Archives For Rimutaka Forest Park

Don Herron, Visitor Centre Ranger shares his experience of biking past Wellington gems on his way to work.

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Ever wondered what DOC rangers do in a typical busy day? Well, Rangers Daryl and Keith help look after a wonderful piece of New Zealand’s bush very close to Wellington.

Ranger Daryl Stephens at Papatahi Hut checking off a list.

Ranger Daryl making sure Papatahi Hut is up to scratch

Rimutaka Forest Park is a 40 minute drive from Wellington city.

From the Catchpool Valley (the most popular entrance to Rimutaka Forest Park) you’re only a 2-3 hour easy tramp away from six awesome DOC huts, with full kitchens—including cookers, cutlery, crockery, and firewood. One hut even has a gas BBQ, inside flushing toilet and a hot shower.

A DOC ute before being loaded up with gear.

The trusty DOC ute

As these huts are very busy someone has to make sure that they are always in good working order.

This is where Ranger Daryl and Keith come in.

Every month they load up their trusty DOC ute and spend 3-4 days at the huts, making sure everything is spick and span.

They have lots of different jobs to do. Some are fun (cleaning the toilets), and some are less so (having a nap on the bunks to make sure the mattress is comfy).

Driving the DOC ute off-road beside a stream in Rimutaka Forest Park.


Their day starts early, loading up the ute with all they think they need, from soap and toilet paper, through to firewood, gas and chainsaws.

Ranger Daryl Stephens checking a hose pipe near the stream.

Checking the water supply

Once they are at the hut they have an extensive list to go through to make sure the hut is okay:

Clean the loos, the gutters, the floor, wash the decks, check the cookers, check the water in the tanks, check the water pipes, check windows, check all the walls of the hut, a visual inspection of the roof, check no bush is too close to the hut, check the animal traps, check the signs, remove all rubbish and of course sign the hut book!

This is done for all six huts. They also walk the main tracks and check for windfall and track damage. I’m tired just thinking about it all.

Last and not least some advice from Ranger Keith:

“Empty wine bottles do not make good candle holders as they can fall over and start a fire, so please take them home with you.”

And if you do take away empty wine bottles, Ranger Daryl guarantees that:

“You will get good tramping karma and it will never rain on your tramping trip ever again.”

Ranger Daryl Stephens inspecting the water tank at a hut.

Water tanks

So, the next time you spend a night in one of our wonderful backcountry huts think about these rangers who spend their day making it comfortable for you to use, and make sure you leave a nice comment in the hut book.

The six huts in the Rimutaka Forest Park can be booked on a per night basis and sleep 4-14. They’re perfect for families and people wanting to know for sure that they have a bed for the night. They are also sole occupancy huts (meaning you don’t need to share with anyone else!). These huts can get busy, so it’s best to book early.

Haurangi Hut | Jans Hut | Turere Lodge | Raukawa Hut | Papatahi Hut | Boar Inn

Our recently announced Protecting Our Place partnership with Dulux got us thinking about how we can let more people know about the many easy to get to huts that DOC manages, so they can get out and enjoy them.

Easy access huts are a great way to experience huts for the first time without having to walk too far (some you can even drive to). They’re also for all ages and fitness levels, go check them out in our new hut breaks section of the DOC website.

It also got me reminiscing about taking my then five-year-old son on his first overnight stay in a hut. We went into Raukawa Hut near Wellington with a group of mums and kids.

Ligs Hoffman, son and partner take a break in Rimutaka Forest Park.

My son, me and my partner taking a scroggin break

Rimutaka Forest Park is about 45 mins drive from Wellington city, so it was easy to leave after school on a sunny Friday afternoon. The walk in to the hut is about two hours – having the kids in tow added another half an hour. This included many necessary scroggin and chocolate stops, which kept everyone well fuelled.

Ligs Hoffman's family on the track to Raukawa Hut.

My sister, nephew and son on the track in

I love the walk in to the river, as the track is easy under foot and you are sheltered from the sun by the beautiful forest over head. A bit of bird spotting went on and the kids had fun pretending they were on some kind of military mission, racing along the track.

Raukawa is in an awesome spot by the river, close to the end of the track. In summer the river is low and basically a really a large river bed with a few streams heading down the valley. It’s a different story after rain, so it’s always good to keep an eye on the weather forecast as the river level can change quite quickly.

Raukawa hut amongst the trees and beside a river in Rimutaka Forest Park.

Raukawa is up on the river bank amongst these trees

There are a couple of stream crossings before you get to the hut, the kids enjoyed running through and getting nice and wet!

Once at the hut we unpacked and the bunk bagging began – the kids had discovered how much fun the sleeping platforms were for rolling around in their sleeping bags.

As far as huts go, Raukawa is luxurious, with an internal flush toilet, wetback shower and gas for cooking.

Once settled in the kids disappeared off to start their military missions around the hut, fortifying it from the enemy.

Children planning fun and games by the river in Rimutaka Forest Park.

Serious business planning missions down on the river bed

We also had a budding spider expert amongst us so, with book in tow, there was lots of spider identification going on, including a journey out after dark.

After a hearty dinner and a glass of wine for the mums (the bonus of a short walk in) it was down to the river to watch the stars. It was incredible with a clear night and no city lights. We all thought it was magical, especially those who had never been into the bush before.

After Milo and stories around the pot belly it was off to bed. We won’t talk about how loudly some people snore….

The next day we woke to a beautiful summer’s day and spent time exploring near the hut and visiting Jans Hut, which isn’t far away.

The afternoon was spent reading, relaxing and swimming in the river. The kids spent hours doing more missions, including damming up the river, playing in the shallow rapids, spider spotting and bird watching going on. That night we heard kiwi calling out across the valley which was pretty special and something not too many ‘kiwi kids’ get to experience.

Kids swimming in a river in the Rimutaka Forest Park.

Kids spend the afternoon swimming in the river

We had lots of tired bodies after our adventures, and were thankful for the wetback in the hut that allowed us (a very quick) hot shower at the end of a fantastic day.

Sunday morning was a little more leisurely as we knew we had to head back to our lives in the city. We cleaned the hut out, making sure we left it spic and span, repacked and set off. Luckily we still had plenty of scroggin to encourage the little legs along.

We were all a little sad we couldn’t spend more time out in the bush, away from TVs and computers.  But the retelling of our adventures and planning of the next trip kept us going.

Raukawa hut nestled amongst the trees in the Rimutaka Forest Park.

Raukawa hut nestled amongst the trees

So I would encourage anyone who hasn’t done it to get out and experience the huge network of huts DOC manages on your behalf. The staff out in the regions do an amazing job keeping the tracks maintained and the huts ship shape. Seeing the look on my son’s face as he stared up at the beautiful night sky with thousands of twinkling stars was priceless.

And if you’ve never done it before we have some handy tips about DOC huts with tips on what to take. One thing I might add is ear plugs.