6 Hikes You Have to Do in Egmont National Park
Delve into the forests of Mt Taranaki!
Egmont National Park, in the Taranaki region, is a magnet for hikers. How can you not be drawn by the magnificent Mt Taranaki in the centre of lush forest? We’ll cover exactly what hikes in the Egmont National Park to do in this article.
You can drive to the painfully obvious national park boundary – aerial shots or a hike up the mountain will show the perfectly circular forest boundary running in a six-mile radius around Mt Taranaki – where there are a number of short walks and day walks into the forest. Some of which have earned the name “Goblin Forest” for its mystical mossy trees entwining enough to spark the imagination. If it is not the imagination going, then there are walks to get your heart going, with the multi-day Pouakai Circuit or the climb to the summit of Mt Taranaki.
Whatever route you decide to take, you’ll sure get a better understanding of why people say: “The best things in life are free,” in the Egmont National Park. (As cheap backpackers, we need all the “free” we can get).
Prepare your hike in Egmont National Park
Before you go:
- Check with the DoC Visitor Centres or on the DoC website for track conditions.
- Take appropriate gear: waterproof coat, layers, sturdy footwear, sunscreen, first aid kit, food, water, cellphone/mountain radio, ice axe, crampons, warm sleeping bag, etc. You can hire hiking gear from some surrounding towns.
- Tell a trusted someone your hiking plans and to raise the alarm if you don’t return.
- Read up on Outdoor Safety When Hiking in New Zealand.
- Familiarise yourself with the tracks. You can even screenshot the track description below on your phone if you like.
For more ways to prepare, especially for multi-day hikes, see 9 Tips to Prepare for a Multi-Day Hike in New Zealand.
Potaema Track (15 minutes one way)
Getting an awesome view of Mt Taranaki from the forests of the national park is pretty darn easy! It really goes without saying but take your camera on a clear day. At the end of the track where the lookout is, you’ll see the mountain towering over swampland.
Start the Potaema Track from the Potaema picnic area, on the left side of Pembroke Road. This is a well-maintained wheelchair accessible track through varying forest.
Wilkies Pools Loop Track (1-hour return)
We don’t know what’s more impressive, the super clear Wilkies Pools or the Goblin Forest you walk through to get there. The mossy kamahi trunks twisting around each other looks like a thing of fairy tales, so it’s easy to see why they call this the Goblin Forest.
The track starts from the car park about 100 metres from the Dawson Falls Visitor Centre, which is at the Manaia Road entrance.
Follow the Wilkies Pools Track straight ahead, past the turnoff to the Waingongoro Hut. (This is where you will return on the loop later). Cross the Kapuni Stream to get to the pools, which you can walk beside on the rock steps. The walk continues at the base of the pools.
The track back takes you passed the Twin Falls and Bubbling Springs. You’ll finally connect to the track that you started on.
This walk is also wheelchair accessible if you take the same track back from Wilkies Pools.
Kapuni Loop Track (1-hour return)
Who doesn’t like seeing a waterfall or maybe even two after some rainfall? The Kapuni Loop Track follows the Kapuni River, which runs down an old lava flow to Dawson Falls.
Start this walk on the left on Mania Road just before the Dawson Falls Mountain Lodge. You can take a quick detour to the world’s oldest continually operating power generators. We know, what a title! The Dawson Falls Power Station still powers the Dawson Falls Mountain Lodge. Continue into the forest and you will reach the top of Dawson Falls.
You can take a steep side track down to the base of the waterfall or stick to the main track to get an overall view of the waterfall on the way down. The track continues to the road. Cross the road, then continue on the track until you reach the start point.
Pouakai Circuit (2-3 days loop)
There’s one thing we like more than a multi-day hike in one of the most beautiful countries in the world, and that’s a multi-day circuit! It’s so convenient to end where you began! The Pouakai Circuit showcases Mt Taranaki’s volcanic history, such as the active erosion scar of Boomerang Slip, the columns of the Dieffenbach Cliffs, and the red water of the Kokowai Stream.
This track starts and ends at the Egmont National Park Visitor Centre, which is accessed from the Egmont Road off State Highway 3. If you intend to use the DoC huts, both the Holly Hut and Pouakai is first-come-first-served and requires a small fee.
The first section of the Pouakai Circuit is from the visitor centre to the Holly Hut (2-3 hours). Follow the well-formed track through the forest to see awesome views of things to come, like the Waiwhakaiho and Kokwai river gorges and the Ahukawakawa wetland.
You’ll now hike from the Holly Hut to the Pouakai Hut (2-3 hours). Cross the fragile Ahukawakawa wetland over boardwalks. The viewing platform is a good excuse for a rest and to take in the surroundings. Then cross the Stoney River and ascend to the top of the Pouakai Range. To get to the Pouakai Hut, turn left at the Mangorei track junction.
The final stretch back to the beginning is 6 hours. From the Poukai Hut, you’ll traverse on open tussock lands to the top of Henry Peak. Of course, there are amazing views of the landscape you passed through to get here. Time to start your descent back into the forest and crossing the Kaiauai Stream bridge. After the track navigates some deep gullies, crossing the Waiwhakaiho River swingbridge.
There are two ways to get back to the start. You can take the short way to the Kaiauai car park then follow Egmont Road to the visitor centre. Or climb up the Ram Track to the visitor centre. The latter is the more adventurous way with mud and possible streams to cross depending on the weather.
York Loop Track (3 hours return)
Here’s your token historic track of the national park. The York Loop Track follows the old Egmont Branch Railway Line built in 1901 to transport rock from the mountain quarries. The quarries closed in 1920. As this was an industrious area, you’ll see the remains of housing, crushers, waterlines, a sand trap and culverts.
The York Track starts 100 metres from the national park boundary on York Road. You can quickly take a 2-minute detour to a housing site before heading to the crusher site. From the crusher site, continue over the bridge and follow the railway embankments. You’ll see the sand trap which is still semi-operational.
There are two short sidetracks to take: one to the river quarry and the other to another quarry site. Return to the main track and go to a clearing called the Foot Station – the end of the railway line. Return to the starting point via the old service road.
Mt Taranaki Summit Track (8-10 hours return)
The big one! This is your chance to hike the most prominent feature in the Egmont National Park: Mt Taranaki. The challenge should not be taken lightly, in fact, those who are inexperienced at these hardcore hikes usually go with a guide. An ice axe, crampons and mountaineering experience are essential if there is ice on the upper slopes of the mountain – most likely in winter. However, you tackle Mt Taranaki, be prepared for changing weather and ever-changing views.
Starting at the Egmont National Park Visitor Centre at the end of Egmont Road off State Highway 3, take the boardwalk past the Camphouse and to Translator Road. There’s a tough 1h30min walk to the TV translator and Tahurangi Lodge. Afterwards, you emerge at high altitude. On a clear day, take the time to take in the surroundings like the Tasman Sea and even the Tongariro National Park volcanoes!
As you continue, take the Around The Mountain Track to Hongi’s Valley. A tough climb awaits up the stairs and a zigzag track to a rock lava flow called The Lizard. Be careful not to dislodge any rocks on the way up. This could be pretty painful for those walking further down the track.
You’ve made it! The summit! It’s amazing how far you can see on a clear day, for example, look to the Kaikoura Range in the South Island. You’ll see most the features on the mountain and national park from here. After you have finished congratulating yourself for your epic climb, return via the same track, which is much faster than the ascent.
What else to do in Taranaki
More hikes, more scenery and places to stay
We know a thing or two about the Taranaki region, so feast your eyes on these articles:
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