An Alpine Hike to Waitonga Falls in Ohakune

We’re back in Ohakune, Carrot Capital of New Zealand! Well, we’re not having much to do with the likes of carrots while we’re here in Ohakune, no matter how well they make us see in the dark. However, we are making up for last time we were in the mountain town when the weather will go down in history as “bloody awful”. That being said, we still managed to hide at an indoor rock climbing wall and do a short hike in the shelter of the forest. This time, we’re getting all out and exposed on an alpine hike around Mt Ruapehu! Let’s do it!

The Ohakune Mountain Road

After eating like starving backpackers at the complimentary breakfast at the Kings Lodge, we get our gear together and hit the Ohakune Mountain Road. Our host at Kings, Stu, gave us the directions for this must-do hike to Waitonga Falls, where we just need to keep our eyes peeled for the “11km” sign up the Ohakune Mountain Road. In complete contrast to driving up the bare volcanic landscape of the Whakapapa side of Mt Ruapehu that we did a few days ago, the Ohakune side is covered in thick forest! We can barely see the thin green kilometre markers blended into the side of the road.

Thankfully, the 11km marker makes itself known, as does an obvious car park and Department of Conservation sign at the side of the road. This must be the place!

Starting the Waitonga Falls Track

The Waitonga Falls Track is a short section of the multi-day Round the Mountain Track that circumvents New Zealand’s largest volcano, Mt Ruapehu, which, still with the aches and pains from the Tongariro Crossing, we are certainly glad that we have opted for the short version.

Feeling so small in the grand forest Feeling so small in the grand forest
Feel those ferns Feel those ferns
First glimpse of Mt Ruapehu First glimpse of Mt Ruapehu
Just one of the many sections of stunning waterfalls at Waitonga Falls Just one of the many sections of stunning waterfalls at Waitonga Falls

Beautiful beech forest

The hike begins where we are instantly engulfed into a beech forest. Tiny golden leaves carpet the floor, while ferns and mosses occupy all other surfaces. It’s a steady uphill gradient which doesn’t feel too bad to Laura who still feels like a granny thanks to the Tongariro Crossing (are we complaining too much about this)?

As the track takes turns in the opposite direction, the vegetation will suddenly change to trees stripped bare of any moss and even bark. What the hell happened here?! We put it down to perhaps the wind effecting the mountain in different places. There are also more rocky cliff edges fighting their way out of the trees until we reach a higher point where the vegetation starts to lower. All of a sudden, we can see through the trees to the snowy peak of Mt Ruapehu glimmering majestically with the sun behind it. This is just a sneak peak at a view that is about to get a whole lot more epic!

Crossing the boardwalk with some awesome views!

A boardwalk through the alpine wetlands

The trees disappear and we are crossing a boardwalk on an alpine wetland coated in small lakes, shrubs and tussock. The views reach out all the way to more forest in the distance and a clear view of Mt Ruapehu. A bench halfway along the boardwalk begs us to sit down and take it all in. Even if we don’t see a waterfall today, this view right here makes it worth the walk!

Where are Waitonga falls?!

Don’t get us wrong, we still want to see a pretty waterfall, so we continue into another section of forest leading downhill where we soon can hear the roaring of cascading water. The main track takes us down to a sign saying: “Waitonga Falls”, which at first looks like it is just pointing to a rocky stream, which sure, we suppose that little bit of tumbling water could be classed as a waterfall. (God knows, we have seen smaller in New Zealand). Then, right in the distance falling from a huge cliff cast in shadow by the intense sun behind it, we see Waitonga Falls! Sure, it potentially looks awesome, but the sun is completely blinding us. Nevertheless, Robin did spot a small side track on the way down here that could lead to better views of the waterfall, so we go to check it out.

Under the majestic Waitonga Falls Under the majestic Waitonga Falls
That moment when Mt Ruapehu looks like Donald Trump That moment when Mt Ruapehu looks like Donald Trump
Delicious pub grub at Kings! Delicious pub grub at Kings!

a scramble for the epic views!

It’s a bit of a scramble down the side track, with small cascading waterfall crossings to make and narrow ledges to negotiate. When we spot some goat sh*t, we conclude that we are literally following a goat trail… What are we doing?! But, as the most awesome view of Waitonga Falls towers overhead, we know we made the right choice! It’s not just the main waterfall delicately running onto multiple tiers in the cliff that wows us, but all the other little waterfalls surrounding it carving patterns into the mossy canyon sides.

We spend way too much time snapping up some photos here, before carefully making our way back tot he main track. Then we just have the return journey to enjoy! The robins, riflemen and yellow-headed birds darting across the forest add extra entertainment on the way back.

Later that evening…

This evening, we check out the Kings bar attached to our accommodation, figuring that we don’t have head too far to find our way back to our room. The large Texan-style bar is decorated with cowboy boots, hats, and all sorts of weird and wonderful displays on the walls. We hit the bar and talk to a few locals, a guy who is working on making the first craft beer out of Ohakune and a bloke who manages a ski and bike rental store in town. We learn how Ohakune is a “drinking town with a ski problem” and with that, Stu at the bar is pouring shots to emphasis the fact!

After shots, beers, some pretty epic burgers, including the famous “Duke” burger, chicken wings dipped in sweet and spicy sauce, and calamari, we hit the sack feeling full and happy.

In true Ohakune style, the weather is meant to be pretty terrible tomorrow, so check out what the hell we get up to tomorrow!

Laura and Robin

The stunning hidden viewpoint of Waitonga Falls
The stunning hidden viewpoint of Waitonga Falls Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Want more?

Have you read about that time we had our rafting and mountain biking mission on the Tongariro River? How about these articles?

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See you tomorrow!

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