“A soft-surface exploration of the Hamilton Rose gardens and Riverlea river walks via Malcolm St Beach.”
— Kerry Suter
Fall Colors · Lake · River/Creek · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife
A Hamilton classic. This area is popular as the "summer circuit" for local harries club 'the Hawks' and any athlete looking for an undulating soft-surface break from the cobblestone river paths.
Need to Know
Dogs are off the leash along the river's edge from the Jetty to Echo Edge Bush (ascent to the Cemetery), and Hillside Lawn areas. Dogs can be expected throughout the hike with the most "anti-social" encounters generally taking place around the Scouts Hall around Hungerford Cres.
The majority of this hike takes place on mowed grass as it weaves through the famous Hamilton Rose Gardens up and over to Malcolm St beach before looping Riverlea and returning to it's starting location at Cobham Drive Bridge. Done right, this hike is almost entirely off-road with only a short section of the Riverlea Rd footpath required to complete the loop.
From the Rose Garden Carpoark, hike the grass of Governors Lawn through to Turtle Lake including a short cobblestone path loop of the Hammond Camellia Garden above the Rhododendron Lawn. From Turtle Lake, descend to the Waikato River jetty and along the river's edge in Bussaco Woodland to the Echo Bank Bush before climbing sharply to the Hamilton East Cemetery.
Follow the worn path along the ridgeline beneath the old conifer pines as the track rises to its highest point, a Trig in the horse paddocks. Climb the turnstile and continue southwest to Howell Ave. Descending Howell, turn right into Callard Place cul de sac continuing the descend to Malcolm St beach via the Hammond Park reserve.
Stay close to the Waikato River (true right) and meet the beautiful raised boardwalk section which at times rises into the treetops. Leaving the boardwalk cross a small reserve to find the gravel road that climbs to the end of Riverlea Rd. Remain on Riverlea Road (footpath) for almost 1km before turning left into Hudson Rd, and left again into Balfour Cres.
Leave Balfour on the obvious path back down to the Riverlea reserve to complete this southern loop before rejoining the elevated boardwalk section and reversing your journey back up to the route's highest point (the horse paddock trig). Here you can loop back to the rose gardens via Hungerford Cres through the Cemetery before descending off the Hillside Lawn above the Gate 1 car park, back down to the Rose Gardens, Turtle Lake and Governors Gardens to finish back where you started.
This is an excellent variable hike with plenty of side loops and options throughout the journey to add distance and terrain. There are few runs in Hamilton City that offer such varied soft-surface hiking. As such, this has been a staple training grounds for decades of the region's finest athletes.
Flora & Fauna
Keep an eye out for karp and even red-eared turtles in the eponymous Turtle Lake.