Riverhead Forest - Carters Road Loop (100% Hill!)
Walk status: Off-lead
It feels like there aren't many tracks we haven't explored in Riverhead Forest, but really when you look at how vast it is im sure there are still hundreds! Heavy rain was forecast but I was determined for us to try and get a decent walk before we got stuck inside for the rest of the day. I decided we would check out some of the walks along Ararimu Valley Road which we hadn't yet explored.
Entering Ararimu Valley Road off Old North Road I drove alongside the forest just assessing some options of where to park and enter. We passed a few options but I chose the Carters Road entrance. If you input 169 Ararimu Valley Road into Google Maps it will bring you to the Carters Road entrance.
There is a small area to park up here off the main road but try and be mindful of allowing other cars in and out so park to the sides as much as possible. Enter through the main gate and make your way along Carters Road. Shortly along the track you'll realise why ive called it 100% hill....it starts off so nicely and then its hill, hill and more hill. You'll turn a corner and think you must be nearing the end of the hill, then you just realise theres some more hill! I'm sure if you're riding a horse on this track, or a motorbike you wouldn't be phased but geez its never ending when you're walking it. You will eventually reach the top and have a short reprieve on some flat land.
Initially I had planned to take a track noted shown on the left hand side of the GPS map, but upon reaching it, it was marked by the motorcycle club and I could hear what sounded like a dirtbike nearby so decided we wouldn't walk it. Having a dirt bike flying round a corner with your dog off a lead probably wouldn't end well, so although I chose to walk further than I had planned, it was the better decision. The photo with the muddy water shows the track if you choose to go that way, but as we didn't end up walking it, im not sure how easy it is to navigate.
Instead we carried along Carters Road, and up another hill to a fork in the road. At the fork you want to take an immediate right to stay on the gravel road. This now becomes Browns Road.
Stay on Browns Road, there are many tracks leading off Browns all the way back to the main road but based on what I could see from satellite images of the forest while I was walking it, there was no easy access back to Carters Road so stick to walking Browns rather than possibly getting yourself lost somewhere.
You'll soon pass another fork in the road, with a sign that points left to another road. You'll want to head round to the right and down the hill to stay on Browns Road. Shortly past the fork that I believe was Mia Road, you'll reach another fork, with one road heading up the hill and another round to the right. Browns Road heads round to the right, but believe me, you'll want to walk the hill in front of you. It's not often I chose to walk a hill unless I have to, but you can tell from walking this track that you're about to get a great view. This hill leads nowhere other than a little lookout spot, but its a chance to get some really amazing photos of the forest you're walking through. Its worth a stopover and this is the little blip you can see on the GPS map.
Head back down the hill after taking in the view and head round to the left to stay on Browns Road. Follow Browns Road all the way back to the main road. Thankfully when you reach the main road, the berm is wide enough to keep you well away from the cars, so I left George off lead for the majority of it. There is a small area of the track where you do need to come close to the road, so keep an eye on your dog so you can put them on a lead when needed. Eventually you'll reach the Carters Road entrance again and where you parked. It took us just over an hour to walk this loop, but that involved stopping for photos at the lookout point and also chatting with some people I met at one of the forks in the road. It should only take around an hour on a good day, and it was 5.2kms in length.
Walking this loop in the opposite direction would be easier as the Browns Road track is much more of a gentle incline than Carters. However there isn't suitable parking near the Browns Road entrance, so best to still park at Carters and walk the main road to reach the Browns entrance if you plan to do it that way round.
Location: Carters Road entrance, located off Ararimu Valley Road
Carparking is limited, 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.
Carters Road > Browns Road > Ararimu Valley Road