The Montana Heritage Trail
The Montana Heritage Trail is an 8km loop along a series of individual tracks in the Waitakeres, taking approximately 4 hours to walk for the relatively fit and probably about 5 - 6 hrs for such as us. It begins at the Cascade Carpark in Falls Rd, and you have a choice of clockwise or counterclockwise. For reasons I shall detail further along, , I recommend clockwise.
The project is a cooperative effort between Montana Wines and the Auckland Regional Council. For the most part the track is well surfaced, and at times excellent, and is still being upgraded. On a 4 point scale being
it makes a 3 at worst and then not for very much of it. The section from the carpark to the Upper Kauri Track/Long Road Track junction is an undoubted 1 for it's entire length. The Cascade-Fenceline section is still a tramping track rather than a walking track and needs a bit more care.
The official track notes, which describe it as "not for the faint-hearted", do have some merit. There are some demandingly steep and long sections which would tax anyone who is remotely old or fat or frail. I know this. I was taxed, but I did have enough training kilometres behind me before I attempted it, and emerged with nothing worse than a fierce craving for a long cold gin and a sense that an anti-inflammatory before bed might not be a bad idea.
[Miranda complains about the number of times her back end features on this website. Now and again, and especially since she has begun slowing down to take her own photographs, she gets her revenge.]
I'm going to describe this track in several sections.
Section 2 contains an extremely steep section of track, with considerable quantities of tree-root track to negotiate. In a little over half a kilometre you will climb about 160m. Especially if it is slippery or muddy, and even more especially if you are a little on the tired side after several hours walking when you descend it, you could very easily lose your footing. Hence I advise, and describe here, a clockwise transit rather than the counterclockwise transit suggested in the official notes.
If you have a tendency towards old, fat, or frail, then you will welcome hiking poles for stability, especially on steeper or slippery sections. But it needn't disqualify you from attempting the trail provided you do adequate training first.
[Later comment: Owing to an absolutely inexcusable navigational error on my part, our first trip around the trail had an extra 2.4 km added to it when I turned us off the Auckland City Walk onto the Anderson Track instead of the Cascade Track. I have since remedied this error and walked the Cascade/Fenceline route to the Waitakere Dam and back. Along the way, I met a party of some thirty walkers on their way down. Maybe there were a couple younger than me, but most looked as though they could give me five or ten years easily, and they looked to be enjoying themselves immensely. Maybe a remnant of the original old guard that carved out the routes with nothing more than a pocket knife.]
If you have limited time available, my suggestion is that you walk from the Western end of the Auckland City Walk, to the Upper Kauri Track junction and as far along Upper Kauri track as time permits, then return. This will give you best value for effort along an excellent track, with enough serious exercise to earn your beer or gin afterwards.