A US mother and her daughter who were found safe in the Tararua Forest Park north of Wellington only planned to go out for one day, police say.
Over the course of Tuesday, 45-year-old Carolyn Lloyd and 22-year-old Rachel became disorientated on the Kapakapanui Track, near Waikanae.
They went off the main track into an unexpected waterway, where they became stranded with steep terrain and had to ration their resources, police say.
The pair was meant to check out of their Palmerston North motel on Wednesday and return to their vehicle yesterday at 11am, but never did. They didn't make contact with their family, the rental company or the hotel.
Police began a search and rescue operation yesterday after the pair's vehicle was found at the entrance of the Kapakapanui Track.
Sergeant Anthony Harmer says the pair is safe and has been helicoptered out of the bush.
"They've stayed together and stayed warm, and rationed their resources out, but understandably a little bit worse for wear now -- dehydrated and exhausted.
"They've been caught out unawares in these circumstances through no fault of their own."
He says by international standards, the pair was "well-accomplished day walkers", and he has "no criticism of them whatsoever".
Sgt Harmer said people should use the Adventure Smart website to notify people of where they were going.
The popular walking track entails some surprisingly difficult terrain, but should be enjoyed by everyone Sgt Harmer says.
"There are a couple of places where people can make mistakes and end up off the track and we are looking at that possibility this morning," says Sgt Harmer.
Two dog teams headed down tracks off the main walkway and helicopters swept the area.
Sgt Harmer says police are grateful for the support of local community and volunteers from Manawatu, Wairarapa, Horowhenua and Wellington to assist the search.
Ms Lloyd is visiting from the US to see her daughter, who is a student at Massey University.