Beginning at Taranaki / Egmont National Park Visitor Centre (North Egmont), the track can be walked in either direction. Two serviced backcountry huts with woodburners, toilets, water, bunks and mattresses provide overnight accommodation.
North Egmont to Holly Hut
Time: 3 - 4 hr
Distance: 7.5 km
The Holly Hut Track climbs through montane forest and subalpine scrub, passing the turnoff to the Plateau. Walk beneath the towering lava columns of the Dieffenbach Cliffs and cross the Boomerang Slip.
Once past the Kokowai Track turnoff, the track gradually descends to the Ahukawakawa Track junction. Turn left for a 5 minute walk to solar powered Holly Hut. Minarapa Stream just prior to the hut can be impassable after heavy rain.
From the hut, a 30 minute (one way) side trip along the Bells Falls track will take you to the towering Bells Falls/ Te Rere o Tahurangi (31 m).
Facilities: 32 bunk beds, heating, lighting, mattresses
Bookings not required - first come, first served
Holly Hut to Pouakai Hut
Time: 2 - 3 hr
Distance: 4.5 km
Return to the Ahukawakawa Track junction and follow the boardwalk across Ahukawakawa Swamp. This area is a wetland/swamp – while there is a boardwalk, expect water and mud on the track in places.
After crossing the headwaters of the Stony River/Hangatahua, the track ascends a ridge through mountain cedar to reach the Pouakai Track. Turn left here to take a 1 hr 30 min (return) detour to Pouakai Trig (1440 m). Turn right to follow Pouakai Track on to the Mangorei Track junction. Pouakai Hut is a 5 minute walk down the Mangorei Track.
The Mangorei Track is a good exit from the circuit if weather conditions are bad (allow 2 hr to Mangorei Road end).
Facilities: 16 bunk beds, heating, mattresses
Bookings not required - first come, first served
Pouakai Hut to North Egmont Visitor Centre
Time: 5 - 7 hr
Distance: 13 km
Return uphill to the Pouakai Track junction and turn left to traverse open tussock lands, passing the scenic alpine tarns (pools) before skirting around Maude Peak.
The track then climbs Henry Peak (1220 m) before descending Kaiauai Track, passing the Kaiauai Shelter, to cross the swingbridge over the Kai Auahi Stream.
From here, the track continues through lowland forest, crossing several small streams before reaching the swingbridge across the Waiwhakaiho River. A short climb leads up to the Ram Track junction. The quickest return to the visitor centre from here is via the road.
Pouakai Tarn with Mt Taranaki
- North Egmont Visitor Centre: Access is via the Holly Hut Track.
- Kaiauai car park: Acces is via the Kaiauai Track leaving the carpark area, 2 km below the visitor centre on Egmont Road.
- Mangorei Road: Access is from the carpark at the top of Mangorei Road, off SH3, south of New Plymouth.
- Dover Track: Access is from Carrington Road opposite Dover Road.
- Ahukawakawa Track: Access is via the Ahukawakawa Track across the swamp from Holly Hut on the Around the Mountain Circuit.
Nature and conservation
The mighty Ahukawakawa Swamp formed around 3500 years ago. This unique microclimate is home to many plant species, some unusual at this altitude, and others found nowhere else in the world.
Sedges, sphagnum moss, herbs, mosses and red tussock are common here, along with small orchids and flowering plants. The unique divaricating shrub Melicytus drucei is found only here and on the Pouakai Range.
History and culture
History of place names found on the Pouakai Circuit
- Ambury Monument /Ambury Bluffs
West of Humphries Castle (1606 metres). This is named after Arthur Hamilton Ambury who gave his life in a heroic attempt to save W E Gourlay who slipped on the ice on 3 June 1918. Both died in the fall over this bluff. Ambury Monument is on the Holly Hut Track closest to the Camphouse.
Sphagnum moss swamp lying between the mountain and the Pouakai Ranges. The stream draining the swamp joins the Minarapa Stream to form Bells Falls.
- Boomerang Slip
From a distance this face of loose rock on the North Egmont-Holly Hut track has the appearance of a boomerang.
- Dieffenbach Cliffs
Ernst Dieffenbach (1811-1855), a German born naturalist employed by the New Zealand Company, organised the first ascent of Egmont in Christmas week of 1839. He was accompanied to the summit by James Herberley, a whaler and they reached the top on 23 December, having left Richard Barrett’s whaling station at Moturoa on 19 December. The route lay approximately along the valley of the Waiwhakaiho River. Dieffenbach Cliffs are above the Round-the-Mountain Track between Humphries Valley and the main valley of the Waiwhakaiho River.
- Maude Peak
At a height of 1221 metres, is a peak of the Pouakai Ranges east of the plateau which overlooks the Ahukawakawa Swamp. Maude Peak derives its name from Maude Road with which it is cemented by a track. Princess Maude was a daughter of King Edward V.
- Henry Peak
In the 1860s and throughout the 1870s James Henry, a Scottish nurseryman, was a well-known guide over the ranges on the Mangorei Road–Holly Flat route to Bells Falls and the Summit. The peak at a height of 1222 metres at the eastern end of the Pouakai Ranges.
- Holly Hut
At 975 metres, is close to the junction of the Round-the-Mountain and Bells Falls Track. The second hut, opened in March 1975, replaces one built in 1900 on Holly Flat named after the New Zealand holly growing profusely in the area. Here a campsite was formed in the 1860s and 1870s used by parties crossing the Pouakai from New Plymouth for the ascent of the mountain.
This information was taken from a book written by A.B Scanlon, New Plymouth.
Know before you go
What to expect
The track is steep in places. The surface can be muddy and wet and has tree roots and embedded rocks. Expect snow and ice in winter conditions.
Main rivers and streams are bridged apart from the Minarapa Stream just prior to Holly Hut and a couple of the smaller tributaries of the Waiwhakaiho River between Henry Peak and North Egmont. Some of these tributaries can flood at any time of the year.
Experience and equipment required
You need moderate to high levels of backcountry skills and experience. You need to be able to read a map, have undertaken tracks of a similar difficulty, have average or above fitness, and be able to traverse moderately steep slopes and rough ground.
You need the right equipment. During busy summer months it's also a good idea to bring your own sleeping mat in case the huts are full.
Weather on Mt Taranaki is very changeable and difficult to predict. Before setting out, check the latest forecast on the MetService website or phone MetPhone: 0900 99 906. Carry enough clothing and equipment to ensure you are prepared to cope with any type of weather.
Before you go into the outdoors, tell someone your plans and leave a date to raise the alarm if you haven't returned. To do this, use the New Zealand Outdoors Intentions process on the AdventureSmart website. It is endorsed by New Zealand's search and rescue agencies and provides three simple options to tell someone you trust the details about your trip.