Taranaki Falls Track is one of the best short walks in Tongariro National Park. It offers brillant views of the volcanic summits and lead you to the edge of the lava flow where the waterfall is dropping. Below is my guide to help you plan your Taranaki falls walk.
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Why complete the Taranaki falls walk?
Located in the stunning Tongariro National Park, the Taranaki Falls Track is one of the easiest walk you can enjoy in the area that still takes you to special sights.
The 2h loop will allow you to admire:
- the volcanic cone of Mount Ngauruhoe
- Mt Ruapehu
- the Wairere stream
- forest with mountain beech trees
- the edge of the lava flow from the eruption 15,000 years ago
... and of course the Taranaki Falls! It is a 20m high waterfall on the edge of the lava flow:
Taranaki Falls Walk in video
Below is a short video to give you an idea of what the experience is like:
Taranaki Falls and Lord of the Rings
Tongariro national Park has been used during the filming of Lord of the Rings, to represent part of the Land of Mordor.
However the Taranaki falls themselves did not make it into any of the movies, as far as I know.
Not to be mixed up with the waterfalls of Mount Taranaki
As I was planning my own travels I became really mixed up. Despite being called "Taranaki Falls Track", the walk is in the Tongariro National Park, far away from beautiful Mont Taranaki.
Mount Taranaki (on the West coast of North Island) also has waterfalls, such as Dawson falls, but not this one.
Planning Tips - Taranaki falls New Zealand
Taranaki Falls Tongariro - Location
- Located in the heart North island
- In the Tongariro National Park, South of Taupo
- Departure from the Whakapapa village
- Taupo to Whakapapa = 1h20 drive
- Rotorua to Whakapapa = 2h15 drive
- Easy drive
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Hiking the Taranaki Falls Track
- Facilities and restaurants in the village
- Departures near the Skotel Alpine Resort (behind Chateau Tongariro)
- Plan 2h - Distance = 6km
- I recommend to tour it counterclockwise (more info later)
- Easy walk except for one long staircase with 135 stairs and a few smaller staircases
- Wear proper shoes
- No facilities along the path
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- The car I rented was in perfect condition
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Taranaki Falls Track - Access & Difficulty
The walk departs from Whakapapa village. It is an easy drive to reach it.
You will find a visitor center with all the information you need about hiking (especially the famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing)
If parking spaces are taken in town, there is a larger carpark before the village
You can spend the night in the heart of the National Park in the Whakapapa village - check out the accommodation options
Or your can find more choice of accommodations around Lake Taupo. You don't have to head to the main town North of the lake. There are great options in the South in Turangi - see options
I stayed at Creel lodge in a beautiful park with trees. The wood cabin was stunning - check out photos and availability
Beginning of Taranaki Falls track - Upper or lower track?
The beginning of the Taranaki falls track is well indicated.
From Chateau Tongariro, take the road to the Skotel Alpine Resort (Ngauruhoe Terrace Road).
You will reach a first departure point for the walk, which is for the lower track (going clockwise). Or you can keep walk and find the departure point via the upper track (going anticlockwise).
I recommend going anticlockwise (starting at the upper track) so that you go down the 135 stairs at the waterfall and you are facing the view as you walk down.
Difficulty of the Taranaki falls hike
Generally speaking it is an easy track, a 6km loop.
It is well maintained. You will alternate between bush and forest. But overall you are under the sun, so cover yourself!
The upper track is mostly flat. There are a few small bridges to cross.
The only difficult part is the long staircase between the upper and lower track. I counted 135 stairs. Not that bad, and well maintained.
On the Lower Track you will also have a few staircases and slopes.
Taranaki Falls Upper Track - Views of Mount Ngauruhoe and Mt Ruapehu
What I loved the most about this walk is not the waterfall itself but the views all along the track.
You are facing the beautiful volcanic cone of Mount Ngauruhoe:
- It is a stunning symmetrical cone
- It is an active volcano, the youngest vent in Tongariro
- It first erupted 2500 year ago and most recently in 1977
- It reaches 2291m (7516ft) in elevation
It is funny how you walk on open field and then cross a patch of forest.
On the side you are protected (or threatened, depending on how you see it) by Mt Ruapehu:
- It is the largest active volcano in New Zealand.
- It is the highest point in North Island with 3 major peaks (the highest is at 2797m, 9176ft)
- The crater between the peaks is filled with water between eruptions
- Its large eruptions are 50 years apart, but smaller eruptions are frequent - it is closely monitored to be able to warn of imminent eruption
You will also cross the upper part of the Wairere stream.
Lava Flow edge
Along the Upper track you reach the edge of the lava flow.
It dates back to the eruption of Mt Ruapehu 15,000 years ago.
You can see a lot of exposed lava:
Taranaki Falls in pictures
Before going down, you are standing on the edge of the lava above the Taranaki falls. You can see the Wairere stream flowing away:
After the long staircase within the trees, you reach the waterfall Taranaki.
It is dropping from another edge of the lava flow.
It leaps from the cliffs and drops 20m (66ft) into a pool.
Take your time to admire the cliff of volcanic rocks: red, black and cream.
I am sorry for the bad quality of my pictures, the sunlight was very harsh.
Wairere stream & Cascade Falls
As you leave Taranaki falls, you follow the lower Wairere stream.
From a bridge you can see the straight drop called Cascade Falls.
The track continues along the stream through forest. It is nice to enjoy some shade.
Note - another mix-up to avoid:
The Taranaki falls are located on the Wairere Stream.
However they have nothing to do with the Wairere Falls (the highest in North Island) which are closer to the East Coast.
Taranaki Falls Lower Track - Return to Whakapapa Village
And you finish with the lower track. It goes through open fields and forested patches.
There is a slight uphill slope but you see the end getting closer with nice views of Chateau Tongariro.
The lower track offer more views of Mt Ruapehu.
More hiking in Tongariro National Park
From Whakapapa you can enjoy many more hikes from 15 min to several hours or multi day hikes.
- The most famous hike is the Tongariro Alpine Crossing and takes the whole day.
- Whakapapa Nature walk - 15min
- Tawhai Falls - 20min return
- Meads Wall to a filming location of Lord of the Rings
- Silica rapid is a 7km walk
- See a list of hikes in the area
If you can't hike - Drive up to Mt Ruapehu ski resort
If you are afraid the 2h loop might be too much for you, you can still enjoy beautiful views of Mt Ruapehu and Mt Ngauruhoe.
Go to the top of Whakapapa village and continue driving to Mt Ruapehu ski resort.
Along the drive in the middle of the lava, you will discover breathtaking views...
More views of Tongariro National Park
Tongariro is absolutely stunning.
It was the first national park in New Zealand and established in 1887. It is also a dual World Heritage area for its Maori cultural and spiritual associations as well as its volcanic features. It offers a large variety of landscapes with lake, herb fields, plateau and active volcanoes.
If you have the time I recommend driving around, to see its volcanic summits from various angles.
Here are a few pictures to inspire you:
Never forget that the area is volcanic and active. Make sure you check current information before doing any hiking.
Below is a sign from the Tongariro Alpine Crossing:
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