Mt Damper Falls

Stratford District / Forgotten World Highway, Taranaki Region (North Island), New Zealand

Rating: 3.5     Difficulty: 2
Mt Damper Falls

TABLE OF CONTENTS



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INTRODUCTION

Mt Damper Falls (or Mount Damper Falls if we spell it out) was a waterfall that Julie and I only became aware of when we were flipping through one of the tourist brochures we had obtained from an i-Site earlier on in the trip. Not only did the falls look attractive, but we also learned that it was said to be 74m tall (prompting some to claim that it was the tallest waterfall in the North Island; which I think was untrue due to Wairere Falls among others), and that it was the waterfalling excuse for us to explore the so-called Forgotten World Highway. Up until then, we had never anticipated seeing this waterfall and so we did not include it in our trip planning.

However, as we were waiting patiently for the weather to clear on a day we were supposed to do the Tongariro Crossing tramp, that was when we took advantage of our scheduling flexibility to spontaneously do the long full-day loop drive that encompassed the so-called Forgotten World Highway, the conical Mt Taranaki, Waverley Beach, and even the impressive Raukawa Falls as well as this waterfall. After our initial visit here in November 2004, Julie and I made a return trip to the falls five years later in January 2010, when it appeared that the falls was no longer as obscure as it once was (thanks to better signage and more sealed roads).

The gated bridge marking the change between pastures and native bush lands We would end up arriving at the trailhead for Mt Damper Falls (see directions below), where there was one other car parked at the trailhead in this seemingly out-of-the-way place. That said, it would turn out that Julie and I were on this trail alone. We began by going by a sign that indicated that Mt Damper Falls was a 20-minute walk (which we eventually figured out that they meant 20 minutes in each direction), and we promptly went onto a dirt track flanked by fences that appeared to cut through the boundaries of someone's pastures where we could hear sheep all around us.

After about 7 minutes from the trailhead, the track eventually led us to a gated fence leading to a bridge crossing over a creek. That gate was to keep the livestock from entering the reserve, where the scenery changed from rolling grassy pastures to bush lands filled with native foliage. During this section of the track, we also noticed a signposted junction indicating that there was a primitive bush track that would lead to Te Rerepahupahu Falls (some 7 hours away). I'd imagine only experienced bush walkers would be well-prepared enough to even embark on a long endeavour like that.

Eventually, the path descended towards the lookout with a direct view of Mt Damper Falls, but we also noticed a small side waterfall in a neighbouring gully. In our initial visit here, there didn't appear to be a way to get a cleaner look at the falls, but in our second visit, there was a more obvious use trail that led us to a more open look at this bonus waterfall. The descending path also afforded us some panoramic river gorge views adding to the scenic allure of this waterfall.

Once we were at the trail's end at the overlook platform, we could see how the tall plunge waterfall was swaying with the winds making Mt Damper Falls bend from time to time. At the bottom of the falls, it looked like the falls briefly fanned out before adding to its plunge pool, which didn't appear to be accessible. It seemed like the only things that changed regarding the scenery at this falls between our first and second visits was that the trail appeared to be a bit more developed (more improved lookout platforms and steps) than it was the first time even though the general track trajectory stayed the same. Indeed, Mt Damper Falls was one dramatic instance where letting Nature dictate the pace of change (even if it seemed like it didn't change much over five years) was reassuring in the sense that it was certainly the way it should be.




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PHOTO JOURNAL

It seemed like the most sensible base for visiting Mt Damper Falls would be from the Egmont National Park area featuring the conical Mt Taranaki.  This was the view from near New PlymouthIt seemed like the most sensible base for visiting Mt Damper Falls would be from the Egmont National Park area featuring the conical Mt Taranaki. This was the view from near New Plymouth
The Forgotten World Highway passed through idyllic green pastures such as this between Mt Damper Falls and StratfordThe Forgotten World Highway passed through idyllic green pastures such as this between Mt Damper Falls and Stratford
The first time Julie and I visited Mt Damper Falls was because we had to find a way to make good use of time waiting for the weather to improve for the unforgettable Tongariro Crossing trampThe first time Julie and I visited Mt Damper Falls was because we had to find a way to make good use of time waiting for the weather to improve for the unforgettable Tongariro Crossing tramp
As you can see, the otherworldly scenery gained from hiking between at least three major volcanoes was the main appeal of doing the Tongariro Alpine CrossingAs you can see, the otherworldly scenery gained from hiking between at least three major volcanoes was the main appeal of doing the Tongariro Alpine Crossing
The first time we drove the Forgotten World Hwy, we encountered this situation where we would literally be surrounded by sheepThe first time we drove the Forgotten World Hwy, we encountered this situation where we would literally be surrounded by sheep

The Moki Tunnel also known as 'The Hobbit Hole'The Moki Tunnel also known as "The Hobbit Hole"

Julie on the start of the walk to Mt Damper Falls through some farmlandJulie on the start of the walk to the falls through some farmland

Traversing through the open green pastures as we were making our way to the actual bush reserve beyond this farmlandTraversing through the open green pastures as we were making our way to the actual bush reserve beyond this farmland

Julie approaching a gated bridge marking the start of the bush walk and the end of the farmlandJulie approaching a gated bridge marking the start of the bush walk and the end of the farmland

Sign indicating that we were entering a reserve just past the gated fence and footbridgeSign indicating that we were entering a reserve just past the gated fence and footbridge

Julie getting deeper into the bush track after having passed the gated footbridgeJulie getting deeper into the bush track after having passed the gated footbridge

Julie within the bush part of the walk, which appeared to be a bit more developed in 2010 than it was in 2004Julie within the bush part of the walk, which appeared to be a bit more developed in 2010 than it was in 2004

The signposted junction of the Mt Damper Falls Track and the Te Rerepahupahu Falls TrackThe signposted junction of the Mt Damper Falls Track and the Te Rerepahupahu Falls Track

A closeup of one of those spiral ferns that seemed to be endemic to New ZealandA closeup of one of those spiral ferns that seemed to be endemic to New Zealand

Julie checking out Mt Damper Falls from the upper lookout deck that I didn't recall was there in November 2004Julie checking out the falls from the upper lookout deck that I didn't recall was there in November 2004

This was about as much of the side waterfall as we were able to see on our first visit to Mt Damper FallsThis was about as much of the side waterfall as we were able to see on our first visit to Mt Damper Falls

In January 2010, we saw a use trail (that wasn't there in our first visit) that allowed us to get this better view of the side waterfallIn January 2010, we saw a use trail (that wasn't there in our first visit) that allowed us to get this better view of the side waterfall

Looking downstream into the gorge from the Mt Damper Falls Track as it was about to make its final descent to the lookout platformLooking downstream into the gorge from the waterfall track as it was about to make its final descent to the lookout platform

Going down the wooden steps to reach the Mt Damper Falls lookout platformGoing down the wooden steps to reach the lookout platform for the falls

Julie checking out Mt Damper Falls from the lookout platformJulie checking out the falls from the lookout platform

This was the view of Mt Damper Falls from the lookout in November 2004This was the view of Mt Damper Falls from the lookout in November 2004

Mt Damper Falls in January 2010 bending with the windMt Damper Falls in January 2010 bending with the wind


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VIDEOS OF THE FALLS


Bottom to top sweep of the falls


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DRIVING DIRECTIONS

Even though we thought Mt Damper Falls seemed to be relatively out-of-the-way of most tourist itineraries, there were still many ways of getting to the trailhead. We'll describe all the different routes we managed to take to access the falls.

Perhaps the quickest way to get there involved going through a seemingly more well-signed and direct approach that didn't require going on the Forgotten World Highway. From the SH3 and SH3A junction in New Plymouth (4.5 hours drive or 361km south of Auckland), the route went east on the SH3 for about 50km to the well-signed turnoff for Mt Damper Falls at Okau Rd. Taking Okau Rd, it would lead about 26km to the car park for Mt Damper Falls. Since most of this route was sealed, I'd say this would be the most preferred approach, and it took us about 90 minutes of driving between New Plymouth and the trailhead.

In 2004, we approached the falls from the east via Taumarunui (from Tongariro National Park; Taumarunui was about 3.5 hours drive or 281km south of Auckland) so we'll begin the next route description from there. From the SH4 and SH43 junction, we went west on SH43 otherwise known as the Forgotten World Highway (which on our second visit here also became known as a "Heritage Trail"). We persisted along the winding and sheep-sharing road for about 66km (it started to get unsealed after about 39km) until we saw the signposted turnoff on our right to go onto Moki Rd, which was unsealed on our first visit (sealed on our second visit). We followed along Moki Rd for about 6km (keeping right at the main junctions), then we kept right to go onto Mangapapa Rd. We followed Mangapapa Rd for another 9km before reaching the signposted car park for Mt Damper Falls.

Finally, going in the other direction from Stratford (30 minutes drive or 40km south of New Plymouth), we headed east on SH43 through idyllic pastures and rolling green hills for about 83km. Most of the road was sealed except for the last 7km or so just past the Moki Tunnel (or "Hobbit Hole"). Then, we turned left onto Moki Rd and took it to Mangapapa Rd as described above before reaching the car park for the falls. According to my trip logs, this drive took us about 2 hours.




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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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What Other Visitors Have Said

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Mt Damper - Are there bigger "single drop" waterfalls in New Zealand? 
Regarding the Mt Damper Falls in New Zealand , Wairere is obviously taller but the locals in Taranaki claim Mt Damper to be the "longest single drop" …

Mt Damper Falls: Strange Creature and Changes.. 
Joyce and I first visited this waterfall in early March 2006. It was a showery day and we were about to return to our transport when we experienced …

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