Wellington is surrounded by breathtaking countryside. I think it’s one of the many reasons why I find myself falling for New Zealand more and more each day. The rolling green hills reminds me of the Yorkshire countryside where I grew up. Of course, at the time I didn’t appreciate it anywhere near as much as I would now. Mount Kaukau showcases the best views of Wellington! Okay, the city might look like a small spec from the summit but the panoramic views of the Wellington Region are sensational! In this post, I’m giving you all the information you need about hiking the Mount Kaukau Summit in Wellington!
Facts about the Mount Kaukau Summit Hike
- Elevation: 445 metres above sea level
- Distance: Variable but the Khandallah Park Loop via the Northern Walkway is 4.5 kilometres (I’ll go into further details about other trails you can take to Mount Kaukau further down in the post!)
- Difficulty: Medium – Moderate hiking experience not essential but beneficial as the hike is uphill the majority of the way.
- Advisories: A lot of stairs and inclines. Track not suitable for wheelchair users or strollers.
- Amenities: Picnic tables and benches on the summit. No toilets or fresh water on the track.
How Tall is Mount Kaukau?
The height of Mount Kaukau as a mountain is 1,411 feet so definitely not the biggest that New Zealand has on offer but one of the easiest to climb!
Where is Mount Kaukau?
Technically speaking, Mount Kaukau is in Wellington. But it’s definitely not in the city centre region which is always good to know especially if you only have a short amount of time. Khandallah is a suburb, a very nice and some would even posh, 20 minutes drive out of the city. If I could choose to live somewhere in Wellington if money were no exception it would be here!
Getting to Mount Kaukau on Public Transport
You can easily reach Khandallah by car, bus or train. To get to Khandallah via train catch the JVL, blue line, from Wellington Station towards Johnsonville. Then the stop you want to get off of at is Box Hill. As you depart the station walk north on Box Hill Road and then turn left across the street to Clark Street. Continue following Clark Street for about 10 minutes, pass the school and playground. Don’t turn off anywhere just keep going straight and you’ll eventually meet the base of Mount Kaukau and entrance to Khandallah Park. The train journey takes only 15 minutes and is super scenic too which always makes up for being on the train!
To catch the bus from Wellington get the number 24 from the station towards Johnsonville. The bus takes a little longer at 41 minutes because it does indeed go around the houses and back! But that said, the houses in this neck of the woods are incredible, yes I’m totally the girl peering into your house trying to get a look at your decor! Depart the bus at the Khandallah shops and walk down Box Hill then left across the road to Clark Street as above.
Walking from the City
If you’re feeling wild like I did was when completed this hike then you can always from the city! It is a long walk taking just over 3 hours one way to the Mount Kaukau summit! That said it was perfect weather for it and rather enjoyed myself. I actually did this hike solo on a day when Dave was working and listened to a few podcasts during the boring parts of the walk (along Hutt Road). You can then opt to get there bus number 24 back from Khandallah shops or walk back! I walked back and knocked up over 30,000 steps and earned the whole pizza I stuffed when I got home!
Hiking to the Mount Kaukau Summit
There are various ways you can reach the Mount Kaukau Summit. The easiest way to enjoy this hike in a single day is via the Northern Walkway from Khandallah Park. Mount Kaukau is also part of the Skyline Walk in Wellington so you can come from the opposite side too. I’ve split this section into three different parts giving details on each of the trails that all lead to the Mount Kaukau Summit.
- Trail One – Northern Walkway from Khandallah Park: Clark Street Entrance
- Two – Northern Walkway Simla Crescent Loop
- Trail Three – Skyline Walkway from Johnsonville via The Old Coach Road
Mount Kaukau Summit Hike – Trail One via the Northern Walkway Clark Street
Once you arrive at Khandallah Park, see screenshots of Google Maps and walking directions above. I suggest taking the Northern Walkway to reach the Mount Kaukau Summit. The hike is strenuous as it does require you to climb uphill all the way! But I guess that’s a given when you read the words ‘mount’ and ‘summit hike’ right? So I’m hoping that part isn’t too much of a shock as you read this next section!
The northern walkway track is well marked all the way so its pretty much impossible to get lost. There are also some stairs on some of the track which makes the climb a little easier. Explore the woodland of the park as you climb not forgetting to stop and turn around once you start getting open patches of the sky again!
Be vigilant if you do tackle this hike on a day that’s wet or if it’s been raining the days prior as it can get muddy. The incline does get very steep in parts as we are going a couple of hundred metres above sea level – this is where the experienced hiker is lucky! But there were plenty of people, of all abilities walking the track on the same day as me. And while I am fit I’m certainly not at my prime level of fitness currently!
One thing I will say is not to forget your water bottle or camel pack! I actually both a reusable water bottle and a camel pack on hiking days. I get out of breath easily on incline hikes and need a lot of water. You can never have too much right?
The Views are Stunning!
The views back of the city are incredible and the ranges that surround Wellington are visible for miles on a clear day! There are signposts every couple of miles to give you pointers when there are forks in the track. You’ll find plenty of resting points on the track so you can stop and catch your breath, which I did a fair few times but the hike was certainly worth it!
I honestly can’t say much more about this track as the highlight is reaching the summit! The majority of the northern walkway is covered by trees so until you almost reach the top its all bout just climbing on up!
Reaching the Summit of Mount Kaukau Trail
As you reach the summit of Mount KauKau prepares to be blown away by the views of Wellington! But not before you’ve climbed over one final stile – the wooden gate like apparatus you climb over in fields, what do you call them where you’re from?! And up one more incline! Once you’re over the stile don’t look back!! Wait until you reach the very top for the epic views! Although it’s so hard I can guarantee you’ll look as soon as you’re over!
The summit of KauKau gives panoramic views of Wellington. You can see the city in the distance and South Island behind you! If you look carefully over towards the city you can see the Red and White mast which is Mount Victoria in the city. If you’ve climbed to the Mount Victoria Lookout then you probably thought that was high but not once you’re way up on Mt KauKau!
The views from the summit make the entire hike worthwhile. Once on top make sure you climb up into the decked area where you’ll find a compass point. It shows you which direction other places in New Zealand are and how far away they are.
Turn your back towards the city for views of the South Island on a clear day. You can see hundreds of wind turbines right in front of you!
There are plenty of picnic benches on the summit of Mount Kaukau so take lunch and enjoy it with a view! Or go for the sunset and take a cheeky red wine in the bag with some cheese? – I think that’s exactly what I’ll take next time I hike Mount Kaukau with Dave!
Accessibility on the Northern Walkway – Who is this trail for?
This first trail is fairly easy and short. It will take around 1 hour – 1.5 hours to reach the Mount Kaukau depending on how fast you walk. There is a lot of inclines and steep gradients but plenty of places to take a break too. If you’re an experienced hiker or walker then I’m sure you’ll find this short trail from Khandallah park a breeze! If you’re new to backcountry walking or ‘tramping’ as they like to call it here in the Southern Hemisphere then just leave plenty of time, hike slowly, take extra food, water and enjoy! This trail is a good one for those looking to up their fitness through walking or train for some bigger walks like the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.
Mount Kaukau Summit Hike – Trail Two Simla Crescent Loop
This track is very similar to the one above but you can create a loop walk instead of straight up and down. To reach Simla Crescent from Box Hill station depart on Cockayne Road then right onto Khandallah road then right again onto Simla Crescent. You’ll see the entrance for Khandallah reserve which you walk straight through.
Follow the northern walkway to the summit which is the same track I mentioned above. But instead of coming back the way you went up to join onto the skyline walkway which will you loop around offering more epic scenery of the Wellington Harbour before bringing you back down into Khandallah!
Mount Kaukau Summit Hike – Trail Three via The Old Coach Road from Johnsonville OR part of the Skyline Walk
The second option to reach the Mount Kaukau summit is to come from Johnsonville on the Skyline walkway – One of Wellington’s most epic hikes which we are yet to complete end to end! The skyline walkway starts in Johnsonville, a large suburb verging on town in northern Wellington, and stretches to 12 kilometres one way. The skyline walkway isn’t intended to be done in a loop but more of a traverse. On a clear day, you can see as far as the Kaikoura Ranges on the South Island! I’ll definitely write a more in-depth post on the Skyline Walkway once we’ve completed it!
The easiest way to get to Johnsonville from Wellington is to either drive which will take around 30 minutes or catch the train. The train you’ll need is the blue line towards Johnsonville getting off at Johnsonville. Train fare one way is $5, September 2019. If you have a car and are just walking this section of the skyline walkway there’s a car park at the entrance to Johnsonville Park.
Once you reach the station depart taking a left and walk down Moorefield road until reaching Broderick Road where you’ll turn right and then just keep following that road. The road then turns into Truscott Avenue where you’ll find the entrance to Johnsonville Park and The Old Coach Road.
Follow The Old Coach Road for just under 2 kilometres before reaching the Mount Kaukau summit. Again the walk is mainly uphill so it might take a little longer depending on fitness and pace.
Accessibility – Who is this hiking trail for?
If you plan on hiking the full skyline walkway then you will need hiking experience and be of good fitness. The weather in Wellington can be very unpredictable and very windy most of the time! The ridges along the skyline walkway are exposed are often subject to high gusts. Make sure you check the weather forecast but setting off!
However, if you plan to hike to Mount Kaukau from Johnsonville only then it’s a little like the trail above. You don’t need to be able to hike mountains but some experience is advantageous. If you don’t have much experience then just take it slow and take plenty of breaks keeping well hydrated at all time! A camel pack was especially helpful to me when we first started hiking as I could just swing it on my back and not have to think about constantly getting my water bottle in and out of my bag – which let’s face it can be a pain in the ass!
The Descent Down Mount Kaukau
Luckily, no matter which trail you take the descent is far easier than the ascent wahoooo! Enjoy a slow pace back down Mount Kaukau still taking in the gorgeous scenery. Hiking back down the mountains took me about 20-25 minutes!
Best Time of Day to Enjoy the Mount Kaukau Summit Hike
It doesn’t matter too much what time of day you do the hike. It depends on how much of a photograph wiz you are! I planned this hike so I’d be on the summit of Kaukau around an hour before sunset to take some killer shots! The sun will set behind Wellington so the sun drops behind you which is great for that golden hour sky! If you really want to take it up a level then arrive for and watch the sunset over the wind turbines.
I didn’t stay until sunset because I want to save that for when Dave and I hike to the summit together! But I did notice that as I walked down the mountain there were a lot more people going up which makes me think it’s probably a very busy time on the peak at sunset – just something to bear in mind if you don’t want lots of others in your shots or just around!
Best Time of Year to Enjoy Mount Kaukau
Again, because this is a safe hike that’s open all year round you really can visit whenever. In New Zealand, the winters are windy and can be rainy whereas the summers get as hot as 28 degrees some days. So, it depends on which season you prefer! It was spring when I hiked Mount Kaukau which I think was a brilliant time to do so because it wasn’t too hot but the sun catching my face and back was beautiful!
One recommendation I do have is if you have the luxury of time then plan ahead for when the forecast looks clear! The views stretch for miles and miles from the summit on a clear day and you do not want to miss these views!
A Few Final FAQ’s/Thoughts
Are Dogs Allowed on the Tracks? Yes, you can take your dog but they must remain on the lead/leash.
How Long in Total for the Hike? I recommend setting at least a whole afternoon aside. Hell, a full day if you’ve got time! But if not you can definitely park at one of the entrance points I mentioned and be up and back down again in a couple of hours if time really isn’t on your side!
Be Careful of the Temperature: Wellington is known for its blustery winds and whilst the sun is up it keeps a great job of keeping Wellington warm! But once the sun goes down the hills start to get very cold very quickly! So, if you do decide to hike Mount Kaukau at sunset then make sure you take plenty of extra layers to keep the cold out!
My Hiking Essentials
Now even though hiking is different in every country there are a few things I just don’t go camping without! Now luckily in New Zealand, I don’t have to be so crazy with the snake bandages like in Australia – honestly, it’s so nice to be able to hike and not watch my step every 3 seconds – only for mud, not animals looking kill you compared to Australia!
For me, a good pair of hiking shoes, hiking socks, a first aid kit, reusable water bottle/camel pack, my canon 1500D, GoPro Hero 5 and first aid kit are all I need! Below I’ve linked these goodies so you can take a closer look!
Sharing is Caring
I hope you enjoyed this post on the Mount Kaukau Summit Hike in Wellington New Zealand it really is worth checking out if you’re ever in Wellington! I find that Wellington gets overlooked with travellers as a lot as they use the city as a ‘means’ to reach the South Island but there are a lot of outdoor adventures to have in Wellington! If you did enjoy it then I would be so grateful if you could share it with your friends!