If you are pressed for time or would like to try some easy walking options to experience what the park has to offer, a number of short walks are available near the Ohakune township and along Ohakune Mountain Road.
Lakes, ancient beech forest and plentiful bird life are features of this short walk in the beautiful Rotokura Ecological Area
Time: 1 hr return
Signposted from State Highway 49, 12 kilometres from Ohakune en route to Waiouru. Drive one kilometre from the turnoff along Karioi Station Road, cross the railway line and continue to Rotokura carpark.
The first lake passed on the track is Dry Lake. A variety of native and exotic waterfowl - dabchicks, mallard ducks, paradise ducks, grey ducks and Australasian coots - can be seen on this man-made lake that is surrounded by rushes, swampland and beech forest. Flat, grassed areas above the lake are perfect for family picnics.
The track continues on past Dry Lake to Lake Rotokura. This lake is surrounded by ancient beech forest and on a clear days Mount Ruapehu is reflected in the lake’s calm waters. The beech forest supports plenty of bird life. Native birds such as tui, kaka, bellbird, fantail and North Island robin are commonly seen or heard along the track.
Rotokura is tapu (sacred healing waters) to Ngati Rangi, the local Maori people or tangata whenua. Respect this by not eating at or near Lake Rotokura or following the track past where it first meets the lake. Fishing is also prohibited.
Mangawhero Forest Walk and Rimu Walk
Time: 1 hr return and 15 min return
These two tracks begin at the same place, at the bottom of the Ohakune Mountain Road.
The 15 minute Rimu Walk, meandering gently through an understorey of ground ferns and kamahi and crisscrossing a quiet mountain stream, is a separate loop off the main Mangawhero Forest Walk. The high quality surface allows access for wheelchairs and pushchairs.
The Mangawhero Forest Walk begins by crossing the Mangawhero River from which it gains its name. Running over a bed of red tinged rocks, this river starts high up Mount Ruapehu and descends over two giant waterfalls, carving its way through the debris of previous eruptions. Following a faultline down the mountain the Mangawhero eventually joins the Whangaehu River.
From the river the track leads into a forest of kamahi, broadleaf and five finger, with giant rimu, matai and kahikatea trees reaching 30 metres or more above the forest floor.
Immediately after passing through a large cut fallen log the track crosses a large volcanic crater. The long process of infilling this volcanic vent has reached the stage where water, still lying close to the surface is able to support a swamp-type forest. The buttressed kahikatea, New Zealand’s tallest tree, will tolerate continually wet feet, while its close relative, the rimu, prefers drier places at the edge of this crater. A similar vent, a short distance to the west, supports an earlier stage of forest development.
Time: 5 - 10 min return
The track begins from a carpark on the Ohakune Mountain Road, 13 kilometres up from the rail bridge.
This short walk provides excellent views of a beautiful waterfall close to the road.
Here, not far below bushline, the beech forest is stunted because of the rugged climate. Spectacular icicles form around the falls in winter.