With expansive views of tussock lands, mountains and Tongariro National Park’s historic Chateau Tongariro Hotel, Taranaki Falls trail is easily one of New Zealand’s most spectacular and accessible walks.
Located at the base of Mt Ruapehu on the Whakapapa side – an area rich with hiking trails, including the Tongariro Crossing – the two-hour Taranaki Falls loop track offers an easy access alpine experience with postcard views, without the hassle of a dawn start or transport issues.
It also offers a great opportunity to stretch the legs after a day’s skiing or boarding at Whakapapa.
Accessed from a carpark on Ngauruhoe Terrace behind the Chateau, the loop walk can be done in either direction. We chose the left track which traverses tussock and a small beech forest, making numerous photo stops along the way. If you stand on the track facing Mt Ngauruhoe and do a slow 360 degree turn, you are rewarded with a magnificent panorama that also takes in snow-capped Ruapehu and the equally majestic Chateau (opened in 1929, it was inspired by the Canadian Resort of Lake Louise).
Once you emerge from the beech forest the trail takes you over a bridge and small waterfall then follows the Wairere Stream up the valley to the spot where the Taranaki Falls tumble spectacularly from 20 metres above over a 15,000-year-old lava flow into a crystal clear pool below. You can swim in the pool over the warmer seasons, though the water, which comes off the mountain, is glacial.
Take the time to explore behind the falls’ veil, which offers a magical view from another perspective as sunlight dances through the water.
The trail then climbs for a short distance to the top of the waterfall before wending its way back to the Chateau, and this Category One Historic Building is the ideal place at which to end your wonderful walk. Enjoy a spot of high tea while admiring the view of your day’s endeavours through the grand floor-to-ceiling Ngauruhoe window, then soak up the old-world ambience, marvel at the magnificent chandeliers and enjoy the well-deserved warmth of roaring log fires.