Hillary Trail honours NZ adventurer

A four-day walking track through the Waitakere Ranges west of Auckland is named after one of New Zealand’s greatest adventurers, Sir Edmund Hillary.

The Hillary Trail - in a region of lush rainforest and dramatic coastal terrain that has long been a favourite with the Hillary family - was opened in January 2010 to mark the second anniversary of Sir Edmund Hillary's death.

The local mayor and Sir Edmund had been discussing the track idea for 20 years.

Follow Hillary’s footsteps

Admirers of the great New Zealand adventurer don’t need to scale Everest or trek to the South Pole to follow in Sir Edmund’s footsteps, they can "do the Hillary" within easy reach of Auckland city.

The walking track covers 70km and passes through the Waitakere Ranges and along Karekare, Piha, Anawhata, Te Henga (Bethell's) and Muriwai beaches offering trampers spectacular views of the rugged west coast.

The five generations of the Hillary family that have enjoyed and explored the Piha coastline since the 1920s, were also passionate about creating a trail along the dramatic black sand beaches of the west coast.

In his 1982 history of neighbouring beach Anawhata, Sir Ed's father-in-law Jim Rose wrote: "My family look forward to the time when we will be able to walk from Huia to Muriwai on public walking tracks like the old-time Maori could do."

Piha link

According to Peter Hillary, Sir Ed’s son, his famous father used to go to Piha and Anawhata to dream up expeditions and prepare for them. When Sir Edmund scaled Mt Everest, the telegram sent to his wife went through the Piha post office.

And later, when Sir Edmund's wife Louise and daughter Belinda were killed in an air tragedy in 1975, the rugged coast worked "like a balm" to heal the family's broken hearts, he said.

"As a family we were raised on weekend adventures out here and we are delighted that this trail will bear our father’s name. Call me biased but the Hillary Trail is one of the finest tramping experiences in New Zealand," Peter Hillary said.

Hillary Trail information

Prospective trampers can download information on the Hillary Trail from the Auckland Regional Council (ARC website), pick up a booklet or receive orientation from rangers at the Arataki Visitor Centre where the trail begins.

The Hillary Trail crosses three regional parks and is linked to public transport.

There are plans to eventually extend the trail towards the Kaipara Harbour, making a route of 100km.

Background: The Hillary trail

  • 70km route
  • starts at Arataki Visitor Centre, passes through Waitakere Ranges and along Auckland's west coast beaches
  • offers tracks for a moderate level of fitness and ability
  • runs through the Karamatura, Pararaha and Craw Homestead campgrounds.