required around a tight section of the river and over a few scrubby slips until the very spacious and warm hut appears (2 to 3 hours from Harris Creek ).

The Hut

The Hut itself sits on a terrace above the river and is well sheltered. It sleeps 18 people on two benched bunks with mattresses and has a wonderful woodburner which pumps out the heat.Outside there is a wood shed full of dry firewood. It has tap water inside and a great big stainless steel topped table and plenty of wooden benches to sit on. A standard hut, 1 hut ticket per person per night.

The Return Journey

The return trip out is the same as coming in. Times will also be about the same depending on whether you stick to the track or go down the river.

Alternative Route

Some parties like to make arrangements and end their trip at Poads Road on the lower reaches of the Ohau River. This will mean having someone drop you in at the No 1 Dam and then arranging transport for Poads Road. This will mean a full-on day if it is to be completed over a weekend.

Travel up the top section of the Mangahao River is straightforward via the track but two crossings of the river are required and in heavy rain these would be impassable.

A short climb brings you to Girdlestone Saddle where there is a track junction. Left goes uphill to Te Matawai Hut. Straight ahead the track drops into the head waters of the South Ohau River passing near  Dowling Falls which you can hear on your right then the site of the old South Ohau Hut which was removed early in 2003 due to a slip behind the hut. This is the quickest route to the Poads Road carpark.

A pool in the Mangahao River, from the sidle track below Harris Creek,Tararua Forest Park • By tararua.

Caution: There is no track down most of South Ohau River and if the river was in flood parties would need to climb out of the valley via the Gable End Ridge.