Curtis Falls

Egmont National Park / Stratford District, Taranaki Region (North Island), New Zealand

Rating: 1     Difficulty: 3.5
Curtis Falls

TABLE OF CONTENTS



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INTRODUCTION

Curtis Falls was a diminutive waterfall (we're guessing it's about 5-8m tall) that Julie and I had some extra time to explore while we were spending a couple nights in New Plymouth. We had a choice between visiting this waterfall or attempting the longer and more physically demanding trek to the much bigger Bells Falls. Unfortunately with the changing weather situation, we couldn't take chances with Bells Falls and we ultimately decided on doing Curtis as it also gave us a chance at exploring the easterly face of Mt Taranaki. It would turn out that we had to go on quite a bit of a moderately strenuous hike to even see this waterfall, but we ultimately got more intimately connected with the native flora and terrain in this part of New Zealand.

We began our hike from a well-signed car park near the so-called Mountain House (see directions below). We noticed there was some signage about some kind of parasite called "Didymo", which apparently could spread easily through New Zealand's waterways. It was the first time that we saw something like this in our travels throughout the country, and we wondered if it was only an issue on the slopes of Mt Taranaki. We were also swarmed with small black flies that fortunately weren't the biting types (like the reviled sandflies that we had encountered in much of Fiordland).

Julie on the boulder scramble to Curtis Falls Anyhow, the trail initially descended down to Curtis Creek before we then embarked on a pretty long and persistent climb up a combination of steps and slopes. Along this long stretch of bush tramping, we noticed some traps for stoats or other pests that preyed on endemic wildlife such as the flightless kiwis. The traps seemed to contain broken eggs with spilled yolk as bait. The trail then descended down into another gully before climbing once again. After the apex of the second climb, the trail then descended to a bouldery stream on which Curtis Falls resided. By this time, we had spent about 45 minutes of hiking from the trailhead to get here.

Next, Julie and I then had to do some awkward boulder scrambling alongside and within Curtis Creek. We could see Mt Taranaki barely and briefly showing itself through the thick cloud cover, and I'd imagine that on a finer day, this would be a particularly scenic part of the hike where the tip of Mt Taranaki would loom above us as we'd be struggling through the boulder field. After another 15 minutes of this boulder scramble with a couple of stream crossings, we'd finally see the three segmented parallel drops of Curtis Falls across its wide span further ahead of us. After a few minutes more of navigating through the boulder field, we ended the hike standing right up against the falls, where we closely examine the hard rock underlying the falls as well as the moss growing from the moisture of Curtis Creek.

After having our fill of Curtis Falls, we then had to go through the same obstacles that we endured to get here. That meant getting through the awkward boulder scramble, and then going up and down the trail twice before finally returning to the car park. Overall, we had spent about 2.5 hours away from the car. It seemed like we went through a lot of trouble for such a small waterfall, but we learned that there was a contrast between busy and popular attractions (usually for bigger waterfalls) and quiet and peaceful attractions (usually for the more obscure smaller waterfalls). Clearly, Curtis Falls belonged to the latter category.

I'd imagine that the trouble it took to do this hike would have been more offset by the scenic allure of Mt Taranaki under better weather conditions than when we did it, which wasn't that bad but it would have been nice had the conical volcano shown itself.




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PHOTO JOURNAL

This was the view of Mt Taranaki from its northern slopes near New Plymouth. Curtis Falls was more on the southeastern slopes of this mountainThis was the view of Mt Taranaki from its northern slopes near New Plymouth. Curtis Falls was more on the southeastern slopes of this mountain
Back in November 2004, after leaving Stratford, we made a quick detour to see Waverley Beach and the Waverley Arch. It was very peaceful and calm as Julie and I were the only ones here at the timeBack in November 2004, after leaving Stratford, we made a quick detour to see Waverley Beach and the Waverley Arch. It was very peaceful and calm as Julie and I were the only ones here at the time
On our second visit to the Taranaki area of New Zealand in January 2010, we checked out the Festival of Lights in New Plymouth (where we were staying), which was a really neat experienceOn our second visit to the Taranaki area of New Zealand in January 2010, we checked out the Festival of Lights in New Plymouth (where we were staying), which was a really neat experience
At the end of the day when we did the Curtis Falls hike, we relaxed with a bit of a stroll along the shores within the town of New PlymouthAt the end of the day when we did the Curtis Falls hike, we relaxed with a bit of a stroll along the shores within the town of New Plymouth
At the car park for Curtis Falls near the Mountain HouseAt the car park for the falls near the Mountain House

A sign that caught our attention pertaining to DidymoA sign that caught our attention pertaining to Didymo

Julie on the bush walk towards Curtis FallsJulie on the bush walk towards the falls

Julie crossing the first streambed near the start of the hikeJulie crossing the first streambed near the start of the hike

Julie on the bush track after the first gullyJulie on the bush track after the first gully. Notice how lush the surroundings were, especially the moss growing on the trees, which hinted to us just how rainy it tends to get here.

Julie descending towards the next gullyJulie descending towards the next gully

Julie going down a steep metal grate stepJulie going down a steep metal grate step

Julie following the arrows and embarking on the boulder scramble to Curtis FallsJulie following the arrows and embarking on the boulder scramble to the falls

After about 10-15 minutes on the awkward boulder scramble, we finally started to see Curtis FallsAfter about 10-15 minutes on the awkward boulder scramble, we finally started to see the falls

Context of Curtis Falls as we approached itContext of the falls as we approached it

Another look at Curtis Falls from close upAnother look at the falls from close up

Julie standing before Curtis FallsJulie standing before the falls

Julie returning to the Mountain House Trailhead, but the hike back wasn't easyJulie returning to the Mountain House Trailhead, but the hike back wasn't easy


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VIDEOS OF THE FALLS


Left to right sweep of the segmented falls from right in front of it


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DRIVING DIRECTIONS

We'll describe the driving directions from New Plymouth since that was where we had based ourselves while exploring the Taranaki area. From New Plymouth, we headed south on SH3 for about 39km to its junction with Pembroke Rd in the town of Stratford (a couple of block north of the town centre). We then turned right onto Pembroke Rd and followed it for about 14.5km towards the car park right next to the Mountain House. This was where we started the hike. This drive took us around 40 minutes though I'm sure if we were staying in Stratford, it would be a significantly shorter drive.

In case you're curious, in another 3.5km further up the slope from Curtis Falls, that was where Manganui Ski Field was.

For some geographical context, New Plymouth was 241km (3 hours drive) south of Hamilton, 361km (5 hours drive) south of Auckland, and 352km (4.5 hours drive) north of Wellington.




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ITINERARIES

For more information about our itineraries involving this waterfall, check out the following links.




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MAP OF THE FALLS



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TRIP REPORTS

For more information about our experiences with this waterfall, check out the following travel stories.




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TRIP PLANNING RESOURCES




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NEARBY WATERFALLS




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