Walks in the Pirongia Forest Park lead to mountain summits, caves and dramatic river gorges.
The Pirongia Forest Park includes three extinct volcanos - Mount Pirongia (959 metres), The Cone (945 metres) and Mount Karioi (756 metres). The area is densely forested, but vegetation changes noticeably as the altitude increases. Rimu and totara are found in the lower levels of the forest, along with tawa and tree ferns. Higher up, hardy plants such as kamahi and horopito ('pepper tree' - frequently used as a cooking spice) are found on exposed ridges. Near mountain summits, thick mats of mountain flax, coprosmas and ferns are common. There are many walking tracks in this forest park - from one-hour nature rambles to 10-hour epic adventures. A special experience is the walk to Kaniwhaniwha Caves, which are near the start of the Bell Track. You can walk through the 20-metre main cave, except for a short hands-and-knees crawl. The cave is wet underfoot and torches are required. The second cave is tight and narrow.While you're hiking, you can hope to see tui, kereru (wood pigeons), bellbirds, grey warblers, fantails, tomtits and - around the park margins - harriers, kingfishers and pipits.
The Mt Karioi trail is a challenging 3-hour one-way hike providing stunning views of the wild west coast from the summit.