I hiked through a creepy abandoned gold mine in New Zealand and lived to tell the tale. Take a look inside.

An abandoned railway in Karangahake, New Zealand.

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An abandoned railway in Karangahake, New Zealand.
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Talia Lakritz/Insider

  • Karangahake Gorge Historic Walkway in Karangahake, New Zealand, follows an old railway line between Paeroa and Waihi.
  • The trails also provide access to a historic abandoned gold mine with pitch-black tunnels and train tracks to nowhere.
  • The low-impact hike is about two hours from Auckland and worth the trip. Bring a flashlight.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

On a recent trip to New Zealand, our group stopped about halfway through the drive back to the airport to stretch our legs on a hike. It turned out to be one of the most memorable stops on our trip.

About two hours outside of Auckland, Karangahake Gorge Historic Walkway in Karangahake, New Zealand, used to be a gold mine in the late 1800s through the early 1900s. Today, it’s an eerie hiking spot complete with rusty mining equipment, pitch-black tunnels, and abandoned train tracks to nowhere.

Take a look inside this abandoned gold mine on New Zealand’s north island.


To enter the Karangahake Gorge Historic Walkway, we crossed a bridge over the Ohinemuri River.

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The entrance to the Karangahake Gorge Historic Walkway.
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Courtesy of Coren Feldman

A sign next to the bridge announced that we were about to explore the Historic Rich Gold Mining Site in Karangahake Gorge. It presented different trail options including a Rail Tunnel Loop and a “Windows Walk,” and encouraged visitors to bring a flashlight.


The trails were lined with informational plaques featuring historic photos of the now-abandoned mine.

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Old photos of the mine.
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Talia Lakritz/Insider

Settlers established a mining town in the area in the late 1800s, though the indigenous Maori people had been living there for centuries.


The placards explained how miners would dig holes in the ground to roast the ore in order to burn off impurities and harvest more gold.

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A plaque explaining woodstock ore kilns.
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Talia Lakritz/Insider

A photo from the 1890s showed multiple buildings and kilns, a stark contrast to the overgrown paths we were walking along.


Some remnants of the mining town remain.

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Wooden beams through a tunnel.
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Courtesy of Coren Feldman

Shorter tunnels were framed by wooden beams, creating a walkway.


Some of the old railways along the Rail Tunnel Loop still contain mining carts.

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An abandoned mining cart.
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Talia Lakritz/Insider

The cart was chained to a small stretch of track, allowing hikers to push it a few inches back and forth. Some people even climbed inside and took photos.


They now serve as a hiking trail.

An abandoned railway in Karangahake, New Zealand.

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An abandoned railway.
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Talia Lakritz/Insider

The railway connected the towns of Paeroa and Waihi.


Sections of the old tracks end abruptly, obscured by dirt and shrubbery.

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An old railway track.
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Talia Lakritz/Insider

The tracks have been reclaimed by nature.


The empty tracks leading into a thick forest made for an eerie hike.

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The railway to nowhere.
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Talia Lakritz/Insider

We all felt thoroughly creeped out.


When we followed the tracks to the mining tunnels, it became clear why the sign at the entrance had advised bringing a flashlight.

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Railway tracks leading into a mining tunnel.
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Talia Lakritz/Insider

The tunnels were a short walk along the railways.


They were pitch black.

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We needed flashlights.
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Talia Lakritz/Insider

After just a few steps into the tunnels, the light from outside faded, leaving us in the dark.


Using the flashlights from our phones, we explored the passageways where miners had once worked.

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Exploring the mining tunnels.
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Courtesy of Coren Feldman

The industrialization of the late 19th and early 20th centuries changed the landscape of Karangahake Gorge. Mountains that had remained untouched were hollowed in order to mine the land for gold.


We were pleasantly surprised to find some of New Zealand’s famous glow worms inside the dark tunnels.

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Glow worms, also known as arachnocampa luminosa.
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Talia Lakritz/Insider

The bioluminescent glow worms can be found across New Zealand. We had visited the famous glow worm caves in Waitomo the day before, so we recognized their characteristic blue dots of light.


We continued zig-zagging through the dark tunnels, occasionally dipping out into the light for stunning views along the Windows Walk.

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A view of the gorge from the Windows Walk.
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Courtesy of Coren Feldman

Miners had cut archways into the rock looking out onto the gorge and river below. The “windows” provided breathtaking views of the surrounding scenery.


Not all of the passageways were open to hikers.

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A sign warning of danger.
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Talia Lakritz/Insider

Some of the tunnels were blocked off with signs warning hikers of danger.


Upon taking a closer look, the tunnels looked too narrow to get very far into.

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A blocked-off tunnel.
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Talia Lakritz/Insider

Perhaps some of the tunnels had collapsed or caved in over time.


As we made our way back out and across the bridge, we felt like we’d ventured into an Indiana Jones movie.

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Making our way out of the mine.
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Courtesy of Coren Feldman

We hadn’t seen any ghosts, but the abandoned mining machinery, railways, and tunnels were enough to send a chill down our spines.


Even with the ominous surroundings, the Karangahake Gorge Historic Walkway is a low-impact, family-friendly hike that’s worth a visit.

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A sweeping view of the entrance to the hike.
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Talia Lakritz/Insider

We saw plenty of families with children walking along the railways and through the tunnels. The paths are clearly marked, and the fascinating history of the area makes for an educational trip as well as a thrilling one.