Walk status: Off-lead
Barlow Road is home to the Waitemata Motorcycle Club which means there are a myriad of tracks to explore here, but all of them you'll want your GPS to navigate.
If you time your walk right, you'll end up having the place to yourself like we did, but its shared by the Motorcycle Club and many horse riders and walkers, so some times of the day this area could get really busy.
Parking here is ample, but the entrance can be easily missed. Located off Ararimu Valley Road, there are two entrances that adjoin each other but I found the second the easiest which is just before the bridge and the turn off to Zanders Road. On Google Maps you can see the area marked as "MTB Carpark Riverhead Forest". Just before you reach the bridge and Zanders Road, turn into the gravel road on the right hand side. Note if you happen to enter on the first entrance which is located opposite 465 Ararimu Valley Road, this entrance is very rough with large dips so if you're coming off the 80km road at full speed you're going to hit some trouble. The other entrance is much smoother and a much better option especially when you have other cars following closely behind you.
Reaching the carpark area although I had 3G I couldn't get Map My Dog walk to show me where I was going on the GPS. Luckily I was able to get Google Maps working, and although its not as detailed it showed me enough to navigate my way around a forest track. Id suggest turning on the app before you reach the carpark as ive found it works fine if you start it when you still have good service. My intention was to do a full loop of Barlow Road but id left the walk a little late in the day and having not walked this area before and a temperamental GPS I decided to make it a shorter walk.
Heading straight up Barlow Road which is the main gravel track you reach a fork in the road. Left leads you down Anzac Road, right continues on Barlow. We took left, heading down Anzac intending to just turn around once we reached the next intersection of roads. Walking through this area of the forest reminded me of something out of Jurassic Park, it felt like we were the only ones there (which we probably were in this instance) and that dinosaurs could have roamed these tracks not that long ago.
Looking at Google Maps I saw what looked to be a large clearing of path off to the right which looked to lead back to the main track. I always prefer walking in a loop rather than having to back track on the same way we came so I decided to give it a go. This is really why you need GPS to navigate here. At one point we walked a bit of forest track that looked exactly like where we had just come from, it wasn't as it lead us down to the path I wanted, but if I hadn't had the GPS to guide me we could have gone round in circles and got seriously lost. If you don't have GPS, id suggest sticking to the main gravel paths, especially out here where there are so many motorbike tracks that you could easily lose your way on.
The track through the forest was muddy in places and slightly overgrown. There were also a few small old bridges to cross, but all obstacles were easily navigated. In winter however this could be a different story as I imagine this track in particular could get very wet and muddy. Eventually the forest track brings you back onto Barlow Road with the option to go left or right. We headed right to head back to the car, but if you had more time on your hands you could easily go left and do the bigger loop I had originally intended to do.
The main track brings you back to another fork in the road, at this point you want to head right which brings you back to the original intersection where you branched off to go down Anzac. All up this loop took us around 45 minutes but that was a slower pace than normal as I was investigating pathways so this one is a quick walk and probably could be done in around 30-40mins depending on your pace. It was 3.55kms in distance and although the app wasn't showing my route while i was walking it, it thankfully did track it and load it when I got back into good service later so you can see it in the photos.
Location: Barlow Road entrance, located off Ararimu Valley Road
Carparking is good here, there is a small gravel lay by.
Things to know:
There are no toilets here
The gate is locked to vehicles, but walkers and bike riders still have access.
Barlow Road > Anzac Road > Forest Track > Barlow Road