IntroductionEgmont National Park’s premier 2–3 day tramp offers spectacular views of Mt Taranaki and the surrounding countryside. The 25 km track passes through forest, alpine tussock fields and the unique Ahukawakawa Swamp.
- Witness the turmoil of centuries of volcanic activity as you cross the active erosion scar of the Boomerang slip and pass beneath the towering columns of the Dieffenbach cliffs. You might also notice the red water of the Kokowai Stream caused by manganese oxide oozing from the earth.
- Visit the mighty Bells Falls (side trip) and watch the water cascade over an ancient lava flow.
- Pass through the fragile Ahukawakawa Swamp, with golden tussocks and summer flowers.
- From the Pouakai Trig (side trip) on a fine day, take in stunning views of the Taranaki coastline and inland toward the mountains of the Central Plateau.
Sections of this track can become impassable in winter conditions due to snow and ice. Check with Egmont National Park Visitor Centre for up to date track conditions.
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 Pouakai Circuit begins on the Veronica Loop/Holly Hut Track, starting at North Egmont. Follow the boardwalk past the Camphouse. From here the track leads past Ambury Monument and climbs a long series of steps. You will pass a track junction – take the track signposted towards Holly Hut.
Ten minutes past the junction, you will come to a lookout. This is the start of the alpine section of the track, so look at the weather and make sure you have the gear for the conditions. If you aren’t well-equipped enough and/or if the weather is so bad that you cannot see the maunga, then we recommend returning down the Veronica Loop Track and trying the circuit another day.
From the lookout, the track climbs then sidles along the side of Taranaki. The track passes the towering lava columns of the Dieffenbach Cliffs and crosses the Boomerang Slip (watch for rockfall signs and follow their instructions).
After crossing the slip, the track descends and reaches a track junction with Kokowai Track. If you are walking in the other direction (from Holly Hut to North Egmont), this is a key decision-point. Assess the weather and decide whether to attempt the alpine section of the track. If conditions aren’t favourable, you can return to Holly Hut or take Kokowai Track to Egmont Road.
Once past the Kokowai Track turnoff, the track gradually descends to the Ahukawakawa Track junction. Turn left for a 5-minute walk to Holly Hut. Minarapa Stream just prior to the hut is unbridged and can be impassable after heavy rain.
There are several springs along the track between North Egmont and Holly Hut. These are significant to iwi, hapū and whanau, so please treat them with respect and do not wash in them or walk through the springs.
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).
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).
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. Follow the Ram Track uphill to return to North Egmont road end.
- 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.
All huts on the Pouakai Circuit require booking.
Pouakai Hut unavailable for bookings after 11 February 2024.
The hut will close for redevelopment.
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.
Be ready for changeable weather
Mt Taranaki has changeable and unpredictable weather. Check the forecast and carry enough clothing and equipment to ensure you are able to cope with any type of weather, 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.
Take care when crossing streams
The upper section of this track (between North Egmont and Holly Hut) crosses dry stream beds. These can rise quickly during heavy rain and may not be safe to cross. There are also stream crossings on the lower section of the track (Kaiauai Track).
Assess them carefully before crossing. If you have any doubt about whether you can cross safely, wait for the water levels to drop. This often happens quickly.
Be aware of rockfall risks
There are several rockfall zones on the Pouakai Circuit (including Boomerang Slip). Follow instructions on signage and cross these without stopping, one person at a time.
This track is much more difficult in winter
This is an alpine track and is far more challenging in winter. You will need an ice axe, crampons, snow gaiters and goggles for the section of track between North Egmont and Holly Hut, along with the skills to use them. There is nowhere in Taranaki to hire alpine gear.
If there is snow on Taranaki, check the avalanche advisory and only tramp the track if you have the gear (avalanche transceiver, probe and snow shovel) and skills to manage the avalanche risk.
What to take
Make sure you are well equipped to walk the Pouakai Circuit.
- Waterproof raincoat and over-trousers
- Warm woollen or fibre pile clothing
- Spare dry socks
- Strong tramping boots
- Food and drink (enough for the duration plus extra for emergencies)
- First aid kit
- Sunscreen and sunglasses
- Sunhat and a warm hat
- Sleeping bag
- Portable fuel stove
- Hut tickets or annual hut pass
- Map and compass (and know how to use them!)
- Distress beacon (you can hire one at the North Egmont Visitor Centre)
- Visit the Kiwi way – never miss an opportunity to use a loo and be prepared with a back-up toilet option
- putties (gaiters)
- cellphone and/or mountain radio
- tent and bed roll in the summer months
During winter and snow conditions you will need an ice axe and crampons, snow gaiters and goggles. You might want to consider carrying an avalanche transceiver, probe and snow shovel.
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.