The Ruakuri Bush Walk, whose trailhead is but a few kilometers beyond the Waitomo Caves attraction, is considered one of the ten best short hikes in New Zealand. In under an hour, you can see verdant forests, limestone outcroppings, caves, gorge, natural bridge, tunnel, and the Waitomo Stream, all in what is called a karst landscape.
Immediately, I was struck by the lushness, many shades of green wherever I looked—Kahikatea trees, parataniwha, tree ferns, liverworts, moss and more, all surviving in dense forest canopy. The mostly loop trail is relatively flat and gravelly, the steeper sections spanned by stairs. It started to sprinkle a bit as we were midway on our hike.
A spectacular attraction is the Ruakuri Natural Tunnel, accessed through a dark passageway to a viewing platform overlooking the rushing Waitomo Stream. Our eyes needed some time to adjust to the dark tunnel before we were sure of our footing to the platform.
Nearby is a narrow gorge with the roaring stream below, which you can hear even when you’re not close by.
Some beautiful examples of limestone outcrops can also be seen along the way. These mimic the appearance of the limestone in the caves.
The sign at the trailhead estimates a 30-minute round trip, but this is too short a time to enjoy fully all that this wonderful hike has to offer.