Take a Hike in Great Lake Taupo

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is rated as ‘the best one day trek in New Zealand’ and listed by many as one of the 'top 10 day treks in the world'. Lonely Planet said that a walk amidst the volcanoes of Tongariro is “a life-changing experience not to be missed”. Diverse and dramatic scenery, unique land forms and volcanically active areas make this walk a ‘bucket list’ activity for many visitors to the Lake Taupo area.

Walking & Hiking

Following events in 2012, a volcanic eruption hazard remains in place on the northern side of Mt Tongariro, centred on Te Maari Crater. Hikers now have the option of a return trip from Mangatepopo Road to the Blue Lake saddle or a slightly longer, alternate route which takes hikers past Emerald Lakes to Oturere Hut and the Desert Road (23kms). 

Fit and adventurous people might also like to climb Mt Ngauruhoe or Mt Tongariro en route. There are several shorter walks at lower altitude which showcase the Tongariro National Park’s scenery and native flora and fauna. The area is home to many rare and protected species including the North Island Brown Kiwi, the Blue Duck and the long and short tailed bats.

Walks around Taupo town

The Huka Falls Walkway is a picturesque 2 hour return walk from Spa Park along the Waikato River.  Near the start of the walkway, a bridge crosses a natural hot stream - a popular soaking spot on the return leg. The well defined track winds along the riverbank and offers lovely views on the way. The walk finishes at the spectacular Huka Falls. This walk can be linked with the Aratiatia Rapids Walk.

Huka Falls to Aratiatia Rapids Track is a 4 hour return track. It begins across the Huka Falls bridge. The track climbs onto the cliff tops with magnificent views of the river, then gradually descends and continues along the river to the Aratiatia hydro dam and rapids. The dam’s control gates are opened several times a day to allow the rapids to flow - a spectacular sight. 

Craters of the Moon Walking Track is a 1 hour loop track approximately 6 km from Taupo town centre. This is a walk within a lunar-like landscape. Home to some of our well know New Zealand geothermal activity, the area formed when drilling began nearby at the Wairakei Geothermal field in the 1950s. The walk features bubbling craters, mud pools and steam vents. Keep to the boardwalks as constant changes in thermal activity can make the ground unstable and dangerous. Cycling is not permitted on this track but is allowed on the adjacent Craters of the Moon Mountain Bike Tracks.

The Lions Walk is a flat, paved, walking track from Taupo to Wharewaka Point following the shores of Lake Taupō. It follows Lake Terrace to the Taharepa Road Reserve where a paved track skirts the lake edge to Two Mile Bay then Wharewaka Point. Toilets, picnic and swimming spots and children’s play areas can be found along the way. 

Just south of Turangi is a 90 minute loop track around Lake Rotopounamu. Weaving in and out of native bush and onto the lake shores, it is one of many delightful Taupo family activities in summer, with plenty of opportunities for picnics and swimming.

20 minutes east on the Napier Taupo highway is the historic settlement of Opepe. On the northern side a short loop track brings you to a graveyard where members of the Bay of Plenty Cavalry died in a battle with followers of the Maori warrior Te Kooti. The bush track features mature Rimu, Matai and Miro trees. On the southern side the track passes a pitsaw pit, an historic water trough and relics of the old township. 

Story Angles

  • The Cultural Origins of Taupo - The Maori pronunciation of Taupo is “toe-paw”. The addition of the macron over the “o” accentuates this. The full name of the Lake is Taupo -nui-a-Tia. The meaning is “The Great Cloak of Tia.” This was one of the Polynesian chiefs who came to the shores in the canoe Arawa. As he travelled along the eastern coast of the lake, he saw above the pumice-strewn beach, a curiously-marked lava cliff. Its configuration and colouring seemed to resemble the shoulder garment he wore, a rough cape called a “taupo” (the word is now obsolete), consisting of leaves of flax, attached to an inner woven mat, making a rain shedding garment. He halted to make obeisance to the spirit of the place and recited the prayers. He then fastened his “taupo” mat and left it there and continued southward with his party.
  • The “home of the Haka” – original haka was performed at Opotaka, south of Turangi. Take in this spot along with other cultural walks like the loop track around Lake Rotopounamu or the bush track at Opepe taking in the graves of members of the Bay of Plenty Cavalry, who died in a surprise attack by followers of the Maori Warrior Te Kooti.

Recent volcanic activity has made the region hugely interesting to people who are fascinated by earthquakes and eruptions. The lake was created by a volcanic eruption 26,000 years ago and is a caldera or crater with hot spots.

Walks around the Tongariro National Park


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