Mount Donald McLean

Mount Donald McLean

The Mount Donald McLean track is a hike that takes you through the Waitakere Ranges to a mountain peak in the southern reaches.  It can be reached by a short walk, accessed by a drive up Whatipu Road & then a little while further up Mt Donald McLean Road. Alternatively, you can hike a longer route through the Karamatura Valley, using the Karamatura Track to access the mountain track.  Covered in this post is the latter route, going from Huia to Mount Donald McLean. A return journey to the summit can be clocked as a 4-hour return trip: approximately 2.5 hours to the summit and 1.5 hours back down to the carpark.  Along the way, there are plenty of views and even the opportunity for a swim at Karamatura Falls.  At the summit you’ll be treated to views out over the Waitākere Ranges, Manukau Harbour and central Auckland.


4 hours


14.14 km


782 m





Jono resting up on a lookout over the bush looking out over the Karamatura Valley

37°00′02″S 174°33′10″E

In Detail

Recently, a slip has blocked access along Whatipu Road, making the shorter hike mentioned above not currently available.  To prevent any further damage and minimise traffic Auckland City Council has limited access to residents only.  At this stage and through until early 2022 the route to Mount Donald McLean will only be accessible from Huia, starting off from the Karamatura Track. This longer route can also provide access to the Omanawanui Track via the Puriri Ridge Track, both of which have their own entrances blocked by the road’s closure. A note here that these tracks are still open from Whatipu Road and Mount Donald McLean Road respectively, but only if you are willing to park at the start of Whatipu Road and walk along the street a fair distance before the actual hike begins.

Descending the many steps that take you to & from Mount Donald McLean along the Karamatura Track

Getting to the Mount Donald McLean Track

To reach the track to Mount Donald McLean take State Highway 20 until you reach the Hillsborough Road turn-off. Then follow Route 15, turning on to Route 24 when you reach Titirangi Road.  At the Titirangi roundabout take the first exit onto Huia Road, following this until you reach the small township of Huia. Just before the rangers quarters there is a righthand turn-off down a one way road to reach the Karamatura Valley tracks. where you can park on your right. Alternatively, another car park is situated on the left.

Mount Donald McLean Route

The route to reach Mount Donald McLean begins from Huia in the Karamatura Valley.  The path is well-formed on your entire journey to the summit.  Initially the track is rather tame, and relatively not too steep.  After a while the gradient begins to increase as you climb up the valley. One of the first viewpoints along the track is over the Karamatura Valley to a tremendous waterfall.  Beyond this the track continues to climb until you reach yet another point of interest for the water babies out there – spotted just off a side-track is Karamatura Falls.  The track’s sharp ascent from here, with switch-back stairs to climb before reaching the Mount Donald McLean Track junction.  Your journey then follows the ridge line, gently rolling along until you reach Mount Donald McLean Road. From here your summit ascent begins.

GPX file download for Mount Donald McLean

Waitakere Ranges Weather

Weather in the Waitakere Ranges and Auckland is often variable throughout the day. Rain and wind are expected, but also commonly found are blue skies and a wicked sunset.  If you’re walking take a showerproof raincoat along with you and some water, it never hurts to stay prepared. As far as bush walks go, however, this is a short one and you’d be hard-pressed to get lost even if the entire place was blanketed in fog.  Ensure you pack in a warm layer in case the wind rises in the rain, chilling you to the bone.  Trust me – you’ll thank me later

Karamatura Valley Car Park

At the beginning of the carpark, Auckland City Council has pulled together some fresh new facilities to accommodate increased visitors and plenty of space for all.  Even though reaching the carpark is a bit of a narrow one-way stretch, there’s plenty of room to turn around on the rare occasion you can’t find a spot.  A small length of the Karamatura Stream runs down alongside the carpark and is only a few steps away once you’re parked, a fun activity for young children keen to explore right from the outset of this trip

Top Left: The initial bottom car park where we parked up for the hike there is a
Top Right:
Toilets located at the start of the Karamatura Valley carpark
Auckland City Council signpost for the Karamatura Loop Walk, although uninformative if you’re heading up to Mount McDonald Mclean

Karamatura Track

The Karamatura Track is where the hike to Mount Donald McLean begins.  Where you must clean your shoes, a noticeboard may be seen giving any updates from the local park ranger on the status of trails, closures, or any warnings.  The track eases you into the bush with twists and turns throughout the forest and usually a good trail of people following them.  With a gentle ascent you’ll reach a viewing point over the Karamatura Valley fitted with a wooden platform.  A great place for a pit-stop.

Top: A signpost that shows that the walk is along the Hillary Trail
Middle Left:
Jono resting up at the lookout along the way up the Karamautra Track
Middle Right:
Looking across the valley out towards a part of Waterfalls Stream
Nathan (the Author) soaking up the views and scenery amongst the nikau palms

This track has only one agenda. And that is to take you up.  Gradients of ascent eb and flow as you continue up the valley with a few features along the way as you climb.  Karamatura Falls is a worthwhile view and stepping just off the track leads to a waterfall with a large enough swimming hole. Aside from this recommended and already-formed detour, continue to stay on the formed paths as best possible to reduce the chance of spreading Kauri dieback amongst the forest.  Beyond the falls the track switches gears and begins to solidly climb towards the Mount Donald McLean Track.

Jono powering up the screeds of stairs that lead up towards the start of the Donald McLean Track

Hillary Trail

The Karamatura Track forms a part of a length of walks that together connect to form a part of the Hillary Trail.  Due to Kauri dieback only small sections of the trail are open at this stage with a few of them already featured on the blog or coming soon. The Omanawanui Track, Karamatura Falls, and Kitekite Falls are all part of the Hillary Trail along with sections of track such as the classic section of Te Henga Walkway – a highlight of the trail that stretches between Bethells Beach and Muriwai.

Further stairs as we lead closer to the path flattening off at the ridge where the Karamatura Track meets the Donald McLean Track

Donald McLean Track

The Donald McLean Track comes with an effortless transition.  So much so that neither my friend and lockdown hiking brother Jono nor I had a clue that we had switched up between the two tracks.  The closest identifier that I could find to mark the transition was the transition to a boardwalk above the forest floor, but we were still able to get up close to admire the tall kauri trees.  Alongside the boardwalk are some bench seats built into the railing, making for a great spot to rest, hydrate and rip into some snacks you’ve taken along with you.  The Donald McLean Track drifts along with a net descent as you make your way to the summit.

Top Left: Looking up over the forest of Kauri trees above
Top Right: The initial section of the Donald McLean Track board walked to prevent the spread of Kauri die back
Bottom Left:
Jono making his way along the board walked track thriving in nature
Bottom Right:
Peering through the bush towards the summit of Mount Donald McLean

Mount McDonald McLean Summit Track

On either side of Mount Donald McLean Road there are Kauri dieback prevention stations to wash and scrub your feet.  An opportune time to give those shoes a back-to-back clean.  Along the trail up to Mount Donald McLean is a gradual ascent through the bush to the summit.  It’s a stark contrast to much of the Karamatura Track which is almost all about climbing stairs.

Top: Jono making his way through the cleaning station after giving his sneakers a fresh scrub for the third time along the track
Middle: Looking across the Manakau Habour to
A Panorama from just below the summit out over the Waitakere Ranges and Manakau Harbour. The Omanawanui Track seen slightly right of Manukau Harbour

Mount Donald McLean

On top of Mount Donald McLean, you get some gorgeous 360° panoramic views out over Whatipu, Manukau Harbour and even all the way to Tamaki Makaurau (Auckland).  On the summit there are two wooden platforms, one to the west and the other to the east.  Certainly, if you were short of time and couldn’t walk to reach the summit, when Whatipu Road and the mountain road are reopened a quick drive up here for a miniature climb to the summit would make for a quality sunset location – again, it’s only 10-15 minutes from the road.

Top Left: Jono holding on tight for a summit photo looking out over
Top Right:
A grim but nonetheless satisfied smile from Jono
Middle Left:
Big Shukkas looking back over Manakau Harbour towards Auckland
Middle Right:
Nathan (the author) embracing the wind and rain as it rips across summit of Mount Donald McLean
Views out over Manakau Harbour towards the

Puriri Ridge Track & Omanawanui Track

Walking down Mount Donald McLean Road takes you to Whatipu Road where you can turn to the right to reach the Omanawanui Track and Puriri Ridge Track entrances.  Although Jono & I didn’t walk either of these tracks on this trip due to time constraints that we had upon getting back to the car, booking out a longer day would make for a great extended day hike up and about the south-western fringes of the Waitakere Ranges.  The Omanawanui Track is one I have previously completed, which takes you along a ridge with beautiful views out over the Manukau Harbour along the coastline.

Left: The turn-off point to the Puriri Ridge Track along the Donald McLean Track
Right: Looking across to the Omanawanui Track from the Mount McDonald McLean

Return journey from Mount Donald McLean

Coming back along from Mount Donald McLean take slightly more strength walking back up the hill towards the junction to Karamatura Track.  Clip-clop back down the stairs that you’ve climbed to the top.  Returning along the trail back to the car takes approximately an hour and a half following along the same trail, tracing your footsteps back to your car.

Top Left: A typical section of track where there wasn’t such a gradient. Grand forest views.
Top Right:
Jono making strides down the stairs after before a cheeky dip at Karamatura Falls
Bottom Left:
The real slim shady. Same spot 2 hours later and the weather had given the spots vibe a makeover
Bottom Right
: One of the classic old time Auckland City Council markers showing the way to the lookout

Karamatura Falls

Karamatura Falls are one of the accessible and spectacular waterfalls that you can reach along the trail.  They are well worth stopping for on the journey up to the top, back up to the top of the Karamatura Track.  It’s a little bit of a squeeze to reach the outlet of the falls, but the waterhole beneath is plenty large enough for a swim, soak, and a jump.  Ensure that if you’re planning on jumping you check the water in your jump zone is clear and have someone on the lookout for you.

Karamatura Falls providing even in the poor weather a blissful scene

Mount Donald McLean Crew

Jono (big chungus jono) came out on this adventure for a good bit of fun, our first post lockdown outing coming at level 2.99999 for Auckland.  There’s no doubt that getting a good bit of fresh country air like that makes an incredible difference when you may have been cooped up inside your flat or home for far too long, limited to enjoying only the extremely local parks and spots. Even the rainy day couldn’t hinder our hike or stop us from getting in our waterfall dip. It’s never too early or late for a good swimming session. With coast views, beautiful native New Zealand bush and waterfalls to boot, this walk is most assuredly one to tick off the list.

Swimming in the rain and climbing a good 700+ metres of elevation gain it’s good to have a bit of physical suffering amongst a Level 2.99 lockdown in Auckland