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10 best Taupo autumn walks & hikes

Autumn is the perfect time to strap on your hiking boots and explore the many stunning walks and hikes in Taupo. Here's our pick of the top 10 hiking trails.

1. Great Lake Pathway

Easy | 10 mins to 3 hours

This pathway begins at the Lake Taupo Yacht Club and winds its way along the lake edge all the way to Five Mile Bay, a distance of 10 kilometres. Ideal picnic and swimming spots, as well as places to grab treats like a coffee from The Steaming Bean or a wood-fired pizza from Two Mile Bay Sailing Club, can be found along the way! There are toilet facilities in all the bays and a children’s playground and barbecue facility at Wharewaka Point. Walk as far as you like then return the same way. This easy, flat path is suitable for pushchairs and bikes, and dog-friendly. 

2. Spa Thermal Park to Huka Falls

Easy | 2 hours return (via same track)

This well-defined track winds along the banks of the Waikato River, offering lovely views along the way. Near the start of the track in Spa Thermal Park, a bridge crosses a natural hot stream, Otumuheke Stream, where you can have a hot soak and a coffee from Lil Something Cafe to start your walk off right! The walk finishes at the spectacular Huka Falls, one of NZ's most-visited natural attractions. A pleasant walk for the whole family, this walk can be linked with the Aratiatia Dam Trail, which continues along the river to the Aratiatia Rapids. There are car park areas at Spa Thermal Park, Huka Falls, and the Aratiatia Dam. 

3. Great Lake Trails

Intermediate | 30 mins to 8 hours

The Great Lake Trails showcase some of the most spectacular scenery in the region. The trail traverses the shores of Lake Taupo with views across the lake to the volcanoes of Tongariro National Park. There are three separate sections – Waihaha (30km), Kawakawa (19km) and W2K (21km). The Kawakawa and W2K sections start/finish in the village of Kinloch and are suitable for shorter walks if you return the same way. A water taxi links the end of the Waihaha section to the rest of the trail and makes a great addition to the journey. Note that these trails are shared-use so please keep left and look out for bikers, especially on blind corners. 

4. Mt Tauhara

Intermediate | 3 hours

The trail to the top of Mt Tauhara is a popular hike with locals and visitors. This 2.5km trail climbs to the summit at 1,088 metres, offering panoramic views over Lake Taupo and the central North Island. It is challenging and steep in places, so be prepared by wearing sturdy footwear and taking plenty of water, snacks and warm clothing as there is often a cool wind at the summit. Mt Tauhara is a culturally significant landmark for local Maori. Walkers are asked to keep to the track and respect the environment. 

5. Lake Rotopounamu

Easy | 2-hour loop track

Nestled on the side of Mt Pihanga, Lake Rotopounamu (‘greenstone lake’) is a favourite with tree lovers and birdwatchers. The track begins with an uphill walk then flattens out to circle the lake. There are numerous picnic and rest spots, with toilet facilities available on the main beach area. Part of the Tongariro National Park, this beautiful lake is a paradise filled with native birds to listen to and watch on a crisp autumn day. 

6. Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Intermediate | 7 to 8 hours

This world-famous 19.4km trek takes you across active volcanoes featuring spectacular and unique terrain including old lava flows, active volcanic craters and thermal steam vents, brilliant emerald and blue lakes, and beautiful native forest in Tongariro National Park. The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is an active alpine environment with very changeable weather conditions. Check Plan My Walk for active weather alerts and bring plenty of food and fluids, warm, waterproof clothing and wear sturdy boots. 

7. Waihora Lagoon 

Easy | 15 mins

This easy, flat walk in the Pureora Forest leads into a small rain-fed lake surrounded by tall kahikatea and rimu trees. The boardwalk snakes through the bush to the viewing platform, which provides a tranquil spot to enjoy beautiful reflections and a variety of birdlife. This track is best enjoyed after rainfall to appreciate the mirror effect of the lagoon; however, keep in mind that heavy rain may bring the lagoon level up over the boardwalk.

8. Tongariro River Trail

Easy | 3-hour loop track

With various access points, the Tongariro River Trail can be walked in either direction. There are beautiful views of the Tongariro River; from calm pools to rippling rapids. Keep an eye out for trout in the river pools. The walk passes through native bush, along the edge of private farmland, and past riverside homes. A deviation to the Tongariro National Trout Centre is recommended where picnic and barbecue areas are available for use, and the museum, freshwater aquarium, and blue duck enclosure are worth a visit. Mountain bikes and dogs are permitted on this track. 

9. Taranaki Falls

Easy | 2 hours return

This relatively flat walking track in Tongariro National Park is a winner for the whole family. The track winds through tussock and alpine shrubland with stunning views of Mt Ruapehu and Mt Ngauruhoe. The highlight is the impressive Taranaki Falls waterfall which tumbles 20 metres into a boulder-ringed pool. 

10. Mt Urchin

Advanced | 3 to 4 hours

Mt Urchin offers an easily accessible wilderness of beautiful beech forest, incredible views and a real alpine environment. The track climbs steadily up through beech forest and above the bush line to the Urchin Trig (1391 m). The upper section of the track has an interesting array of alpine plants and a wide vista of Lake Taupo and the volcanoes of the Tongariro National Park. With a DOC permit, you can even bring your best fur friend to take in the views with you! 


 

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