A freestanding and almost symmetrical mountain standing at 2518 metres above sea level, Mount Taranaki is awe inspiring. The dormant volcano—the last major eruption occurred around 1854—is approximately 120,000 years old and is an iconic part of New Plymouth.
Located in the Egmont National Park, the hike to the summit is one of New Zealand’s most popular tramps—on a clear day you can expect stunning 360-degree views and an adrenaline-fuelled challenge. However fast moving and volatile weather conditions combined with a steep incline and a difficult track makes the Mount Taranaki summit one of Aotearoa’s most dangerous hikes.
There are over 20 tramps to do in the lush national park, ranging from leisurely strolls to five-day expeditions. If you’re up for an adventure, set your eyes on the summit. The full-day hike will push you to your limits and you will definitely have sore legs for days after, but the memories will stay with you forever.
Get your boots on, carbohydrates packed and bring a positive headspace because you’ll need it—here’s everything you need to know before tackling the summit of Mount Taranaki.
The Low Down
The Mount Taranaki summit hike is not for the faint hearted and should only be attempted if you’ve got a reasonable level of fitness. The Department of Conservation states the tramp will take you between eight to ten hours and believe us when we say those numbers are not an exaggeration. The best time to hike Mount Taranaki is from December to mid April as from May to November the mountain is covered in ice and snow. In the cooler months it’s advised that only trampers with mountaineering experience and the necessary equipment attempt the summit. In the lead up to your hike, be sure to check the weather online at MetService and if the conditions are looking worrying, don’t risk it—just wait until it’s safe.
What You'll Need
Carbs will be your best friend on the hike—you can’t underestimate how much energy you'll need on a 10-hour journey. Bring protein bars, cheese and bacon rolls, bananas, nuts and salad rolls and expect to demolish every last bit. As well as food, take a minimum of 3L of water per person—there are no drinking water supplies on the mountain. Clothing wise, long pants are recommended as well as sturdy footwear, a hat, your mobile and sunglasses. In your backpack you should also bring a raincoat, a jacket, a first aid kit and warm gloves. Walking poles will save your knees (and probably your lives) on the hike so take them, too. Some of the most amazing experiences in life are best shared, so bring along your best mate or partner and tell others of your plans before you head off.
What To Expect
There’s no other way to say it—the hike is bloody hard. You’ll begin your ascent at the Egmont National Park Visitor Centre, walking through the lowland forest past mountain cabbage trees that look like fireworks, rimu and kamahi trees and then kamahi, totara and kaikawaka. Next up is “The Puffer”—a steep and seemingly never-ending road that just goes, up. Swear words will be said and fights may happen. After about an hour and a half you’ll reach the Tahurangi Lodge in the alpine zone with tussocks and one lone smelly toilet. Continue up past the lodge and through Hongi’s Valley where you’ll be met with... stairs. Just when you think it can’t get any harder, next is a steep scree field, which you will scramble up doing two steps up and one step back. Next you’ll begin to rock climb on all fours up “The Lizard”—a rock lava flow that will lead you all the way up to the crater’s entrance cloaked in snow. There’s still a bit more of a hike up to the summit, and then you've made it. Expect panoramic views, a feeling of a great accomplishment and exhaustion. Take a few selifes, then it’s time to head back down.
Best Places To Refuel
If there’s ever a time that a beer is well deserved, this is it. You won’t feel like heading out for a fancy dinner in New Plymouth once you get back down the mountain—save that for another day. What you will feel like however, is food and booze and a lot of it. Frederic’s on Egmont St is a great pub and restaurant where you can have a few pints and there’s outdoor seating as you’ll be muddy. Peggy Gordon's Celtic Bar and Shining Peak Brewing are also worthy watering holes to celebrate and relax. For a feed, dine in or order takeaway from Deluxe Diner, which serves burgers, fries and fried chicken and are exactly what dreams of made of when you’re hungry and tired. If you’ve got a pizza craving, head to Ms White in the White Hart Hotel for traditional hand stretched pies. For dessert, South Seas Ice Cream on Liardet Street serves gelato and sorbet made locally in New Plymouth. Want three scoops? Go for it—you just climbed a mountain.
Where To Stay
It’ll take you approximately 30 minutes to drive from the New Plymouth township to the start of the hike at the Egmont National Park Visitor Centre. If you don’t want to wake up before the roosters, we recommend staying close by. The State Hotel is a boutique hotel centrally based in town with a handful of restaurants and bars nearby. If you’re on a budget, the Egmont Eco Lodge is a backpackers that’s situated on a seven-acre valley. The Belt Road Seaside Holiday Park is another great option if you’re after sea views without the hefty price tag. For Airbnbs, we like the Rabbit Hill guest house surrounded by native bush and this tiny home which has stunning views of Mount Taranaki. You also can’t get much cuter than the Koru Cottage cottage with an outdoor patio.
There are a bunch of excellent tramps to tackle in the Egmont National Park that suit all experience levels. The Wilkies Pools Loop Track, beginning above the Dawson Falls Visitor Centre, should take you around one hour and 20 minutes all up to complete. After 20 minutes of walking you’ll reach the pools—a cascading waterfall created by a 20,000 year-old lava flow. Take a dip in the pools or enjoy a picnic lunch beside them. On your way back you’ll walk through the mystical Goblin Forest with twisted moss-covered trees and 50 shades of green. If you are after a multi-day hike, there’s the four to five day challenging Around the Mountain Circuit. You’ll be rewarded with a track that passes through stunning alpine scenery, forest and rivers. The circuit is best attempted in October to April and there are huts to stay at along the way. The two to three day Pouakai Circuit is another popular walk in the park and has amazing views of Mount Taranaki and the countryside. Get your camera ready at the famous Pouakai Tarns to see the mountain reflect in the alpine pools.
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Image credit: Kirill Polishchuk, Pascal Habermann, Ecoescape: self-contained off-grid tiny-home