The lower track (more sheltered on windy days) 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 five-finger, 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 comes into view tumbling 20 metres over the edge of a large andesite lava flow which erupted from Ruapehu 15,000 years ago.
The trail from the falls climbs up a flight of 100 steps to 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, fernbirds and
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 Mount 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.
The track is in Whakapapa Village on SH48. It starts 100 m below the Tongariro National Park Visitor Centre on Ngauruhoe Place.
|Tongariro National Park Visitor Centre|
|Phone:||+64 7 892 3729|
|Fax:||+64 4 471 1117|
State Highway 48
PO Box 71029
Mount Ruapehu 3951
|Full office details|
Auckland and parts of the Waikato are at Level 3. DOC huts and campsites are closed in these regions. The rest of New Zealand is at Level 2.