We love hiking and aim to get out in nature whenever possible. In fact, we built our itinerary for New Zealand around getting outdoors as much as possible. One of the best hikes we took though during our trip was the Pinnacles Walk on the Coromandel Peninsula.
Note: All prices are listed in NZD and USD. As of February 2020, $1.00 NZD = $0.65 USD.
Pinnacles Walk Quick Facts
Location: The Pinnacles Walk is located inside the Coromandel Forest Park on the Coromandel Peninsula
Cost: The park is free to visit during the day. Overnight visitors will need to pay for a campsite.
Hiking Time: About 8 hours, round-trip. We are of average fitness and found this timing to be accurate. We also stopped a fair few times to take photos and a 30 min. lunch break.
Difficulty: Intermediate. Expect lots of uphill walking and stairs. Towards the end there’s also a few metal rung ladders you’ll have to climb.
Length: The trail, including the summit to The Pinnacles outlook, is 15km (9.3 miles) round trip.
Getting to the Trail
The Pinnacles Walk is located up the Kauaeranga Valley, about a 40 minute drive from Thames. If you need to stock up any supplies (especially if you’re going to spend a night in the park), then this is your last chance to do it. Otherwise head directly to the trail.
Highway 25 runs directly through Thames. As soon as you enter town, turn right onto Banks Street, located right after the BP Petrol Station. A short ways later, you’ll come to a T intersection. Turn right onto Parawai Road. As you continue driving, you’ll eventually curve left, at which point Parawai Road becomes Kauaeranga Valley Road. This road leads all the way to the Pinnacles Walk trailhead. You’ll know you’ve reached the end when you come to an enclosed gravel parking lot.
About 8km before the end of the Kauaeranga Valley Road, on the left hand side, you’ll pass the DOC (Department of Conservation) Visitor’s Center. There is usually staff on site that can provide you with details about the hike, including current trail conditions and weather reports. This is also where you’ll want to pay for a campsite if you plan to overnight in the park.
About the Pinnacles Walk
Start of the Trail
The Pinnacles Walk follows the route that pack horses used to take when carrying supplies for loggers, gum diggers and gold miners who worked in the area during the early 1900’s.
Before stepping onto the trail you’ll pass through a cleaning station. This is to prevent Kauri Dieback Disease, which is deadly to the threatened Kauri trees that dot New Zealand. Take care to clean your shoes (and hiking poles if you use them) before continuing on.
Entering the Kauaeranga Valley, the trail starts you off with a mild incline. Passing through groves of nikau palms and rata trees, you’ll bask in the cool shade and sounds of birds throughout the trees.
The trail follows Webb Creek, which was used to ferry timber logs down from the mountain. At a few points you’ll even cross over the water using swing bridges.
Eventually you’ll reach a junction in the trail and will need to decide which way to proceed: either the Webb Creek Track or the Billygoat Track. The Webb Creek Track is the new trail used by most hikers, whereas Billygoat is the older trail best recommended for your descent.
Once you decide which trail to ascend, you’ll soon find yourself climbing the hillside. Steep inclines and many many steps are the name of the game. Needless to say, it’s a great leg workout! All the while though you’ll be greeted with lush greenery and unique rock formations.
Just when you think the climb will never end, you’re right! There’s more stairs just on the other side of Hydro Camp. Continue past it, your 2/3 of the way there. This also is where the Billygoat Track converges back with the main trail.
The Pinnacles Hut
Continue working your way up the hill. Eventually you’ll begin to notice the trees starting to thin out and the views opening up. You’ve reached the ridge line.
At this point the trail curves deeper into the valley and onward to The Pinnacles Hut. If you’ve opted to stay overnight, you can drop your bags before heading onto the summit. Otherwise stop for a quick bathroom break or lunch and then carry on.
To the Summit and Back
Past the hut is an extremely long staircase that seems to fade away into the distance. This is the final push to the summit. Muster whatever strength you need and begin (consider how strong your legs will be after this!).
Besides the staircase, you’ll also encounter a few metal hook ladders to help you scramble up the rocks. It can be tricky at times, but as soon as you step foot onto that platform, sweeping 360 views of The Pinnacles and surrounding valley will be before you. Totally worth it! Make sure to savor the views, and congratulate yourself on a hike well accomplished.
Once you’ve had your fill of the gorgeous scenery, it’s time to head back down. If you’re not exhausted, then consider taking the Billygoat Track home. We hear it’s a bit steeper, but also provides more views than Webber Creek. Tom and I did the Webb Creek track both ways, so if you end up walking the Billygoat Track, tell us your thoughts in the comments below.
What to Pack for a Pinnacles Day Trip
Even though you’ll just be taking a day hike, it’s important to pack the proper gear. Here’s what we recommend:
- Water bottle or hydration bladder
- Warm layers
- Even if it’s a hot day bring some wam layers. It can get cold up at the summit, especially if the wind’s blowing.
- Sack lunch and/or snacks
- Walking shoes with good traction
- Although these will be worn, not packed, we felt it was worth a mention considering the type of trail you’ll be hiking on.
- Hiking poles (optional)
- The 10 essentials
Learn 10 tips for preventing sunburn while out adventuring.
Where to Stay
There are multiple options for where to stay in or near the Coromandel Forest Park and Pinnacles Walk. We personally opted to freedom camp the night before our hike, and then stay at one of the DOC sites afterwards.
If you’re traveling in a campervan, then consider freedom camping the night before or after the hike. Thames has the closest freedom campsite to the entrance to the Coromandel Forest Park.
- Campsite Name: Danby Field Park
- Address: Queen Street, Thames
- Cost: Free
- This is a freedom campsite for Certified Self-Contained vehicles. Learn more about freedom camping here.
- Number of Sites: 15
- Amenities: Public bathroom open 24 hours and drinking water.
- Maximum of 2 nights consecutive stay.
- Overnight campers must vacate by 9:00 AM each morning.
It’s possible to pay for a campsite inside the Coromandel Forest Park. This will cost you $8.00 NZD ($5.17 USD) per person, per night.
Make sure to swing into the Visitor’s Center on your way to the trailhead and and pay the camping fees. They accept both cash and card payments. If you’re looking for something in particular, such as a pet friendly campsite, or one with a flushing toilet, the rangers can direct you accordingly as not all sites have the same amenities.
We opted to stay here the night of our day hike to make things easy and not have to worry to much about what time we returned to the car.
The Pinnacles Hut
The final option is to spend a night at the Pinnacles Hut. It’s perfectly situated if you hope to catch sunset or sunrise from the Pinnacles viewing platform. Based on what we saw, I bet both times are incredible.
Should you opt for this accommodation, then book early. Even when we visited in shoulder-season the hut was sold out for all upcoming weekends.