What You'll Find
Escarpment Track “Stairway to Heaven”
Name: Stairway To Heaven
Length: 10km (one way)
Duration: Approx 3.5 Hours
From Wellington: 45-60 minutes
The Stairway to Heaven makes out for a great day hike along the Kapiti Coast just outside of Wellington. This track is a small piece of the much larger “ Te Araroa”.
In case you don’t know, The Escarpment Track (Te Araroa) is New Zealand’s Version on the Pacific Coast Trail. It starts (or finishes depending which way you choose) from the tip of North Island at Cape Reinga, all the way to Invercargill on South Island. For more details on the Te Araroa, click here.
The Stairway to Heaven section is a lovely way to explore Te Araroa without having to commit the to the full 3000km.
The Stairway to Heaven is 10km and runs from Pukerua Bay to Paekakariki (or visa versa). It took me about 3.5 hours to complete, including the numerous stops to take photos.
I parked at the Paekakariki Station and walked from there to Pukerua Bay. Once in Pukerua Bay I took the train back to my car in Paekakariki. It cost me $3 NZD. You can also train from Wellington to either station.
Wellington to Pukerua Bay: $9.00 NZD (one way)
Wellington to Paekakariki: $10.50 NZD (one way)
FINDING THE STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN TRAIL HEAD:
PUKERUA BAY TO PAEKAKARIKI (SOUTH TO NORTH)
First mistake I made was assuming that the trail was along the water. It is not. The track is actually on the large bluffs along the coast line. I spent over an hour trying to find a trail, that I was nowhere near. Gahhh.. I did get this nice photo though.
TRAIN: If taking the train in from Wellington, get off at Pukerua Bay Train Station.
DRIVING: If you are driving, park at there is parking on either side of the train station. However, the trail head starts on the East Side of the Train station, by the playground.
Please note, cross the train tracks at the designating crossing areas. If you don’t, you could be facing a $20,000 fine. Once parked and on the East side of the train tracks, look for the sign in the picture below. It is a map and description of the trail. I suggestion snapping a photo of it just in case.
From this sign (above), continue on the concrete path following the small black and white “Te Araroa” signs. They can be seen on telephone poles or fences. The signs will lead you through a neighbourhood area, to a small grassy field, followed by a trail that follows along the fence of the train tracks.
That trail should spit you out onto near the grassy bluffs. This will take about 10-15min. Once on the track along the bluffs, the trail is clear. Simply follow it north to Paekakariki.
When you are nearingPaekakariki, you will be led under a bridge and onto State Highway 1 (SH1). Once on the road, head South (the direction you just came from) a short ways. You will see a paved road directly on your right across the highway, follow that for 1 km until you reach town.
From there you will see the Train Station. Hop on the train heading to Wellington. If you drove, hop off at Pukera Bay Train Station where your car is parked.
PAEKAKARIKI TO PUKERUA BAY (NORTH TO SOUTH)
It is relatively the same as if you were to start in Pukerua Bay. However, there are a few notes to be aware of.
TRAIN: If training in from Wellington, get off at Paekakariki Station, in Paekakariki.
DRIVE: If driving please park at the train station and not on the residential roads. Remember, you will want to park at the train station anyway, since you’ll be taking the train back to your car in the end.
Do not cross the track to towards the bluff. Instead walk south back into town and continue along Beach Dr. It is about a 1km walk down this road. Eventually you’ll come upon a sign for the Escarpment Track. See photo above. Continue past the map towards SH1. Once at SH1, walk North (left) and you will see the staircase that safely leads you under the highway and onto the track. The trail is clear from here on out.
WHAT TO EXPECT
GRADE: Expect many stairs. It starts out flat and shortly after the climb begins. Walking North to South I found is much easier, as there was less of a climb.
WARNING: This trail has no railing. Be aware if you have a fear of heights or suffer from vertigo, this is a cliff walk and it may not be for you.
WEATHER: Check the weather before you go. Sunny days are best, but be aware there is no shade. Make sure you bring a hat, sunscreen and water. Also the wind is extremely strong up there. I was literally being push into the side of the cliff at times.
WHAT TO BRING
- 10 essentials
- Wind Breaker
- Hiking boots or Runners
You can read my post on What to Pack for a Day Hike: A Beginners Guide for more info.
** There is no toilet along the track. Make sure you go in the public toilets provided at either end of the track**
Toilet Pukerua Bay: By the corner store across SH1 from the Train Station
Toilet Paekakariki: In town on the corner of Wellington and Beach Dr.
Be safe and I hope you enjoy The Stairway to Heaven as much as I did.