Within the Sixtus Lodge grounds there are a number of lovely walks that take you down through native bush to Cone Creek*. See the Property Map (below). Or spend some quiet time in the Margot Forde Arboretum and walk among many New Zealand native trees.
*Cyclone Gabrielle (March 2023) floods have altered and widened the creek bed below Sixtus Lodge. Sections of the original tracks (‘Bonnevie’ & ‘Paton’) have been damaged or lost. There are still numerous places to follow or cross the creek and explore the bush on the stream banks, however you will need to bush-bash or rock-hop to cross this area. Yellow arrow markers will guide you. The Sixtus Lodge Trust Board is working to re-make tracks and provide safer access through this area. Proceed with care.
A short walk along Limestone Road (east) leads to a bridge crossing Cone Creek and easy access down to the stream bed for safe exploration and adventure during the day and glow worms at night!
For the more adventurous, head to the end of Limestone Road (about 1km) or to Peterson’s Road (5km), to the trail heads of the Ruahine Forest Park, and find any number of wonderful walks & more challenging tramps.
The following are the most popular local walks & tramps, within easy reach of the Lodge, that will particularly suit school-age children and less-experienced trampers. This should be considered an introduction only, and we encourage tenants to fully research each walk before heading out. There are large maps of the Western Ruahine Ranges displayed at Sixtus Lodge, and DOC provides Ruahine Forest Park map signs at the road ends of both Limestone and Petersons Roads.
Good maps of the area can be downloaded from the DOC website.
‘Topo50 map BL36 Norsewood’, from Toitū Te Whenua/Land Information New Zealand (LINZ), is a detailed map of the region and can be downloaded or purchased as a printed map.
Alice Nash Memorial Heritage Lodge
The Alice Nash Memorial Heritage Lodge (’Heritage Lodge’) is owned by the New Zealand Deerstalkers’ Association (NZDA). Part of it is always unlocked and open for the public, making it a good rest-point for groups journeying on down to the Oroua River, upstream to the Iron Gate and Triangle Huts, and along the track up to Tunupo on the crest of Ngamoko Range.
Bookings for overnighting and using the complete building can be made through the Manawatu Branch of the NZDA: email firstname.lastname@example.org. A request from the NZDA: There is a Log Book in the Lodge for hunting and tramping parties to note their intentions, and the NZDA requests that only the leader in a group sign the book.
The building is named after Alice Nash, an identity of the district, and a significant benefactor for its rebuilding after it was burnt down a few years ago.
Access is from the carpark at the end of Petersons Road 14. Follow the track (an old logging road) to the right and down the hill through farmland and into the Forest Park. The track crosses over an Arch Bridge 17 then passes an overgrown rifle range 15 to eventually reach a track junction about 30 minutes after leaving the carpark. The left fork continues on down to the Oroua River while the right fork leads to the Heritage Lodge (less than five minutes away) and to the start of Tunupo Track.
The Arch Bridge 17 crosses the Umutoi Stream about halfway along the track between the carpark at the end of Petersons Road 14 and Heritage Lodge. The bridge, erected by the NZ Army Corps of Royal Engineers from Linton, replaced a wire swing bridge.
A point to ponder: Why is the bridge arched rather than flat?
A caution: The bridge footway can be very slippery in wet or icy weather.
Coal (Makiekie) Creek
The quite picturesque Coal (Makiekie) Creek starts high in the Ngamoko Range. Several tributaries join it before it eventually feeds into the Pohangina River which, in turn, flows into the Manawatu River.
Access is from the carpark at the end of Limestone Road 7. From here follow the fenceline 8 and poled route for about 700 metres, and you’ll come to Coal Creek after about 10 minutes.
Coal Creek Walk
It is possible to walk upstream along Coal Creek to the beginning of Knight’s Track at its junction with Deerford Track 10. You’ll be in water most of the way and there’s a very rough and stony creek bed. Also, you’re in shade for virtually the whole way. Part-way along there is a high rock barrier which needs to be climbed – rope (not supplied) will be needed for this.
Cone Creek, another picturesque stream, issues from the foothills, passes through the Sixtus Lodge property below the terrace, then across farmland and into Coal Creek.
Cone Creek Walk
A walk along the stream bed of Cone Creek6 can be quite interesting. As with most of the streams in the area, the bed is stony and very uneven, and enclosed within a valley for much of the way. About an hour upstream of the road bridge 6 there is a narrow cutting which is difficult to pass through unless you have some eight metres of rope.
Groups taking this excursion must return along the stream bed and not climb on to and traverse the adjacent farmland.
Deerford Track is an excellent tramp for all ages and staminas. It can be walked in all weathers since it is always within bush, it is well defined and surfaced, and it involves very little climbing.
Access: from the carpark at the end of Limestone Road,7 follow the fenceline 8 and poled route for about 700 metres. The track slopes down to meet Coal Creek which needs to be forded. Follow the track up the other side and, after a short, sharp climb, continue on to the junction 9 of Deerford Track and Shorts’ Track. Deerford Track continues eastward (to the left) for about 30 minutes until the next fork 11 where it links to The Diagonal and Knight’s Track.
The ‘Diagonal’ links the eastern end of the Deerford Track to Shorts’ Track, enabling a group to undertake an interesting and challenging loop walk in reasonable safety and comfort. See the ‘Deerford—Diagonal—Shorts’ Loop Walk’ entry. The actual Diagonal zigzags across a quite steep face. It is a stiff climb of about 30 minutes.
Access: The Deerford Track forks just before it reaches Coal Creek at its eastern end.11 The left fork drops down to Coal Creek while the right fork continues as ‘The Diagonal’ and climbs to meet Shorts’ Track just before that track exits from the bush into the leatherwood and tussock.12
The Limestone Creek Reserve Glow Worm Caves are a fantastic place to visit in the daylight and at night. Recent weather damage (March 2023) has been repaired and access to this section of creekbed and caves has been restored. The caves are an easy walk from Sixtus Lodge and provide plenty of opportunities for exploring and having fun.
Iron Gates Gorge Walk
Some would describe the Iron Gates Gorge Walk as the most interesting in the area. While the Iron Gates, themselves, are dramatic – the Oroua River is forced through a narrow chasm for some 200-300 metres – it is the variety of terrain on the walk that provides much of the interest and, indeed, challenge. The walk involves travelling through bush, over farmland, over an Arch Bridge, down a riverbed, and climbing up a very steep face. The return trip from the carpark and back should take four to five hours, including a break for lunch at the Gorge.
A further point: The Iron Gate Gorge is nowhere near Iron Gate Hut. The Hut is over five hours upstream of the Gorge! The walk is not without a potential problem or two. It would definitely be very unwise to take a group to the Gorge unless at least one of the leaders has done the trip before. It takes about an hour to walk down the river to the Gorge. While not a great distance in itself, the walk can be time-consuming for a group of young folk. There is no track – it’s just a case of walking along the river bank and occasionally having to ford the river. Brush, boulders and fallen logs on the banks make things a tad tricky and of course the uneven riverbed and the swiftly flowing, and always cold, water make fording a challenge. It is really a summertime adventure – and one should not go if the water is above the knees of the shortest member and/or discoloured. Still, there would be few people who don’t find the walk a thoroughly enjoyable and worthwhile experience. Just short of the Gorge there is a little stony ‘beach’ on the south side which is a good sheltered spot for a lunch break. A small stream flows into the Oroua here – the Umutoi Stream which was crossed via the Arch Bridge earlier! Retrace your steps to return back to the carpark. DO NOT cross local farmland.
Access: begin this walk from the trailhead at Petersons Road.
Knight’s Track is one of two tracks in the vicinity which ascend to the crest of Ngamoko Range – the other being Shorts’ Track. It begins at the eastern end of Deerford Track, where it meets Coal Creek, and climbs to Toka Trig (1526 metres), which is some six kilometres from Sixtus Lodge. The track is quite steep in parts and, once beyond the bushline and into the leatherwood and tussock, poles and waratahs mark the route.
Access: From the carpark at the end of Limestone Road7, first walk to Deerford Track and continue until you reach a fork in the track after about 30 minutes. Take the left fork and within 50 metres or so you’ll be at Coal Creek. Cross Coal Creek10 and you’ll see the sign indicating the start of Knight’s Track.
A return trip from the Lodge to the top is likely to take over six hours and it should be noted that about half of this time could be spent in very exposed situations, and away from the protection of the bush. Even in sunny weather, conditions are likely to be chilly and, given the changeable weather so characteristic of our highland regions, a pleasant outing can very quickly become a life-threatening experience. Hypothermia and/or injury is always a possibility and leaders should be prepared for any eventuality. However, it has to be admitted that a real sense of achievement can be gained from reaching the top. It should be added that, in clear weather, Feilding, Palmerston North, Dannevirke and Kapiti Island can be seen from the top.
Knight’s—Ngamoko—Shorts’ Circuit Walk
This tramp would take some eight hours. It involves ascending to the crest of Ngamoko Range by either Knight’s or Shorts’ Tracks, following the crest to the other track, and then descending by it. The route along the crest (about two kilometres and an hour’s walk) is poled and it should be noted that the going through the tussock isn’t that easy. Which of the tracks to ascend and descend is a matter of personal preference but it could be noted that Shorts’ is the steeper and that maybe it’s better to ascend by Knight’s and descend by Shorts’.
The comments about the exposed situations at the top and the possible difficulties which could be met, and which are described under ‘Knight’s Track’, obviously apply to this walk also.
Ngahere a Tane
This was a study area near the start of the Deerford Track, designed primarily for school parties to familiarise them with some of the features of the native trees in the area. It consisted of a circuit of eight stations, each of which has its own point of interest. Sadly, storm damage has removed many of the locations of interest, although a few station signs can still be seen today.
The Oroua River is the largest river in the immediate vicinity. It winds its way down from the upper Western Ruahine Ranges to eventually flow into the Manawatu River south of Feilding. The river valley is a popular destination for tramping, hunting and fishing groups. It should be noted that the water is always cold and, when in flood, it is quite awe-inspiring but dangerous.
Oroua River Walk
The walk from the carpark14 at the end of Petersons Road down to the Oroua River takes about an hour. It is downhill virtually the whole way. But therein lies a problem: the return to the carpark is uphill! Thus, the return is going to take much longer and, if the conditions are wet and slippery, even up to three hours. But it is a walk that can be recommended as it uses a well-formed track – it’s an old logging road – and there is an excellent shelter or rest spot about halfway – Alice Nash Memorial Heritage Lodge
Access: From the carpark at the end of Petersons Road1 follow the track to the right and down the hill through farmland and into the Forest Park. The track continues over an Arch Bridge17, past a rather overgrown rifle range15 to eventually reach a fork. The left fork carries on down to the Oroua River while the right fork takes you to Heritage Lodge (about five minutes away) and the start of the Tunupo Track. If you intend to have a break at Heritage Lodge, you will need to return to the fork before carrying on down to the river along the well-defined track (please note that it can be rather wet and mucky in parts).
A good example of red rock formations can be seen 30 minutes upstream from where the Deerford Track crosses Coal Creek to become Knight’s Track10. Allow two to three hours return from Sixtus Lodge.
Shorts’—Ngamoko—Knight’s Circuit Walk
See Knight’s—Ngamoko—Shorts’ Circuit Walk!
Shorts’ Track (named after an identity of the district who wore shorts all year round) is one of two tracks in the vicinity which ascend to the crest of Ngamoko Range – the other being Knight’s Track. It starts at the western end of Deerford Track9 and ascends to eventually reach the crest at about 1350 metres – some six kilometres from Sixtus Lodge. It is a fairly steep track which, in inclement weather, can prove rather slow-going. Within the bush the track is well-defined but in the tussock its route is only marked by poles or waratahs. The comments about the exposed situation and possible difficulties that may be met, which are described for Knight’s Track, also apply to excursions up Shorts’ Track.
Access: Begin at the carpark at the end of Limestone Road7 and first walk to the fork of Deerford Track, where its intersects with the beginning of Shorts’ Track9.
The Tunupo Trig (1568 metres) is another of the trigs on the Ngamoko Range. It is some eight kilometres from the carpark at the end of Petersons Road and it would probably take more than four hours to just reach the trig. Then there is the return trip, either back down this track or along the crest and then down either Knight’s or Shorts’ Track.
While it is a fairly good track, it should be noted that much of it is beyond the shelter of the bushline and, with that fact, comes a host of potential hazards. The trip is probably beyond most primary school aged children and, apart from the sense of achievement gained through ‘making it’, one could question the value of taking such a group to the top.
Access: From the carpark at the end of Peterson’s Road 14 , follow the track towards Alice Nash Memorial Heritage Lodge (see that entry). At the track junction just before reaching Heritage Lodge, take the right fork onto Tunupo Track.
Before embarking on an excursion, group leaders should always carefully consider the weather conditions, the personal fitness of the party and their knowledge of the skills needed when venturing into the outdoors. Furthermore, it would be regarded as foolhardy to embark on a tramp with young people, and especially if it goes above the bushline, unless at least one of the leaders has done the tramp on a previous occasion.
The numbers relate to entries for each walk.