Two Bay trampers' short walk in the Kaimai Range turned into an overnight stay after they took a wrong turn and lost their bearings.
The two women, aged 68 and 76, were walking the Ngamarama Track, known as the Te Tuhi track, and the Leyland O'Brien track on the Tauranga side of the Kaimai Range on Sunday.
Lyn van de Myek and Celia Stephenson started their tramp around 11am and were expected back by 6pm. Their daughters raised the alarm after they failed to appear, police said.
Police and search and rescue volunteers spent the night in the bush searching for the pair, while pink and orange sticks marked the women's footprints from their car into the bush.
The women were found about 3pm yesterday and emerged from the bush with Constable Deane O'Connor and retired police officer Lester Polglase, who joined the massive search efforts about an hour earlier.
The women were found about 1.5km in from the Leyland O'Brien track entrance while walking towards the two searchers on a different part of the track, Inspector Clifford Paxton said.
Ms Van de Myek said they spent the night "sleeping on the track".
"We only planned to tramp into the bush for about two hours, then stop to have some lunch, before walking back out again but we took a wrong turn and lost our bearings.
"We weren't really lost and we knew people were probably searching for us, but we both had Vodafone cellphones and did not have any cellphone coverage to call anyone to let them know where we were and that we were okay," she said.
Both women were unhurt and appeared in good spirits.
Ms Stephenson left the scene shortly after emerging from the bush, driving off in a silver Toyota Spacio which had been parked a few metres from the track entrance.
Before she drove off she removed a note police had left on the windscreen that read: "Celia and Lyn police and search and rescue teams are out looking for you. Please ring 111 and ask for police if you get back before we find you."
Mr Paxton said the women were located thanks to a combined search effort by up to 50 personnel.
The search teams included police, volunteers from Land Search and Rescue, and amateur radio emergency communication members, he said.
Mr Paxton said police were still carrying out a debrief with the women, who had a reasonable amount of clothing and food with them, and had informed their families of their intentions.
"But the message is if you do ever become lost in the bush you should stay put and phone for help if you possibly can do so."
"I would like to thank all the volunteers involved in this search-and-rescue operation and for their outstanding efforts over the last three weeks with four other search and rescue operations occurring in the Western Bay of Plenty during this time.
"Operations such as these require a large number of personnel, many of whom are trained volunteers who give up their time to assist police. Their efforts and the time they donate to these search operations is greatly appreciated."