Short walks in Tongariro National Park

Established in 1887, Tongariro National Park was the first national park in New Zealand and the fourth in the world. It is also a dual World Heritage area, a status which recognises the park's important Maori cultural and spiritual associations as well as its outstanding beauty.

There are many long and short walks in the Tongariro National Park. Here are our top picks!

Tawhai Falls

Tawhai Falls


Time: 20 min return
Begins 4 km below Tongariro National Park Visitor Centre on SH 48.

The walk is along a track and down steps through mountain toatoa and beech forest. The beautiful falls tumble over the edge of an ancient lava flow. This area was used in the filming of Lord of the Rings as Gollum's Pool. Find Tawhai Falls on Google Maps here.

Taranaki Falls

Taranaki Falls


Time: 2 hr return
Distance: 6 km loop 

The upper and lower tracks form a loop with the waterfall situated around the half-way point. Tumbling 20 metres over the edge of a large lava flow, which erupted from Ruapehu 15,000 years ago, Taranaki Falls plunge into a boulder-ringed pool. From below the falls there are spectacular views into the water-worn gorges of the Wairere Stream. Find Taranaki Falls on Google Maps here.

Tama Lakes

Tama Lakes


Time: 5 - 6 hr return
Distance: 17 km return

After leaving the Taranaki Falls Walk, the track crosses undulating tussock country and alpine herbfields. Further on, the track branches to the left to Tama Lakes, while the main track continues on to Waihohonu Hut. There is a view of the lower lake (1240 metres), then the track climbs steeply to a viewpoint (1440 metres) of the upper lake.

Tama Lakes occupy several old explosion craters on the Tama Saddle between Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe. There are no formed tracks down to the lakes, the descent to both is via steep gullies. Tama Saddle acts as a funnel for prevailing westerly winds and windproof clothing is recommended. Find Tama Lakes on Goolge Maps here.

Lake Rotopounamu

Lake Rotopounamu


Time: 2 hour loop track
Distance: 5km loop

Nestled on the side of Mt Pihanga, Lake Rotopounamu (‘green- stone lake’) is a special favourite of 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. The lake is suitable for swimming in. Find Lake Rotopounamu on Google Maps here.

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