Walk status: Off-Lead (under control)
If you're a long time follower of my blog, you'll know how much I struggle to name walks that technically have no name, like those in Riverhead Forest. This walk is no different, a wander around some of the bridle trails at Lake Mangamahoe but following no particular route leads me to call this one Frolic in the Forest as it involved a few trails that were dominated by lovely large pine trees.
Upon entering the Lake entrance, you drive alongside the Lake to your right. All of this area directly alongside the lake is officially off limits for doggies, even on-lead. The road carries on for quite a distance, and you want to head right to the end to start this walk. There are plenty of other opportunities to park here, but the dead end is actually one of the best spots to park as it gives access to a few different walks and most of the tourists and locals park nearer the lake so its usually pretty quiet.
This end gives access to a few of the bridle trails, the track to Hydro Road, the loop around the Lake and also one of the best lookout points to see Mt Taranaki. Just before the end of the road is a metal gate to your left, this is where you'll enter and exit, but carry on to the end of the road for easier parking out of the way of others.
The start of the track is blocked by a metal gate so no access to vehicles which makes it a nice walk off lead. Checking in with the group from TEN (Equestrian Network) who operate these trails along with the council, we have permission to be off-lead as long as you're respectful of other users. Horses take priority here, so please put your dog on a lead if you're approaching them to keep everyone safe. The council signage at the earlier float carpark entrance isn't clear for the bridle trails as it basically implies your dog can be off lead even though the rule is on-lead everywhere else, but please only do so if you're confident you have good control so as not to ruin it for others.
Upon entering through the metal gate you're greeted by a pine needle covered walkway. Head downhill past any side tracks until you get to the track marked Phar Lap/Middle Mile. Here you'll turn left to head along the trail marked Middle Mile. Now despite the horrible weather we have been having lately the tracks aren't too bad. Most of the mud is avoidable if you stick to the sides. Continue on Middle Mile until you see another sign that points to Phar Lap and up a small single file grass path. I'm not sure how the horses manage this part, but they clearly do as there were hoof marks.
This little grass track leads you alongside the fence line and past some well established trees on the other side. On a clear day, this walk also offers up multiple opportunities to see the mountain and the ranges, and I imagine the view is even better on horseback! On the grass track there is a section that does require a bit of a climb, its shown in one of the photos and due to the weather it was a bit slippery but I managed it easy enough and other than this one spot the walk is very manageable.
Upon exiting the grass track you reach the main track again, so head right this time to head up the small hill to where you'll soon reach one of the Lake signs telling you where you are. At this point there are a few different ways you can go, but the lure of that forest track in front of us was too much for me and George. These are the walks we love, being surrounded by big majestic trees so off we headed, straight ahead to continue the walk.
Another great view of the mountain, and a slippery walk down the hill and we reached another intersection of trails. We headed right again, and another small downhill and another intersection, this time we headed left. Shortly after walking this track to the left you reach an uphill. Nothing too strenuous, but it will take the wind out of your sails a bit. Up the hill we went and along the ridge, and then another downhill. At this point you should be able to hear/see the main road. Upon exiting the downhill section of the track you again reach a crossroads.
At this point you'll want to head left, and head down the hill marked as Middle Mile, keep an eye out for another of the Lake's big signs at the bottom as this will give you a good indication you're heading the right way. When you reach the bottom of this hill, if you stand at the big sign there are 3 different tracks you can take, the one directly straight ahead, one slightly to your left (middle) and another further to your left. In this instance, take the middle.
Walking the middle track or the track straight ahead at the sign leads you back to the float carpark if you're truly lost, then you can just walk the road back to the car. If you're willing to continue the adventure, when you walk the middle track you'll get to the main track and want to head left, the sign points you to the carpark, but head left not right here. Now be warned, here comes a big hill. Clearly these trails are made for horses, not overweight 30 somethings wanting to go for an adventure with their dog.
After congratulating yourself on reaching the top of the hill, believe me, its worth a small victory dance. Follow this pathway until you reach another intersection of trails. Here you'll want to head right, which leads you back to the main trail you started on. Another turn right, and you're back to the gate you entered at, hoorah!
Unfortunately my GPS threw a bit of a tanty and didn't recognise our start point at the Lake so started it at my home location. This unfortunately means i didn't get an accurate reading on the distance or time it took us. I'd assume it was approx 5-6kms and just over an hour all up.
There are a lot of right and lefts noted above which probably make no sense in the context of reading a blog post in the comfort of your own home. Its easy to mix up the tracks through here, so if you truly want to follow this walk, id suggest printing this post off and referring to it on the walk. Cellphone service here is patchy, so you probably can't assume you can check it out there. However, if you're like me and willing to get a little lost and have an adventure then explore the trails as you like, although make sure you have GPS to make sure you make it home safely :)
Location: Lake Mangamahoe, entrance opposite Kent Road
Carparking is good here
Things to know:
There are toilets here, but only at the entrance by the main road
Dogs are not allowed to be off-lead or within 200m of the Lake