There are a couple ways to do this awesome adventure through a valley littered with relics form the gold-rush. One hurts considerable more than the other!
The destination for this walk is the awe-inspiring Butlers Incline. This engineering feat disappears 400 metres up into the bush at a staggering 25 degree angle. It’s hard to see where it ends! The climb is brutal but so much fun.
The incline is a historical relic from the gold mining days when prospector Hōne Werahiko first discovered gold in the Waiorongomai Valley in 1881. But the unexpectedly hard rock of the enormous gold bearing reef proved expensive and ultimately put a dampener on the miners’ enthusiasm for this area.
The Butlers Incline was one of three self acting inclines along the 3.7 kilometre Piako County Tramway that was used to transport ore to nearby batteries for processing.
To get to the base of the incline there’s a well graded track that potters through the former lower Waiorongomai gold-fields.
The trail passes several significant sites including an optional short tunnel to clamber through which was used by miners and horses to protect them from an aerial ropeway operating above.
The valley is full of native California radiata pine which peskily follows miners around the world.
From the base of the incline the path loops back along New Zealand’s oldest known railway, some original parts are still intact. You’ll pass the Fern Spur Incline on the way out, although not as impressive as Butlers Incline, it does have great views of the countryside and a Jenga style pile of railway sleepers.
Time: Allow 120 min (5.5 km) for the Low Level Loop. Allow 2.5 hours (4.3 km) for the High Level Pack Track which includes climbing the Butlers Incline.
Accessibility: Easy or Hard. Well graded paths, shallow stream crossings and optional very steep incline.
How to get there: Parking at the end of Waiorongomai Loop Road near Te Aroha.
Toilets: There is a rustic toilet a few minutes along the track.