On Easter Monday, my friend Emma and I made plans to hike the Rimutaka Rail Trail. As the name suggests, this trail was once a railroad track over the Rimutaka mountains, built in 1878 and in use until 1955, when a tunnel through the mountains was constructed. At 18 km (11 miles) long, it winds up through the Rimutaka Range and down to the Wairarapa region on the other side. Many people bike it, so it’s easy to do the entire thing in a few hours. However, since we planned to walk, our aim was to make it to the summit and then double back.
Monday dawned sunny and warm, and we set out early to drive the forty minutes to Upper Hutt, where the trail begins.
The incline was so gentle that it was hard to tell we were even going uphill.
As soon as we passed the shooting range near the beginning of the trail, it seemed like we were in the middle of nowhere, completely surrounded by rugged mountain scenery with only the occasional bikers in sight.
Trailside markers provided a glimpse into the area’s railroad history. We came across interesting bridges and sights around every bend, and it was great to know the story behind it all.
Pretty soon, we came upon the first of the trail’s tunnels, the Pakuratahi Tunnel. Luckily, Emma and I had planned ahead and brought flashlights.
The first tunnel was only 73 meters (240 feet) long, so it was a good warmup for what was to come.
The shady parts of the path were a nice respite from the bright sun. We definitely couldn’t have asked for better weather.
Not long after the tunnel, we came across a gorgeous restored truss bridge over the Pakuratahi River.
My favorite parts of the path (if I can really choose, given how gorgeous it all was), were definitely the overgrown leafy tunnels created by trailside hedges.
The Ladle Bend Creek Bridge came into sight next, and boy, was the view amazing!
The bridge overlooked an incredible bend in the river, and reminded me a little bit of the Carrabassett Valley in Maine back home.
Emma and I had to take advantage of my camera’s self timer to get some pictures. This one is my favorite.
Who couldn’t be happy in a place like this?
The path climbed a bit more before we came upon the once-settlement of Summit.
Rusted train parts are all that mark this formerly busy little settlement at the high point of the track. They certainly are picturesque against a backdrop of green mountains.
A few bricks here and there mark where houses once stood. When the railroad ceased to be, the inhabitants had no reason to remain in such a remote location, and nature began to reclaim everything.
Emma and I stopped for lunch at one of the Summit picnic tables. You can camp out up here, which I think would be amazing. This area marks the approximate halfway point of the trail, which descends to the Wairarapa after the Summit Tunnel.
We decided to go a bit further, since we still had plenty of daylight ahead of us. This meant braving the aforementioned Summit Tunnel, which is 584 meters (1,916 feet) long. It was very disorienting, as it felt a bit like the tunnel kept growing longer the more we walked, without the exit getting any closer.
We did eventually make it to the end, though!
To see what was on the other side, you’ll have to come back for the next post!