The Pinnacles is a long day hike or overnight backpacking trip in the Coromandel Forest Park, on the Coromandel Peninsula on the North Island of New Zealand. It is highly recommended as a trek for visitors or locals, and I chose to complete this as a day hike.
After visiting Cathedral Cove on the east coast of the Coromandel Peninsula, I drove west to Thames and camped the nights before and after my hike at the Trestle View campground, near the trailhead for the Pinnacles hike. This was a small, sparse campground with few campers, and mostly day hikers parked in the adjacent parking lot. I hit the trail a little after 8:00 a.m., but couldn't see any sign of the famous peaks for some time. The beginning of the trail was flat and well maintained, but the first suspension bridge gave me some pause.
The forest was more arid than in the Southland, and the elevation gained steadily for the first 5 km. Around mid-morning I began to see a lot of young hikers coming down, almost 40+ in all! Apparently a large school group had spent the night in the DOC hut. I began to see the unusual volcanic rock pillars, and the uneven hills from the volcanic activity and erosion.
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After about 3 hours of hiking, I leveled off a bit and the DOC Hut came into view in the east. Looking south, I could see a faint trail carved into the hillside, and zooming in, some hikers climbing upward. I was shocked to realize my ultimate goal was so far up!
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I stopped to rest a bit at the hut, but didn't stay too long. I wanted to eat my lunch at the top, and there was no water available for day hikers due to a water shortage. After a brief rest to cool off a bit, I set out for the climb, a bit apprehensive of the challenge that lay ahead.
The dry, arid trail was well maintained, and even included some well constructed steps to aid the climb. Ahead, the first of the steep metal ladders came into view. This was the first of many, I was to learn. At the first ladder, I stashed my trekking poles in the brush, and started climbing. It was a bit of a climb, with many sets of small rungs to step up, and requiring some climb- and- twist maneuvers near the top. I focused on not looking down.
At the top, a few other hikers were there on the small ledge platform. There was just enough space to sit and enjoy the view, take photos, and eat some lunch. After lunch, I climbed just a little further west through a crevice in the trees to access an even more dramatic view of the Pacific Ocean to the west. It was a spectacular 360 degree view, well worth the climb!
The Pinnacles Slideshow
After relaxing and having lunch at the top, I began the climb down. Climbing down on the ladders was a bit more challenging than climbing up...
I stopped to study the Earth Caches and learn about the geologic history of the Pinnacles, and also nabbed a couple geocaches on the way back. It was quite warm and I welcomed the more forested area past the DOC hut. I passed quite a few folks heading east toward the hut as I hiked out, and didn't envy them their heavy loads and long afternoon in the hot sun. I arrived back at the trail head before 5 p.m. After stripping to my bikini, I enjoyed a cold shower from the van's water supply.
The Pinnacles was an absolutely EPIC day hike, probably the best day hike of a lifetime so far. The elevation gain was not too challenging, and the steeper climb to the Pinnacles was aided by well-constructed stairs and climbing ladders. Staying at the hut offers an easier chance to watch the sunrise and sunset from the peak. I highly recommend this hike as a great once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Photos by Cris Lewis Canon Powershot SX-50 HS
- Information for The Pinnacles hike can be found at the New Zealand Department of Conservation DOC website, where one can also make reservations for the hut. There is a beautiful DOC Visitor Center on Kauaeranga Valley Road (the road to the trail head), where one can view several exhibits on the local flora, fauna, and geology. There are also numerous campsites along the way to the trail head, all requiring reservations, and some more scenic, (and thus more crowded), than others.
- Check conditions before you begin your hike, as water may not be available at the hut for day hikers if there has been little rain. All water requires treatment before drinking.
- Parking at the Trail head near the Trestle View campground is free.