An area of concentrated volcanic history, the Kauaeranga Valley is home to base-rock sandstone (greywacke), tufts, rhyolite raw and metamorphosed as well as significant quantities of quality andesite.


With its long history as an outdoor icon, natural beauty, amenable camping, closeness to population centres, nearness to other outdoor areas and crags - and vast quantities of rock - the Kauaeranga Valley offers budding experienced ascentionists a sporting area of epic proportions. The valley is a great place to stay and could serve as a base for exploring other crags scattered around the peninsular with most developed areas a half hour or less away.

Boulderers will love the ability to explore the area for new blocks. Take a pad, wire brush(es), swimming togs and sense of adventure. Choose the best rock for bouldering:

There are a huge number of crags spread through the valley, from bullet hard andesite through to rotten tuff (and everything in between) and from boulder sized to several hundred metres or more. The best rock for climbing is the andesite and non-metamorphosed rhyolite. The valley experiences high rainfall - meaning anything of any significance will require extensive cleaning. Whereas features such as Table Mountain are andesite, The Pinnacles for example are rhyolite - this rhyolite is great. When reheated and chemically altered by subsequent activity- resulting in discoloured rock, the rhyolite became friable - for example the lookout abseiling rock. The andesite consists of two types - high quality welded-columnar rock perfect for climbing and, on the whole, even more massively dense and extremely sound, non-columnar blocks, similarly perfect for climbing.

The side rivers and main river are prone to flooding during and after rainfall as their catchment areas are sizeable. Keep this in mind when exploring via river valley or camping out etc. Generally you want to be out bouldering when the rivers are at normal flow.

NOTE: approaches vary in the valley and this is a wilderness area. You should be familiar with bushcraft before exploring in the valley. The topology of the valley is complex at times and the scale may be initially confusing with hills rising to 700m asl. The valley is NOT SUITABLE for climbers or boulderers who have only climbed indoors or have minimal experience and are looking to take their skills outdoors. There is no substitute for experience, risk management and a good belay or spot. Take appropriate gear.

Access issues

None. Please observe alpine club guidelines.


The visitor centre and entrance to the park is 13 km (15–20 minutes) from Thames on Kauaeranga Valley Road.

From Thames travel along Banks Street (BP Service Station on the corner) which turns into Parawai Road. Continue as it passes through the settlement turning in Kauaeranga Valley Road.

Take it easy on the road up the valley - it is very narrow in places and there is much to see.

For information on local conditions:

Where to stay

There are many camping spots up the valley (9 campgrounds) and Thames has a plethora of options such as hotels, motels and BnBs etc.

There are eight conservation camping sites:

• Shag Stream Campsite is adjacent to the Visitor Centre, beside the Kauaeranga River, and there is a good swimming hole nearby. 30 sites. Open from Labour Weekend (October) until 30 April.

• Hotoritori Campsite is 3 km north of the Visitor Centre and is across the road from the river. It is one of two campsites where dogs are permitted. 30 sites. Open all year.

• Whangaiterenga Campsite, near the junction of Whangaiterenga Stream and Kauaeranga River, is the largest with 50 sites. There are flush toilets at the campsite. Open all year.

• Booms Flat Campsite is 6 km north of the Visitor Centre, with 65 sites. Dogs are permitted here. Open from Labour Weekend (October) until 30 April.

• Catleys Campsite is on the river side of the road, 6.5 km north of the Visitor Centre. 30 sites. Open from Labour Weekend (October) until 30 April.

• Wainora Campsite is 7 km from the Visitor Centre, is in an attractive bush setting at the start of the Cookson Kauri Walk. 30 sites. Open from Labour Weekend (October) until 30 April.

• Totara Flat Campsite is between the road and river, 7.5 km from the Visitor Centre with 30 sites. Open all year.

• Trestle View is the last campsite and closest to the Kauaeranga Kauri Trail

There is one powered site:

Kahikatea powered site is located just next to the visitor centre. This site has space for 14 self-contained, electrically certified motorhomes. Four large sites are available for buses. Bookings for this site may be made online or through the Kauaeranga Visitor Centre (07 867 9080). Keys for the power need to be collected from the visitor centre. Keys may be collected after hours by prior arrangement.

There are backcountry camping areas near the Pinnacles Hut (Dancing Camp), at Billygoat Basin and Moss Creek in the Kauaeranga valley and also at Crosbies Hut. All sites except Moss Creek must be booked online at Bookings through the Kauaeranga Visitor Centre incur a booking fee.

There are two back country huts:

Pinnacles Hut is a 2 hr 30 min – 3 hr walk from the Kauaeranga valley road end. It has 80 bunks, mattresses, toilets, a cold shower, solar lighting, gas cookers and gas barbeque. Bring your own cooking utensils. A hut warden is present at all times. Accommodation at the Pinnacles Hut is frequently booked out Saturday nights or during holiday periods, so forward planning is essential.

Crosbies Hut, situated on the Memorial Loop Track on the main range behind Thames, is a 4–6 hr tramp from any of the access points. The track is not as well formed as the track to the Pinnacles Hut. It has 10 bunks, mattresses and a coal fire. Coal is supplied in the winter months only. Bring your own lighting, cookers and fuel, utensils and cooking equipment.


Gradingwise, The Kauaeranga Valley follows standard ewbank and strict V grading based on ARG and Port Hills standards, roughly:

VB = absolute beginner level bouldering VE = <16 V0 = 16,17 V1 = 18,19,20 V2 = 21,22 V3 = 23,24 And then: V grade = Ewbank - 21.

Please follow NZAC guidelines. Minimise ecological impact at all times. Additionally, the Department of Conservation has given the permission to boulder on the andesite boulders of the valley IF:

  • there is no modification of the boulders
  • ecology is respected at all times
  • bio-assets are respected at all times
  • brushing is minimised to those holds which are used or could be used (ie touched) to ensure progression and the climbers safety
  • the climber is considered as part of the environment and preserved

Enquire at the DOC Valley Visitor Centre if at all unsure of the application of the NZAC guidelines.


History timeline chart

The valley has always been a favourite of outdoors enthusiasts. Climbing was rediscovered by Phil Higgins in the early 2020's.


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Wainora Boulders boulder field

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