You'll need a picnic and plenty of water if you are going to walk the full 8kms of the Montana Heritage Trail.
The trail is the result of a partnership between the Auckland Regional Council and Montana Wines Limited. Several existing tracks in the area known as Cascade Kauri have been upgraded and linked to form this loop trail that is fast becoming an iconic Waitakere Ranges walk.
Enjoy a quiet time in ancient and regenerating forest, a hidden cascading waterfall, spectacular views, bountiful birdlife, some special picnic spots and interpretive panels for more information on the trail along the way.
Te Kawerau a Maki are the Tangata Whenua of the Waitakere Ranges and their main settlement was at nearby Te Henga (Bethells Beach). The pou (carving) at the start of the Montana Heritage Trail is the work of Te Kawerau a Maki carvers.
The river at the start of the trail was first called Te Awa Kotuku - the white heron's plume - after the Cascade Falls on the tributary above.
The Kauri Timber Company founded by Melbourne businessmen in 1888, felled much of the Kauri in the lower valley. In 1922 the company even proposed blowing up the Cascade Falls to make a driving dam to get the last of the Kauri out.
In 1925, this area was bought jointly by the Government and the Auckland City Council and designated a reserve.
The area of the golf course was then Arrow Farm, 130 acres, bought by the Sisam family in 1865, and still worked by them. Len Sisam then became the first Forest Ranger of the new Kauri park. He formed the first tracks (calling his work "navvying") and with his dogs chased Kauri gum poachers and wandering stock.
The mighty Kauri tree is the focus of the trail. Superb specimens up to 600 years old remind visitors of what once was in the Waitakeres. Their inaccessible location was what saved these trees from logging as they were too hard to extract from the gorge.
With only a tiny percentage of New Zealand's original Kauri forests remaining, these trees are living treasures and the Montana Heritage Trail is a great place to see them.
While the Kauri tree is huge its surface roots are sensitive to trampling. If they are damaged the tree can suffer and die so the Montana Heritage Trail features boardwalks to protect the roots.
Kauri trees create homes for many other species and grow alongside other trees such as Rimu, Kahikitea, Puriri, Totara, Puketea and Tanekaha.
The area is home to Kauri snails, Glowworms and native Long-tailed bats. Long-tailed and Short tailed bats are New Zealand's only native land based mammals and are generally very elusive.
Look out for native Wood pigeons (Kereru), Tui and Fantails (Piwakawaka) on the Montana Heritage Trail as well as several other bird species.
The Montana connection
For Montana the heritage trail represents a return to its own roots. The very first Montana vineyard was planted in the Waitakere Ranges, back in the 1930s.
Ivan Yukich, a Yugoslavian immigrant, settled in the Waitakere Ranges and planted a vineyard, which he named Montana, Latin for "mountainous". When his sons Mate and Frank started up a wine company in 1961, they retained the name, even when the Montana vineyard was no longer their primary grape source. In the coming decades Montana Wines Limited developed vineyards in Gisborne, Marlborough and Hawke's Bay. The company head office and bottling facility at the original vineyard site on Scenic Drive was finally moved to Glen Innes in the mid-1970s.
Preserving its own heritage association with the Waitakere Ranges was one of the reasons Montana approached the Auckland Regional Council about sponsoring the Montana Heritage Trail. The more important reason was to make a unique part of New Zealand's heritage more accessible to the public.
What to expect:
Walking tracks will:
* have easy to moderate grades with drained surfaces, generally consisting of a compacted and drained surfaces.
* be well sign-posted with directional signs at track entrances and junctions and have safety signs where required.
Walking tracks may:
* have steps on excessively steep areas.
* have timber boardwalks and bridges over permanent wet areas and waterways.
* have seats and maintained views at areas of interest.
* Walking tracks should be suitable for people with reasonable fitness levels.
The Montana Heritage Trail is located at Cascade Kauri which is a 25km or 40 minute drive from downtown Auckland. Follow the north western motorway (State Highway 16) to the Lincoln Rd exit. Turn left onto Lincoln Rd and take a right turn onto Universal Drive. At the roundabout, take the third exit onto Swanson Rd and continue straight ahead onto Scenic Drive. Head along Scenic Drive, turn right into Te Henga Road then left into Falls Road. Drive through the Waitakere Golf Course, past the clubhouse, to the car park at the end of the road. This circular tramp starts from Falls Road carpark then follows Auckland City Walk, Upper Kauri, Long Road, Fence Line and Auckland City Walk again back to carpark.
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