The Pinnacles walk shows off some truly amazing North Island landscapes within the heart of the Coromandel Forest Park and is one of the best hikes in the New Zealand bush to catch the sunrise. Although you can do this walk in one day with some serious legwork, I split this hike into two days by spending the night at the Pinnacles Hut and climbing at dawn to watch the sunrise over the Coromandel Peninsula. Here is your beginner’s guide to walking The Pinnacles track overnight based on my experience.
Always check the weather and route alerts before you explore the outdoors and be prepared for the conditions. Tell someone where you’re going and when to expect you back. Respect New Zealand’s environment, wildlife and land owners by following the Tiaki Promise. Leave only footprints, take only photos. Keep updated with The Pinnacles Track conditions here.
How do I get to the Pinnacles in Coromandel?
Grab your road trip snacks and make your way to the trail-head at the end of Kauaeranga Valley Road, Thames (134km from Auckland). Along this road is the Kauaeranga Visitor Center which you need to follow the signs for then the road continues beyond the center's car park. The Visitor’s Center itself is worth a look to collect a physical map of the trail, make the most of the last bathroom stop and explore their cultural displays. Continue on a gravel road past the Visitor’s Center for 9km to the end of the road and park up at the large car park to begin the walk along the Kauaeranga Kauri Trail.
How long does it take to walk The Pinnacles?
Carpark to The Pinnacles Hut - 3.5 hours
The Pinnacles Hut to the Summit - 1 hour
Descent from summit to carpark - 3 hours (Webb Creek track) or 4 hours (Billy Goat Track).
Is the sunrise worth it?
Climbing to the summit of a valley by moonlight then standing on boulders as the horizon begins to glow is amazing and so worth the climb. The surrounding hills and clouds all slowly change color until the sun finally rises and beams into your face. You can also choose to summit for sunset the same day you walk in (if you’ve got the energy) like I saw quite a few hikers do. It always feels like a serious adventure when you bring out the head torches!
Tip #1: Look up what time sunrise is BUT get there around 40 minutes before the given time to catch first light and the glow over the hills. If you plan to get there at the same time the sun is actually breaking the horizon, you miss the best parts of the sunrise!
Is it hard to walk to The Pinnacles?
I began walking from the carpark on the Webb Creek Track for 6km to the Pinnacles Hut and it took me around 3.5 hours. The Web Creek Track winds through the bush and you cross over some really fun swing bridges. The track is largely uphill...me and uphills aren’t the best of friends, so there were quite a few water breaks. The great thing about splitting this walk into two days is that you CAN take your time for breaks, photos and also to dip your toes in the little creeks to cool off since there’s no worries about cramming everything into one day! Overall the track is clear and well maintained so if you just keep walking like the little engine that could, you’ll make it to the hut!
In the early hours of the morning the walk from The Pinnacles Hut to the summit took around one hour. It wasn’t an overly tough climb compared to the day before. As I neared the top, the track transitioned from well formed stairs to metal ladders and boulders making for an adventurous but slightly slower climb. Concentration levels were high but so were excitement levels as I reached the lookout with first light just breaking over the Coromandel Peninsula.
From the summit back to the hut was only around a half hour walk since I was heading down the stairs and downhill. I packed up my gear, swept my bunk and thanked the Hut Warden before heading back to the Webb Creek Track.
Walking out from the hut took around 3 hours; even though it is mostly downhill, be prepared for your knees to take some impact and general fatigue to slow you down a little (remember you’ve already walked almost two hours today)!
Take a small, compact backpack with you (I love my Livingstone 25L Alberta Pack for these occasions) to pack your headlight, drink bottle and camera in for the sunrise summit. You can leave your bulky packs at the hut and return to collect them later. You will be packed up and walking out well before the 9am check out time!
Tip: Stuff a jacket or spare clothes into your sleeping bag cover and pull the drawstring to create a pillow - less to carry!
When choosing the right light source to take with you, I’d suggest a bright headlight that keeps your hands free for all the ladders and climbing in the dark; my torch handle ended up in my mouth quite a lot while I was trying to climb with two hands!
Where do you camp on The Pinnacles track?
Please Note: The current DOC requirements under Covid-19 Alert Level 2 is a maximum of 10 people per hut and recommends you bring a tent in case non-bookable huts have already reached capacity. Individuals are responsible or carrying their own sanitizing equipment for shared spaces in and out of the area.
I stayed at The Pinnacles Hut, a very well serviced Department of Conservation hut! It has eco-toilets (with toilet paper! Yes, that’s exciting), gas stoves with kitchen utensils and cookware, water (boil before drinking) and even showers if water supply allows! It is the largest DOC hut in the country with 80 bunk beds. Just book your bed here ahead of time ($20.00 NZD/person, per night) and they’ll have a nice sleeping mat waiting for you! The amenities of this hut make it perfect for your first overnight hike, as you aren’t weighed down with cooking equipment or shelters! Also, if you’re lucky enough to be at the hut on a super clear night, head out to the heli-pad after dark to see the stars and milky way with zero light pollution - the BEST night sky I’ve ever seen!
You also have the option of the Dancing Camp Campsite which holds 4 non-powered tent sites if you’re looking for a more back country experience and don’t mind carrying the extra gear. Bookings are also required for this campsite at $10.00 NZD/person, per night.
What should I take to The Pinnacles?
Apart from clothes and food, what gear do you need specifically to walk The Pinnacles? Here’s the extra gear I took:
- Sleeping Bag
- Slide on shoes to wear at the hut
- 3L of water
- Reliable headlight (hands-free light preferable)
- Biodegradable Wet Wipes (do not put them in the eco toilets - use toilet paper provided)
- Camera/ Phone
- Map of the tracks - printed
- Hut booking confirmation - printed
- Small towel - shower or river swims
- Toothbrush/ toothpaste
- Plastic bag - rubbish bag to take out with you
If there’s any questions you still have about this overnight adventure, let me know on Instagram and I’ll be happy to answer them for you! The Weekend Kiwis Blog (click here) has a good insight into walking the full summit track as a day hike if you’re short on time.