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Longer hikes in the Taupō region

by Ceana Priest | Outdoor Kid

Adventure further afield into the Central Plateau to discover slumbering volcanoes and dramatic landscapes shaped by fiery forces, on these outdoorsy adventures.

Spend a little time in the Taupō region, and the mighty peaks and forests surrounding the township of Taupō will surely beckon. Although these adventures — from half-day walks to overnight tramps — require more effort than relaxing coffee-touting lakefront strolls, everyone’s heart-pumping efforts will be well-rewarded.

Discover views across sparkling Taupō Moana from lofty mountain tops, walk beneath mighty rimu trees poking through dense forest canopies and stroll through the volcanic heart of the North Island on these five trails.

Skip ahead to:

Mount Pureora | Pureora Forest Park

Enjoy bagging a mountain summit with all-encompassing views across Lake Taupō and down the spine of Pureora Forest Park to Tongariro National Park without traversing endless mountainous foothills. This trail is the shortest route to the top of Mount Pureora, handily starting at about 800 metres above sea level on Kakaho/Link Road, allowing explorers to reach the 1,165-metre summit relatively quickly.

Link Road to Mount Pureora Track

It’s a fantastic family-friendly trail that weaves its way up the mountain’s northern flanks along an almost continuous series of wooden boardwalks to pop out above the bush line for swoon-worthy views.

Steps to the summit of Mount Pureora. Photo by Outdoor Kid

From the car park, the dirt trail is easy-going underfoot through a moss-laden podocarp forest before meeting the boardwalks and steps, where the gradual climb to the top of the extinct volcano begins. Listen for swooping kererū/wood pigeon and tui birdsong in the forest canopy peppered with old rimu. Be prepared for chilly, windy conditions at the top.

Need to know:

  • Walking only.
  • Allow 2.5 hours return.
  • Dogs are allowed only with DOC permits.
  • No facilities.

Directions: The trailhead car park is on Link Road/Kakaho Road (they merge into each other). About 17 kilometres from SH32.

Waihāhā Hut | SH32 (Western Bay Road)

If the family’s first overnight tramp beckons, this rustic hut perched beside the Waihāhā River is an excellent launching pad for backcountry adventures. Surrounded by a small clearing, the 10-bunk hut on the fringes of Pureora Forest Park is close enough to town — only a 45-minute drive from Taupō to the trailhead — but far enough away to feel like a wilderness adventure.

Waihāha Hut. Photo by Outdoor Kid

The trail meanders through dense podocarp forest and shrubland and has views of the tumbling Waihaha River heading downstream to Lake Taupō. And if walking isn’t for you, bring the bikes on this intermediate-graded (Grade 3) trail.

Lookout on Waihāha Hut Track. Photo by Outdoor Kid

Need to know:

  • Bookings are not required. Hut fees apply.
  • 9.4 km one way.
  • Allow 3 hours walking or 2-3 hours biking, one way.
  • Toilet, fire, mattresses and non-treated water available.
  • Dogs are allowed only with DOC permits.

Directions: Parking is available at the Taupō Great Lake Trail trailhead on SH32 (Western Bay Road). Cross the road, then the bridge to the start of the track.

Mount Tauhara | SH5 Taupō to Napier

In Māori mythology, Mount Tauhara’s arrival on the hinterland of Taupō followed a fiery battle to win the affection of the maiden mountain Pīhanga. Unsuccessful, the besotted Mount Tauhara travelled forlornly from the battlefield, now spending his days staring longingly at Pīhanga across Lake Taupō. But despite the mountain’s brooding nature, there’s often a happy hive of energetic activity on its bush-clad flanks.

Summit of Mt Tauhara

Each day, a steady stream of locals and tourists navigate steep pastures for 20 minutes before entering the forest and embarking on a steady climb, often with rooty sections and through narrow dirt channels before a final push to the trig at 1,088 metres above sea level. But don’t stop at the trig. Instead, follow the path to an exposed rocky outcrop for views of the Central Plateau. Be prepared for chilly, windy conditions at the top.

Need to know:

  • Walking only.
  • Allow 120 to 180 min return.
  • No facilities.
  • No dogs allowed.

Directions: 10 minutes from Taupō on Mountain Road off SH5 Napier–Taupō Highway. Plenty of parking.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing | Tongariro National Park

Touted as the nation’s finest one-day walk, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing traverses dramatic landscapes shaped by a fiery history: barren moon-scape craters, lava flows covered with sub-alpine shrubs and lichens, and sparkling emerald-coloured lakes. It’s a walk that requires a healthy dose of fitness and respect for changeable alpine conditions.

South Crater to Red Crater on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing

The highest point on the nearly 20-kilometre-long trail, Red Crater (1,886 metres), is subjected to intense sunshine and bone-chilling westerlies — often on the same day! During winter, the crossing should only be attempted by those with alpine experience or with a guide, as snow and ice often cover this exposed alpine adventure.

Need to know:

  • Walking only.
  • Allow 7-8 hours in summer and 9 hours in winter. 19.4 km one way.
  • Bookings are required from September 2023.
  • No dogs allowed.
  • For detailed walk information and bookings, visit doc.govt.nz

Directions: Accessible from the end of Mangatepopo Road (SH47) and Ketetahi Road (SH46). There is limited parking at both access points, so plan ahead and book a shuttle.

Tama Lakes | Tongariro National Park

Walk to the aftermath of two volcanic explosions which reshaped the wind-swept saddle between Mount Ngāuruhoe and Ruapehu about 10,000 years ago. Climb steadily to vantage points over the deep blast craters, where pristine alpine lakes have formed.

Tama Lakes

Begin on the upper Taranaki Falls Walking Track and follow the signs past the waterfall through tussock and alpine herb fields towards the saddle for lower lake views near the junction. If the weather is clear and the legs are willing, continue to the upper lake lookout; skip if low clouds could create white-out conditions. An excellent adventure for families with older kids.

Need to know:

  • Walking only.
  • Allow 5-6 hours. 17.6 km return.
  • Prepare for all seasons and pack warm clothes and wind- and waterproof jackets.
  • No dogs allowed.
  • For detailed walk information, visit doc.govt.nz

Directions: Parking is available at the end of Ngāuruhoe Terrace, Whakapapa Village.


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