Exploring Taranaki: A Hikers’ Guide To Visiting This Unique Paradise

Hiker climbs the "Hump" after crossing the Ahukawakawa Swmap

New Zealand’s Taranaki region, dominated by the majestic and perfectly symmetrical Mt. Taranaki, is a hiker’s dream destination. With its lush rainforests, alpine meadows, and stunning coastal views, Taranaki offers diverse hiking opportunities for all levels of adventurers. Here’s your ultimate guide to visiting Taranaki for an unforgettable hiking experience.

Getting to Taranaki

By Car: Taranaki is accessible by road from major cities in the North Island. From Auckland, it’s approximately a 4.5-hour drive, while from Wellington, it takes about 4 hours. The scenic drive itself is part of the adventure, with picturesque farmlands and coastal views along the way.

If you’re coming down to Taranaki from the North, we highly recommend a stop at the Fat Pigeon Café in Piopio. Mel, the owner, came and did our Taranaki Discovery Tour and loved it.

As you carry on further down SH3 along the wild Tasman coastline, call in at Tongaporutu to see Elephant Rock & the 3 Sisters. There’s a handy public toilet located here and if the tides are in your favour, head out over the sand flats to the coast and take a look at the Elephant Rock formation, it’s pretty spectacular. Break up the rest of the drive and pop into Café 487 near Urenui for a coffee break and to check out their beautiful grounds.

Auckland to New Plymouth map
How To Get To New Plymouth From Auckland

If you’re coming from Wellington in the south, travel north via SH1 to Bulls, then turn west onto SH3 towards Whanganui. If you’ve got time, spend an hour or two exploring Whanganui. It’s beautifully situated beside the river with a really old-world feel to it. Call in at the Tawhiti Museum, just outside of Hawera, it’s an experience not to be missed!

Route map from Wellington to New Plymouth by car
How To Get From Wellington To New Plymouth

By Air: New Plymouth Airport (NPL) is the main airport serving the Taranaki region. Direct flights are available from Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch. From the airport, you can rent a car or take a shuttle to your accommodation. Carparking is available at New Plymouth airport for a small fee, the first 2 hours are free.

Where to Stay

New Plymouth: New Plymouth is the largest city in Taranaki, and the central “hub” for services and facilities. It offers a range of accommodation options, from luxury hotels to budget-friendly hostels. Staying here provides easy access to the region’s trails and amenities. We highly recommend the State Hotel on Devon St. It’s beautifully decorated and well-located to all the essentials you need while you’re in town. There is a detached car park for hotel guests, check with reception on how best to access this when you make your booking.

The State Hotel on Devon St, New Plymouth

Stratford: The town of Stratford is located a bit closer to Mt. Taranaki itself and is a great base for hikers wanting to be near the mountain. This charming town offers a variety of accommodation options and is the gateway to Egmont National Park. For an extra special visit, check out the Glockenspiel Clock Tower. This zany installation of Shakespearean characters plays for 5 minutes after the clock strikes 10am, 1pm, 3pm & 7pm.

The Glockenspiel Clock Tower, Stratford, Taranaki
The Glockenspiel Clock Tower, Stratford, Taranaki

Egmont National Park Huts & Lodges

For those who prefer to stay closer to nature, there are several lodges and huts within Te Papakura-o-Taranaki/Egmont National Park, offering basic but comfortable accommodations right at the heart of the hiking trails.

Not sure what to expect from a DOC hut? Check out our guide for prepping for a DOC hut-stay in the New Zealand outdoors – ‘What To Expect From A DOC Hut

Lodges

  • Konini Lodge – south eastern side of the mountain, owned by DOC, 38 beds, has electricity and gas powered hot water, road access from Manaia Road.
  • Tahurangi Lodge – north side of the mountain, owned by Taranaki Alpine Club, 26 beds, has electricity, no road access (walk-in/walk-out)

Top Hiking Trails in Taranaki

Pouakai Crossing

  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Duration: Day-walk, 19km, 6 – 8 hours
  • Highlights: This day-walk offers stunning views of Mt. Taranaki, reflective tarns, and diverse landscapes ranging from lush forests to alpine tussock fields. The Ahukawakawa Swamp is a globally significant alpine wetland, full of rare species of flora and fauna that are all endemic to New Zealand. The Pouakai Tarns are a must-see, providing iconic mirror reflections of Mt. Taranaki (weather dependent).
Ahukawakawa Swamp
Ahukawakawa Swamp, Pouakai Crossing Track, Taranaki

Pouakai Circuit

  • Difficulty: Moderate to Hard
  • Duration: 2-3 days
  • Highlights: This multi-day trek completes the bulk of the Pouakai Crossing track above, but continues on in a loop around to the east back to North Egmont Visitors Centre. You’ll see all the highlights of the Pouakai Crossing on this walk, with the added bonus of a few nights up on the mountain in spectacularly located DOC huts.
  • Best Way To Walk The Pouakai Circuit? You can walk this track in either a clock-wise or anti-clockwise direction, but most hikers begin at North Egmont Visitors Centre and head up Razorback and along Holly Hut track for their first night at Holly Hut. Then they continue on to Pouakai Hut, near the Pouakai Tarns for night 2, wrapping up the circuit but walking from Pouakai Hut back to the North Egmont Visitors centre to close the loop.
Pouakai Circuit Route
Pouakai Circuit Route Map, Taranaki

Mt. Taranaki Summit Track

  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Duration: 8-10 hours (round trip)
  • Highlights: For the adventurous, summiting Mt. Taranaki is a challenging but rewarding experience. The track involves steep and rugged terrain, requiring a good level of fitness and preparation. The panoramic views from the summit are spectacular. We strongly recommend you go with a guide. Guiding the Taranaki Summit Track is not something Walking Legends does, so we’d happily point you in the direction of Top Guides.

Dawson Falls and Wilkies Pools Loop

  • Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
  • Duration: 2-3 hours
  • Highlights: This loop track offers a more relaxed hike, perfect for families and those looking for shorter walks. Highlights include the picturesque Dawson Falls and the natural rock pools of Wilkies Pools.
Hiker sits and captures photo of Wilkies Pool in Mt Egmont National Park, Taranaki
Wilkies Pool track, Mt Taranaki

Lake Mangamahoe

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Duration: 3 – 4 hours, but longer if you want to stop and picnic
  • Highlights: This is a network of easy, lake-side loop trails that are easy to get to. The trails are wide and well-graded, perfect for a gentle walk or a mountain bike. At the far end of the lake there is an excellent viewpoint of Mt. Taranaki (weather permitting). It’s possible to drive your car closer to this viewpoint rather than walking the full length of the lake trail. The forest here is not predominantly native, with many exotic species. Visit in May for a stunning display of autumnal leaf colours.
Mount Taranaki snow capped peak reflected in calm water of Lake Mangamahoe in foreground
Mount Taranaki snow capped peak reflected in calm water of Lake Mangamahoe in foreground

What to Pack

  • Hiking Boots: Sturdy, waterproof boots with good ankle support are essential. Even though some tracks would be easily walked in trail runners or sport shoes, we think hiking boots are always best. You never know when you’ll come across muddy patches of track and hiking boots are just that little bit more versatile for all types of weathers and track surfaces.
  • Weather-Appropriate Clothing: Taranaki’s weather can change rapidly. The local weather forecasting service is predominantly MetService, but we’ve found the Windy.com app to be much more accurate in the New Zealand outdoors. If in doubt, make a call to the North Egmont Visitors Centre to speak to staff on the mountain for an up-to-date weather report.

What To Wear for Hiking On Mt. Taranaki? Good quality outdoor clothing is essential for hiking on Mt. Taranaki. Layering is key—bring waterproof jackets, thermal layers, and sun protection. Weather systems can roll in quite quickly from the Tasman sea, so even if the day is beautiful and sunny when you begin the walk, it may not remain that way all day. Our guides wear 100% merino outdoor clothing from Glowing Sky – these are produced right here in New Zealand. When you make a booking on our Taranaki Discovery Tour guided walk, you’ll receive a full packing list in your booking confirmation email.

  • Food and Water: Carry sufficient food and water for your hike. There are no stores, supermarkets, cafes or restaurants located on the trails. Remember to take any rubbish with you when you go – we have a ‘pack-in/pack-out” philosophy in the New Zealand hiking community, leave no trace! As a general guide, carry 2 to 3 litres of water per person. Whilst there are water supplies located at Holly Hut and Pouakai Hut, it’s still a good idea to plan for self-sufficiency.
  • Navigation Tools: Maps, a compass, and a GPS device or smartphone with offline maps. We use the NZ Topo Map app and it’s excellent. It’s also a good idea to let someone know where you’re going and what time you expect to be back. If you don’t know anyone locally, call the North Egmont Visitors Centre and register your intentions with them. They’ll be your back up safety net if anything happens to you on the track.
  • Safety Gear: A first aid kit, emergency shelter, and a headlamp. Remember: the emergency services phone number in New Zealand is 111.
  • Camera: To capture the stunning landscapes and wildlife.

Safety Tips for hiking in Taranaki

  • Check the Weather: Always check the weather forecast before heading out. Mt. Taranaki is notorious for its rapidly changing conditions.
  • Inform Someone: Let someone know your hiking plans and expected return time.
  • Stay on Marked Trails: To protect the environment and for your safety, always stay on designated trails.
  • Be Prepared: Make sure you’re adequately prepared for your hike, especially if you’re attempting the summit track, which requires a high level of fitness and experience.
Walking Legends hiking guide checks map of Taranaki forest area
Our guide explaining the geography and terrain of the Taranaki area

Taranaki offers a diverse range of hiking experiences, from leisurely walks through lush forests to challenging alpine ascents. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a nature enthusiast looking for a peaceful escape, Taranaki’s trails have something for everyone. Plan your visit, prepare well, and get ready to explore one of New Zealand’s most stunning and less-traveled regions. Happy hiking!

For a more luxurious hiking experience join our 4-day Taranaki Discovery Tour guided walk. This is an all inclusive, multi-day guided walk package. We pick you up in Rotorua, take you to the very best hiking trails in Taranaki, wine and dine you with delicious meals and ensuite accommodation near New Plymouth and return you safely to Rotorua at the end of the trip. See the full tour itinerary and our list of Frequently Asked Questions on our website.

Taranaki hiking tour guided walk
Join a fun, friendly group on the 4-day Taranaki Discovery tour with Walking Legends
Scroll to Top