Roaring Stag Hut, it’s got a great name, and you can correctly assume that it’s a pretty good spot for hunting, but for us it was just a great chance to go bush for a quick overnight tramp.
The track to Roaring Stag Hut starts in the Mangatainoka Valley in the northern Tararua Forest Park, from the Putara Roadend. It’s an hour’s drive from Masterton or 1 ½ hour’s drive from Palmerston North.
We set off on the track in the afternoon, making the most of a daylight savings. We quickly arrived at the first swing bridge over a side creek and then entered the shady native forest, an ideal retreat from the hot sun.
We followed the Mangatainoka River enjoying the wide, easy to follow track and, after about 45 minutes, crossed the second swing bridge.
From here the track headed up, gently at first but not for long. Soon we were tramping up a steep hill, clambering over tree roots and up some large inclines. It was hot, tiring work, but keeping at a steady pace and taking a short rest we made it to the top of the saddle in just under an hour from the bridge.
As we reached the ridge to the saddle the forest type changed and the forest became more open with little undergrowth.
We enjoyed the variety of birdsong as we descended the ridge. Most exciting was hearing the machine gun-like call of the New Zealand parakeet/kākāriki. Shining cuckoos were prevalent, as were bellbirds/korimako and grey warbler/riroriro. We also saw kererū and fantail/pīwakawaka.
After about 45 minutes descent the track levelled out and came to a pristine creek surrounded by bright green ferns and lush forest. We refilled our water bottles and relaxed for a bit, soaking up the tranquillity and beauty of the spot.
From there it was less than a kilometre to the hut. Twice the track dropped down into creek beds and up again before a final steep drop to Roaring Stag Hut. It had taken us 3 ½ hours, with rests, to get to the hut.
The hut is only 8 years old. It has 12 bunks, is large, roomy and very comfortable.
But we didn’t relax in the hut straight away as the Ruamahanga River beckoned first. We made our way down to a swimming hole almost directly in front of the hut. Gritting my teeth and expecting icy cold mountain water I dived in, only to find it a pleasant refreshing temperature. What a great way to complete a long walk!
Heading off early the next morning we retraced our steps. We ventured down to the river once, over the saddle, to refill drink bottles and enjoy a rest, then headed towards the road end. However, just five minutes before the road end we came across a fantastic deep swimming hole. So in we went, boots and all! Although it was colder than the Ruamahanga, it was still magic and a great way to cool off (and limit the smell) before the car ride home.
So all in all a beautiful tramp and a great night away from the city.