A few weeks ago, a group of my friends and I decided to try the Paekakariki Escarpment Track, also known as the Stairway to Heaven. It’s a hillside track along the Kapiti Coast that just opened a few months back. We’d been waiting for a nice day to do it, since it’s very exposed, and we were lucky to have beautiful weather.
We drove up to Paekakariki one Sunday morning to park and begin the trail. Most people do it one way, which makes it 10 km (around 6 miles), and then take the train back to the start. It may not sound long, but it’s very steep in spots, so you want to give it plenty of time.
The trail started just off the main road up the coast, and we quickly began to ascend through some low forest. Before long, the views opened up.
The coast stretched out below us towards Waikanae, and Kapiti Island was clearly visible to the north.
As we climbed further, the trail began to narrow. It was easy to see why my friend Sam recommended doing the trail from north to south. Since everyone walks like they drive in NZ, on the left, we got to be cliffside when passing other hikers.
Look down, if you dare!
We knew stairs would be coming soon, since that’s what everyone mentions when talking about this trail. It is called the Stairway to Heaven, after all. Soon enough…
And we could see the end wasn’t anywhere in sight yet.
We took our time and stopped for a bit to take in the view as we climbed higher and higher.
And then, we made it to the top!
That’s our lovely group of ladies – myself, Bridget, Hanna, Sarah, Karinna and Sophie. We definitely represent our fair share of countries – America, Canada, Ireland and England (actually posed in that order unintentionally haha). I swear we’re friends with Kiwis too though!
We took this chance to have some snacks and enjoy the amazing vistas in all directions.
Knowing we still had quite a ways to go, we continued on along the trail. Luckily, it was mostly downhill from here, but it was a very steep downhill with sheer drops. This trail definitely isn’t for people who are afraid of heights.
Despite how that picture appears, the stairway doesn’t actually lead off the face of the cliff.
We passed through some much needed shade next, which was nice.
We’d also read about swing bridges, so we knew those would be coming (my favorite)! Not long before the end of the trail, we came across the first.
This sure beats driving up the coast.
The bridge has a maximum capacity of about five people, so we had to take turns.
We all made it across the two bridges in one piece and began the last leg of the trail. Everything was in full spring bloom, even if it was mostly invasive gorse and broom.
All of a sudden, we came to the Pukerua Bay train station, which marked the end of the trail. It wasn’t exactly easy to find our way to the bus service from there, since the train track was undergoing repairs.
However, we eventually made it and headed back to our car. We all had a pizza place in Paekak in mind for an early meal, but sadly it was closed. Instead, we headed back to Wellington, each with our own separate plans to feast after of a full day of hiking. I think about half of us ordered pizza at our respective places that night! We’d earned it.
I’ll definitely be going back to do this trail again, maybe even both ways if I’m feeling ambitious. Sadly, no dogs allowed, so Higgsy will have to be satisfied with other trails.
Up next, Hobart, Tasmania!