One end of Forest Road starts at Port Fitzroy and the other at Whangaparapara Road. I started at the Whangaparapara end. It was closer.
The entire track is supposed to be 13km and it can feel that long. It follows the ridge line at either end but there are three deep valleys and, especially heading south, a hill that seems to climb forever. Forest Road can be quite slippery at times. You definitely have to keep an eye on where your feet are going when it is wet. Not so much muddy, just slippery.
Halfway along is one of my favourite places on the Barrier. Maungapiko lookout. Sitting on the junction of Forest Road and Kiwiriki Track, with a nice little table, is a short ten minute track that leads up to Maungapiko. There is also a piece of railway line stuck in the ground at the entrance. The track can be a little slippery but it always amazes me how far you can see from the look out and how few houses there are in view.
Near the end of Forest Road is the start of Southfork Track. It got pretty nailed in a storm a couple of years ago and you have to walk up the Kaiarara Stream for 500m or so before picking up a ridgeline that takes you up out of the valley. In the stream you will see the devastation that can be caused by weather on the Island.
The track rises fairly steeply at first but then levels out a bit before coming to a wire bridge. It must have been one of the first DOC wire bridges on the Island. Maybe even a Forestry Service one? It isn't to far from the end where Southfork meets Peach Tree. Take a left and you're only a hundred meters from the Mt Heale Hut.
Mt Heale Hut
Nice hut. No heating but there are mattresses for about 20 people, gas burners, water, and toilets. It does call itself a serviced hut although that hasn't really been true when I have passed through. Twice the gas wasn't working, once the water had to be got from the outside tank, and generally there was no toilet paper. This time was the exception with everything working.
There are electric lights in the hut but no wall socket. Cell phone coverage can also be intermittent.