On the lower west coast of the North Island of New Zealand, there sits a region known locally as ‘Taradise’, and known officially as Taranaki. We reckon the locals may be on to something. It’s a spectacular place, and standing majestically on guard over it is Mount Taranaki, one of New Zealand’s most iconic mountains. Like many of the peaks in Aotearoa, this one is actually a volcano, and is known for all sorts of reasons.
As well as rising in solitude out of the plains of Taranaki Egmont National Park and casting its signature shape across the skyline, it holds a significant place in Maori mythology and is thought to be a very spiritual place. The hike to the summit is also renowned as an incredible mountaineering experience, and hiking on and around the volcano is popular. In fact, the 120,000 year old peak is known as New Zealand’s most-climbed mountain.
Where is Mt Taranaki?
Mount Taranaki sits in the middle of Taranaki/ Egmont National Park, which is just twenty minutes from New Plymouth, due east on the map. The Taranaki district is on the south west coast of the North Island, about a seven hour drive from Auckland and five hours from Wellington.
Mount Taranaki sits in the North Egmont part of Egmont National Park. On a clear day, the perfectly-formed cone of the mountain is absolutely breathtaking, and can be seen from miles around.
What can you do on Mt Taranaki?
Aside from gazing at it over coffee, the most popular thing to do is hike to the Mount Taranaki summit. While it’s a challenging hike in alpine conditions, it does give non-mountaineers a chance to push their limits. Of course, there are plenty of other hikes in Egmont National Park if you prefer to drink in the views of the mighty mountain whilst going for a walk, rather than slogging it to the summit.
How long does it take to walk up Mt Taranaki?
The return hike to the Mount Taranaki summit and back is about eight to ten hours return, depending of course on fitness levels and how many snacks you stop for. So it’s a biggie, and with the steep track, it’s not for the faint-hearted. Make sure to pack plenty of carb-heavy fuel, do a bit of training and pick your adventure-buddies wisely – it’s a long day to put up with bad chat, and the going is likely to get a bit tough. There is also no water on the track, so bring at least 3 litres each. The best thing about climbing dormant volcanoes in New Zealand? It’s free. It’ll cost you in calories, though.
The reward is absolutely worth the slog, with a clear day at the summit meaning 360 degree views of New Zealand’s spectacular North Island. The track starts at the Egmont National Park Visitor Centre, winding through lowland forest of rimu, kaikawaka and kamahi trees. It then starts to climb, and after about an hour and a half, reaches Tahurangi Lodge, where there’s a small day shelter room and a longdrop toilet. Tahurangi Lodge itself is privately owned, so don’t expect any fine dining halfway up the mountain. From here, you’re in the alpine zone, with tussock-covered volcanic rock making up most of the landscape. This is where the going can get tough, with a set of steep stairs, then a scramble up slopes of rock and scree to the edge of the snow-covered volcanic cone.
There’s a wee bit of hiking to go from here, across the crater ice, before reaching the summit. Drink in the views and give yourself a hearty pat on the back, but because of the spiritual significance of the place, hikers are asked not to stand directly on the summit itself. They’re also asked not to litter, camp or cook up there. To turn your trip into an overnight backcountry adventure, Syme Hut on top of Fanthams Peak (on the slopes of Mount Taranaki) is arguably one of the best places to rest your head in New Zealand, and arguably the world. This near to the summit, the sunsets are spectacular. In winter, the terrain is covered with snow and you’ll need mountaineering experience.
The start of the main Mount Taranaki route is located at the end of North Egmont road in the northern part of Egmont National Park, but parking is limited in summer, so we’d recommend sorting a shuttle from New Plymouth.
Is Mt Taranaki safe?
Lots of hikers undertake the mission to the summit, but it’s still alpine and conditions can be volatile. Just like any alpine hike in New Zealand, the weather can turn very quickly on the route, so it’s important to check the forecast before you go and be prepared with rain and wind-proof gear just incase – they may just save your life. A map is a good idea, too.
In terms of being safe from a volcanic eruption, well, we can make no guarantees, but it’s considered pretty safe by locals. It’s the last active (dormant) volcano in the chain of volcanoes which includes the Kaitake and Pouakai Ranges, Paritutu, and the Sugar Loaf Islands, and the last time it erupted was in the mid 1800’s.
It’s also worth noting that there are some pretty steep, loose rock patches as you get close to the peak, so bring your wits and concentration as well as your energy. There’s also ice year-round across the slopes of the crater.
When can you climb Mt Taranaki?
The hiking season for Mt Taranaki is between December and mid April, as for the rest of the year (and especially winter) the peak is covered in snow and ice, and is best left to the experts. That being said, summer in New Zealand can still bring some crazy storms, so make sure to check the weather forecast whenever you’re tackling it. January is probably the best time to plan your trip, with the best chance of walking in fine weather and with long days.
What’s the history of Mt Taranaki?
Mt Taranaki has left a significant mark in the history books for several reasons. Taranaki is venerated by Maori people, for whom it is considered very sacred. The mountain is woven into legend with the other volcanoes in the region – it is said that Taranaki made flirtatious advances on another pretty local hill, Pihanga. Tongariro erupted in jealousy, and Taranaki fled to the west, carving out the Whanganui River as he went.
For anyone who appreciates a bit of symmetry, Tongariro is almost completely symmetrical, with an incredibly well-defined crater which can be seen from across the region.
What else is there to do in Egmont National Park?
Egmont National Park, which is located just half an hour from New Plymouth, is a forest wonderland. It’s filled with walking trails, from gentle strolls to multi-day missions, as well as the Mount Taranaki summit hike. In winter, there’s a ski field run by the Stratford Mountain Club, which is private but open to visitors. The ski field is called Manganui Ski Club, and to make enquiries, contact the New Plymouth-based Stratford Mountain Club.
What are some hikes in Egmont National Park?
Some other hikes include the fifteen minute stroll along the Kamahi track, to the three-day Pouakai circuit. The Pouakai Circuit is a loop track which starts at the North Egmont Visitor Centre, ascends through low lying native forest, before the trees give way to alpine tussock, rewarding with gorgeous views of Mount Taranaki.
Dawson Falls is also a great option. Dawson Falls refers to an area of the park which includes a bunch of walking tracks on Mount Taranaki, as well as the 18 metre high waterfall itself. Each track is a different length, ranging from an hour to a full day. Try the moderate difficulty track from Dawson Falls up to Stratford Plateau, the return loop taking about four hours.
What is New Plymouth like?
Aside from being a fantastic vantage point for the symmetrical backdrop of Mount Taranaki, New Plymouth is up and coming as one of the North Island’s coolest cities. The towns spot alongside a gorgeous coastline, proximity to the national park and growing arts scene are putting the ‘Naki (as it’s known around these ways) on the map.
When it comes to surfing, New Plymouth offers a whole stretch of coast with waves for both beginners and experts . The food and coffee scene is thriving, and there’s a certain hipster vibe in the air – Wellington, watch out. To soak hiked out muscles, the Todd Energy aquatic centre has pools aplenty, from spa pools to lap pools.
How long is the boardwalk in New Plymouth?
The award-winning Coastal Walkway is over 13kms long. Grab a map, pop on your running shoes and wander the sea shore. It runs to the north and south of town.
What happens at the Len Lye Centre ?
The Len Lye Centre is part of the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, and is home to experimental film and kinetic art. It runs various exhibitions, shows and events throughout the year. The Govett-Brewster Art Gallery also houses an extensive collection from famous artists such as Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock and Christo & Jeanne Claude.
So, if you’re looking for a challenging hike just a stone’s throw away from a bustling art’s scene, you may have just found mecca. Climbing Mount Taranaki won’t be something you’ll forget in a hurry, and neither will recovering and refueling in quirky, charming New Plymouth.