Rediscovering the Ohakune Old Coach Road

When the first part of the Ohakune Old Coach Road was rediscovered at the Junction Railway Station in 2002, it was under ½ metre of soil which was cleared away so the trail could be followed. Once the trail entered the National Park, the vegetation was so thick in places that you had to crawl through the undergrowth. Local volunteers spent nearly a decade clearing it into the wide track which you can stroll or bike up today.

After the Hapuawhenua viaduct was decommissioned it also fell into disrepair. When the Ohakune community began planning the restoration of the Ohakune Old Coach Road, access to the Hapuawhenua viaduct was again restored, therefore making it possible to plan its restoration. The Tongariro National History Society joined DOC’s efforts and funding was secured.

Restoration of the Hapuawhenua Viaduct was started in 2007 and finished in 2009. It has meant that this NZ engineering masterpiece can be shared with the rest of the world.

The Taonui and Hapuawhenua viaducts, the Hapuawhenua Tunnel and the cobbles of The Old Coach Road remain as testaments to the vision and persistence of the surveyors, the engineers and the hundreds of builders involved in their construction.

Biking the Ohakune Old Coach Road from Horopito

This is now the iconic way to experience to walk or bike the Ohakune Old Coach Road. Quality hard tail, full suspension or E Bikes can be rented for this trip from TCB Ski, Board and Bike along with Transport packages leaving several times daily.

The Grade 2 bike ride from Horopito to Ohakune Junction and back to TCB is roughly 17 km takes around 2 ½ hrs and lends itself well to all levels of cyclists with a medium level of fitness including families. Doing this trip from the Horopito end means the ride is mainly downhill and combines the gentle undulating terrain of the Old Coach Road with new trails through stunning native bush.

Great photo opportunities exist at the Taonui Viaduct or when you ride out onto the Hapuawhenua Viaduct, or into the old train tunnel. Story boards along the way tell you of the struggles the pioneers had in shaping and building the Ohakune Old Coach Road.


Alternative route to the Ohakune Old Coach Road and the Hapuawhenua Viaduct

From TCB Ski, Board and Bike, go along Ayr St to the Mangawhero River parking area, then continue across the swing bridge down to Old Station Rd. The start to the Ohakune Old Coach Road and Mountains to Sea Cycleway is at the  Ohakune Heritage  Railway Station, in the Junction apres alpine zone of Ohakune. This is where the horse drawn coaches began their coach trip from back in 1906.

Your pathway heads north along railway embankment then up and over the GHD Junction Flyover, clearing the Ohakune Mountain Road and the burbling Mangawhero River.

Continue down Old Station Road past an alpine scoria quarry, then right into Marshalls Road passing an Atihau Whanganui dairy farm, wetlands and ancient forest. Forest of this age is unusual in the central plateau as most was buried by the great Taupo eruption which created Lake Taupo, centuries ago. This forest only escaped that eruption by being sheltered in the lee of Mt Ruapehu.

Cross the Hapuawhenua Stream on Dodges Crossing, moving upwards on the Heritage Stage 1. You will walk or cycle past a number of fascinating pieces of New Zealand’s North Island main trunk rail heritage structures. There are many highlights on the track, including crossing the impressive span of the restored Hapuawhenua rail viaduct and groping cautiously through the darkness of the Hapuawhenua tunnel. Look out for the “Chinaman” quarry on the upper level going down into the Taonui Riverway under the derelict Taonui viaduct structure.

Along the entire route you can visit the interpretation panels which give heritage, flora and fauna information to enrich your trip.

Learn more about this trail on the  MTB Project website