26 - Maitai Caves
The Maitai Caves walk is largely flat and passes through some beautiful mature mixed beech/podocarp forest to limestone caves. For most of the walk the track is well formed and can be walked in sneakers. The track is flat except for the last 10 minute climb to the caves. The section to the Dun Mountain turn-off is also suitable for mountain biking.
Area: Maitai Valley (upper)
Time: 4 hours
Note: As this is a water reserve, no dogs are allowed. Bring a torch for the caves! start LocatIoN: Drive up the Maitai Valley Road and park by the footbridge over the Maitai River just after the turn-off to the Maungatapu. The footbridge is before the Matai Dam and picnic area.
Cross the footbridge and follow the well benched track through scrub upstream for 15 minutes. The track then joins a 4WD track. After another 15 minutes the 4WD track ends and becomes another well benched track as you enter bush. The forest at this stage is very open and predominantly beech. There are views from the track of sparkling pools in the south branch of the Maitai.
After another 15 minutes you reach the turn-off to the Dun Mountain Track. Instead of crossing the south branch of the Maitai, cross Solanders Creek. Solanders Creek is a small stream and it is usually possible to keep your feet dry. The track from now on is not as well formed as the earlier stretches, but is well marked. After another 20 minutes the turn-off to Third House and Sunrise Ridge is reached. Continue left and start the steep 10 minute climb up to the caves. The forest is denser here with some magnificent matai and rimu trees and an abundance of rata and other climbers.
After the 10 minute climb there is a small entrance in a limestone outcrop and you can either peer down the cave or venture in if you can handle confined spaces and steep muddy surfaces. The first cave is about 15 metres long with a second smaller chamber behind it. The caves are steep sided and very slippery even in dry weather. Don't remove any material from the caves - these are fragile limestone systems which take many years to build up.