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Walks & Hikes around Whakapapa Village, Tongariro National Park
Whakapapa Village lies within Tongariro National Park, on the lower north-west slopes of Mt Ruapehu. The Whakapapa Village has accommodation and other visitor services
These walks are accessible on foot from Whakapapa Village or require a short drive to the starting point.
Whakapapa Nature Walk
15 minute loop track. Begins 250 metres above Whakapapa Visitor Centre on SH 48. This sealed loop track gives a glimpse of the unique flora of Tongariro National Park. A series of on-site information panels explain the various vegetation zones in the park.
20 minutes return, via same track. Begins 5 kilometres below Whakapapa Visitor Centre on SH 48. Debris avalanches during Ruapehu’s periods of volcanic activity are believed to have formed these mounds thousands of years ago. Follow this interpretive walk and learn more about the mounds. The top of the track offers good views of the volcanoes and surrounding area.
Tawhai Falls Walk
20 minutes, return via same track. Begins 4 kilometres below Whakapapa Visitor Centre on SH 48. The falls, which tumble over the edge of an ancient lava flow, are reached after a short stroll through mountain toatoa and beech forest.
Ridge Walking Track
30 - 40 minutes, 1.2 kilometres return via same track. Begins 150 metres above Whakapapa Visitor Centre. After a short climb through low beech forest, the track emerges into alpine shrublands with panoramic views of Mt Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and the surrounding landscape.
Taranaki Falls Walking Track
2 hours, 6 kilometre loop track. Begins 100 metres below Whakapapa Visitor Centre at Ngauruhoe Place.
The track to Taranaki Falls has excellent mountain views and crosses a range of land forms. The upper and lower tracks form a loop with the falls situated around the half-way point. The lower track passes through tussock and alpine shrublands before entering beech forest. On a clear day Ngauruhoe’s symmetrical cone and the older, eroded mountains of Tongariro and Pukekaikiore are visible. Once in the forest, the track descends to Wairere Stream then climbs alongside it, passing Cascade Falls. The forest consists mainly of large mountain beech trees, shiny broadleaf, mountain fivefinger, umbrella ferns and mountain toatoa. Small native birds such as whiteheads, grey warbler and rifleman are commonly seen.
From the forest edge the track passes over the Wairere Stream with impressive views of a small narrow gorge. Continuing on up the track, Taranaki Falls come into view tumbling 20 metres over the edge of a large andesite lava flow which erupted from Mt Ruapehu 15,000 years ago. Wairere Stream is slowly eroding a channel through this lava flow.
The trail from the falls climbs up through a forest of mountain toatoa before joining the Tama Lakes Track. Turn right to return to Whakapapa, cross Wairere Stream and climb the shoulder of the lava flow, now covered with red tussock. Native birds likely to be heard in this area include pipits, fern birds and occasionally skylarks.
The return track crosses a series of eroded gullies formed by wind, rain and frost action on volcanic soils. As the trail begins to sidle around the slopes of Mt Ruapehu, it merges with the wider old Waihohonu horse trail. Here, layers of pumice and ash from previous eruptions are exposed. After passing through the last patch of bush, the track emerges again into red tussock and manuka, leading easily back to the village.
Whakapapanui Walking Track
2 hours, 6 kilometres return via same track or SH 48. Begins 250 metres above Whakapapa Visitor Centre. After a 10 -15 minute walk, the Whakapapanui Walking Track branches to the right (don’t follow the Whakapapaiti Track sign in error!) and heads downstream. Water-logged clearings are passed as the track follows Whakapapanui Stream. Here, storm-damaged beech forest is slowly regenerating.
Silica Rapids Walking Track
2.5 hours, 7 kilometres return via Bruce Road. Begins 250 metres above Whakapapa Visitor Centre.
This Mt Ruapehu track takes in a range of vegetation types as well as the creamy-white Silica Rapid terraces. After crossing Whakapapanui Stream at the top end of the Holiday Park the track meanders through beech forest. Pass the Whakapapanui Track turn-off and continue towards Silica Rapids. The track soon crosses a bubbling stream with a gold-toned bed. The coloured deposits are iron-oxide clays from upstream swamps. Coprosma, five finger and broadleaf surround the stream and track.
Emerging from the bush, the track climbs to a swampy area of wire rush, tangle fern and red tussock. Seepage ponds beside the boardwalk are home to freshwater crayfish (koura). The boardwalk makes walking over swampy ground more comfortable and reduces the impact of foot traffic on delicate vegetation. On clear days this is a great place to enjoy mountain views.
After passing the Whakapapaiti Track turn-off, the Silica Rapids Track follows the stream up through dense bush to Punaruku Falls. Here, after heavy rain, Tawhainui Stream tumbles over the edge of an ancient lava flow. Close to the track metal bands on tree trunks protect mistletoe from possums. At the forest edge gold-coloured snow totara and olive-green bog pine give way to sun-loving alpine herbs and alpine flowers like mountain daisies, hare bells and ourisia.
A little further up the hill the stream bed widens and forms a series of shallow terraces coated in creamy white deposits - the famous Silica Rapids. When the stream emerges from lava cliffs at the head of the valley the water is rich in aluminium and silicate minerals. As the stream gathers speed and the water is aerated, the alumino-silicates are deposited on the stream bed.
Moving away from the rapids, the track climbs the side of a tussock-covered lava flow. A small clump of mountain beech and toatoa, seen a short distance up the mountain, forms the upper limit of beech trees in the area. The track then winds through tussock and sub-alpine shrubs to the Bruce Road, which can be followed downhill 2.5 kilometres to Whakapapa Village.
Whakapapaiti Valley Tramping Track
4-5 hours, 16 kilometre loop (including the Bruce Road section) or 11 kilometres one-way (transport required). Begins 250 metres above Whakapapa Visitor Centre. The track can be walked in either direction but is described anticlockwise.
Follow Silica Rapids Track for about 45 minutes to the junction with Whakapapaiti Track. The track goes through forest then an open tussock-covered area. There is a bridged crossing of Whakapapaiti River, then the track continues up the valley, passing the junction with Mangahuia Track (2 - 3 hours to campsite). Further up the valley there is an unbridged river crossing - it may not be possible to cross safely when the river is high following or during rainfall. Whakapapaiti Hut is 10 - 15 minutes further up the track. Leaving the hut, the track winds its way through stunted beech forest, then up the valley to the Round the Mountain Track junction. Turn left here towards Bruce Road. The track zig-zags up and over a moraine ridge with great views of Whakapapaiti Valley and the surrounding landscape. Continue to the Scoria Flat area on the Bruce Road. From here it is approximately 5 kilometres down the road to Whakapapa Village.
Tama Lakes Tramping Track
5-6 hours, 17 kilometres return on same track Begins 100 metres below the Visitor Centre at the end of Ngauruhoe Place. This track is an extension of the Taranaki Falls Track and part of the Tongariro Northern Circuit and Round the Mountain Tracks.
At the top of Taranaki Falls, the track branches off the Taranaki Falls Walk, to cross rolling tussock country and alpine herb fields. Further on, the track branches left to Tama Lakes, while the main track continues on to Waihohonu Hut. There is a view of the lower lake (1240 metres), and then the track climbs steeply to a viewpoint (1440 metres) of the upper lake.
Tama Lakes occupy several old explosion craters on Tama Saddle between Mt Ruapehu and Mt Ngauruhoe. The saddle acts as a funnel for prevailing westerly winds and windproof clothing is recommended.