Exceptional symmetry, shaped to impress and the stuff of romantic stories, Mt Taranaki is stunning in its solitary splendour. Snow capped peaks have been a shoo-in for Fuji (Japan) advertisements and film shoots and the focus of countless photo moments. Mt Taranaki is the centrepiece for Egmont National Park, its bush, forest and alpine walks and waterfalls. There are three main access points to the park.
Mt Taranaki, its dominant form, contributes to the unpredictability of weather patterns. Hiking can be dangerous due to the conditions rapidly changing.
Egmont National Park has three main entrances at Inglewood and Stratford. And there are two visitor centres (check beforehand for opening hours).
GOBLINS, FLORA AND FAUNA
The park has high rainfall (note waterproof clothing layer is necessary). The year round moisture and fertile soil is ideal for moss and lichens to flourish. Totara, kamahi trees are dripping with moss. Their gnarly shapes are contoured and twisted as they mature creating the fantasy world of goblins and fairies. The tomtits, tui, korimako and kereru birds haunt the area with calls and bird song.
NORTH EGMONT VISITOR CENTRE (INGLEWOOD)
North Egmont Visitor Centre. Begin your exploration at the North Egmont Visitor Centre. Nothing like locals to point you in the right direction with maps, track guides and up to date information. The nearest viewing platform is a mere 5 minute walk from the centre. The Visitor Centre has a cafe, gift shop and extensive car park for day visitors.
Walks from the North Egmont Visitor Centre include:
1. VIEWING PLATFORM
A mere 180 m to a viewing platform on a wheelchair friendly boardwalk and the historic camphouse. Stunning views of Taranaki, the coastline and inland to the central North Island mountains: Ruapehu, Ngaruahoe and Tongariro.
2. AMBURY MONUMENT WALK
Follow the boardwalk past the Camphouse. From here a track leads to Ambury Monument, a memorial to climber Arthur Ambury who gave his life on 3 June 1918 in a heroic attempt to save William Edwin Gourlay who slipped on ice. Both died when they fell over the bluff. A grassy picnic spot has views of Mt Taranaki. Return the same way or follow the Nature Walk to exit just below the visitor centre
- Length: 380 metres
3. NATURE WALK
This family friendly loop walk follows the boardwalk past the Camphouse. From here the track leads up to Ambury Monument where it turns left and descends to cross the Translator Road. It then re-enters the forest to head down to the visitor centre.The track has steps and is steep in some places with a few big drop offs near the track edge – keep an eye on the kids.
- Length: 780 m (loop)
4. CONNETT LOOP TRACK
This is an easy walk through forest laden with moss and lichens (goblin forest) with a small lookout point offering a view of the mountain. The track is well maintained with a few steps. Be aware there is no safety barrier at the mountain lookout.
- Length: 700 m
For experienced hikers (trampers) the North Egmont Pouakai Circuit, and Around the Mountain Circuit start at the North Egmont Visitor Centre. Tramp through incredible scenery from river, forest to alpine landscapes. Proper preparation is essential with weather conditions changing in minutes throughout the year.
North Egmont area: Taranaki area places to visit are well described by the Department of Conservation online resource, walks and tramps (hikes). Check the travel pack section for brochures.
5. POUAKAI CIRCUIT WALK
Egmont National Park’s premier 2–3 day tramp offers spectacular views of Mt Taranaki and the surrounding countryside. The 25 km track passes through forest, alpine tussock fields and the unique Ahukawakawa Swamp.
- Witness the turmoil of centuries of volcanic activity as you cross the active erosion scar of the Boomerang slip and pass beneath the towering columns of the Dieffenbach cliffs. You might also notice the red water of the Kokowai Stream caused by manganese oxide oozing from the earth.
- Visit the mighty Bells Falls (side trip) and watch the water cascade over an ancient lava flow. The Falls are the outlet from the Ahukawakawa swamp. The alpine wetland is of interest to botanists because “its wide range of plants have adapted to acidic soils at very low temperatures.
- Pass through the fragile Ahukawakawa Swamp, with golden tussocks and summer flowers.This wetland is located at an altitude of 920 metres above sea level and was formed some 3,500 years ago when debris flows from the mountain blocked the Stony River between the northern slopes of Mt Taranaki and the Pouakai Range.This large wetland is the home of fascinating shrubs and other plants including the large red tussocks which thrive in these types of medium fertility wet soils.
- From the Pouakai Trig (side trip) on a fine day, take in stunning views of the Taranaki coastline and inland toward the mountains of the Central Plateau.
6. POTAEMA BOG ONE DAY WALK
Potaema Bog walk is part of the multiple day Pouakai Circuit. The Bog is a frost-free magic corner nestled in the forest. The sphagnum moss swamp, stunning views as you walk across the lower slopes of Mount Taranaki. The walk crosses loose scree and passes towering cliffs with the option of viewing Bells Waterfalls.
- Length: 19 km
- Grade: Medium / Advanced (ensure you are well prepared) Check with DOC for up to date track conditions especially in winter.
EAST EGMONT DAWSON FALLS / TE RERE O KAPUNI VISITOR CENTRE (STRATFORD)
On the southern side of Egmont National Park is Dawson Falls area: Egmont National Park. The Dawson Falls Visitor Centre is accessed via Stratford which is approximately ½ hour driving time. The drive is considered to be beautiful as it winds its way through the lush temperate rainforest. The road finishes at 902 m altitude and is the highest road access to Egmont National Park. Dawson Falls (Te Rere o Kapuni) Visitors Centre and Historic Power House. Make sure to visit the information centre for up to date alerts for the area. Near the visitors centre make sure to visit one of the world’s oldest operating generators and learn more about this fascinating snippet of industrial heritage.
- The 18 m high waterfall, Dawson Falls or Te Rere o Noke
- One of New Zealand’s oldest operational power generators
- A small visitor centre (check opening hours) with information and displays, including the old Syme Hut which has been rebuilt inside
- Willkie Pools with their rockslide
7. KAMAHI LOOP WALK (GOBLIN TRAIL)
Starts above Stratford Mountain House. The track is well signposted with off road car parking.
Goblins walk is magic for families with imagination triggered by curved, bent and shaped trees, moss covered trunks, the sound of dripping water and the winding track to a pretty waterfall. waterfall. Kamahi Loop Track: Walking and tramping in Egmont National Park, Taranaki region. The walk is less than 30 minutes, encouraging even the smallest legs to see where the fairies live.
8. WILKIES POOLS LOOP TRACK
Walk through young forest then subalpine (goblin) forest to a series of pools, scoured from 20,000 year old lava. Take togs and a towel and enjoy a refreshing dip in the pools.
The first 900m of this track (to the pools) is baby buggy/wheelchair friendly with the remainder of the track good for children.
The track winds through ‘goblin forest’, crossing the bridge over the Kapuni Stream to reach the turnoff to the small lava formed Wilkies Pools. These pools were named after the Wilkies brothers who farmed locally. Families may want to return the same way – continuing around the loop requires some rock hopping across Kapuni Stream.
Return to the signpost to continue around the loop, past small waterfalls, bubbling springs and the intake weir for the power station. Recross the Kapuni Stream and head back to the visitor centre.
Take care when crossing the Kāpuni Stream as the river bank may be eroded, making access difficult. There is no bridge across this stream. It may be impassable after heavy rain.
- Length: 1.9 km
- Duration: 20 minutes to the pool, 1 hr, 20 mins loop
9. DAWSON FALLS
A 18 m waterfall. The falls are known by Maori as Te Rere o Noke (the Falls of Noke). He was a Māori warrior who hid from his pursuers behind the falls. From the Visitor Centre, walk 400 metres down Manaia Road to get to the Dawson Falls walk entrance. The walk from the road entrance is suitable for all fitness levels and takes 10 minutes to reach the lookout point. It starts with a short stepped track then joins the Kapuni Loop Track. You can view the Dawson Falls from the base of the falls or from the lookout point.
10. DAWSON FALLS POWER STATION
The world’s oldest continuously operated generator providing electricity for the Dawson Falls Lodge (currently under refurbishment). You’ll be able to hear Kāpuni Stream, which drives the generator that provides electricity for the Dawson Falls Lodge. The walk starts 50 m from the Dawson Falls Visitor Centre and is well signposted. The track is wheelchair accessible.
- Length: 110m (loop)
EAST EGMONT – PEMBROKE RD – MANGANUI SKI AREA ACCESS
Access to the east side of Mount Taranaki is via Pembroke Road which leads directly to the park boundary from the northern end of Stratford. The road climbs through podocarp/broadleaf forest and then mountain forest, reaching the accommodation centre of the Mountain House Motor Lodge. The road winds its way another 3km to the road end car park at the Stratford Plateau (1172 m) where there are superb views of the surrounding countryside.
11. POTAEMA TRACK
Potaema is the most accessible of the lowland mires in the park and has the greatest variety of vegetation. Year round Potaema will display an array of flowering plants, native birds and insects. There are stunning mountain views from the lookout. This wheelchair friendly track starts at the Potaema Picnic Area about 3 km in from the park boundary on Pembroke Road.
Raised boardwalks take you through lush lowland forest made up of rimu-rata/kamahi, kahikatea and mountain totara/pokaka. The track leads to a large lowland bog that sustains a wide variety of flora and fauna. Magnificent views of the mountain can be had across the swamp from the viewing area.
- Time 30 minutes (one way)
12. EAST EGMONT LOOKOUT
This track begins at the end of the road at the Stratford Plateau. Take a right hand turn just below the car park toilets and follow the signs to the lookout. Here you will have spectacular views up the mountain and down to the Taranaki ring plain. See how plant types change with the altitude.
MANGANUI SKI FIELD
The Stratford Mountain Club operates the Manganui ski field on the eastern slope. From the carpark, it is a 25 minute walk to the ski field. The season runs from June to October and is suitable for learners to intermediate skiers and snowboarders. The ski field is basic without the cafes, shops and facilities of Queenstown ski area. The ski area is approximately 59 hectares with several 1 km ski runs. Currently there is no chairlift with rope tows and T-bar providing a lift to the open of runs. Hire ski gear from either New Plymouth or Stratford. The car park is approximately a half hour walk to the ski area with a goods lift fifteen minutes walk from the car park.
For more information check with The Stratford Mountain Club.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
ARE DOGS ALLOWED AT DAWSON FALLS?
No dogs in Department of Conservation areas, this includes Egmont National Park
CAN YOU SWIM AT WILKIES POOLS?
Yes, the pools were formed by sand and gravel scouring against the 20,000 lava base. The water is clear. Respect the area and leave only footprints behind. There are no toilets in the vicinity of the pools.
WHAT IS THE BEST WALK FOR KIDS?
Goblin Forest or Kamahi Forest Loop track with Dawson Falls as an extension. This combines a waterfall, gnarly mossy forest and easy tracks in one package. North Egmont waterfalls are not accessible on short easy walks. This walk is accessible from East Egmont access, Stratford.
WHAT IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT THE PARK?
Summer however the area has high rainfall, always carrying a waterproof clothing layer.
IS IT SAFE TO DRINK FROM THE STREAMS?
Relatively safe however giardia is an issue for many areas especially where there are a number of tramping parties. For up to date advice check with the Visitor Centre or approved guides.
CAN WE COOK ON THE MOUNTAIN?
The maunga (mountain) is sacred to Maori, particularly the summit area. Please respect customary guardians’ wishes. There is no standing on the highest point of the peak and no cooking or camping in the summit area. As with any wilderness area, leave only footprints behind.
Guided walks are worthwhile, consider Top Guides, New Plymonth. Your safety is in good hands and you will learn about the mountain’s character and cultural significance. For a touch of romance or bonding with friends consider Mirror Lake Sunset walk. Walk through an enchanted ‘goblin’ forest where gnarled and twisted trees drip with mosses and ferns, to a plateau offering spectacular views of the mighty Mount Taranaki and out to the ocean. Golden tussocks and fragile alpine plants surround the little lake famous for its reflection of the mountain. Here the party rests and waits for sunset and the perfect photo opportunity. If the cloud rolls in and there’s no view, the guide knows the best spots for exploring and getting the most out of the evening’s walk.
BEST BITS TRAVEL GUIDE.