Taranaki Falls

Tongariro National Park / Ruapehu District / near Whakapapa Village, Manawatu-Wanganui Region (North Island), New Zealand

Rating: 2.5     Difficulty: 3
Taranaki Falls
Taranaki Falls was a waterfall that I took time to do solo under some inclement weather that ultimately gave way to clearing skies just as started to reach the beautiful waterfall over an ancient lava flow. Given that this was a hike that took at least two hours, I guess I got to experience some of the fickle nature of New Zealand's weather, especially since it was said to rain almost every day at the three volcanos (Mt Ruapehu, Mt Ngauruhoe, and Mt Tongariro) that were essentially like Tongariro National Parks' cloud magnets. Given the bad weather and persistent cloud cover, I wasn't able to get decent views of the famous three volcanos while on this hike. However, I'd imagine it would have really added to the experience under clearer skies.

Since Julie and I were staying at the Chateau Tongariro at the foot of Whakapapa Village, I was able to do the entire loop hike right from the hotel. I began by walking along SH48 to the back of the accommodation, then I walked along Ngauruhoe Terrace, which was one of the side streets immediately behind the Chateau Tongariro. I walked this street for about 200m to the first trailhead that I encountered to my left (near the Skotel Alpine Resort), and I ended up starting the hike going in this direction meaning I would eventually do the hike in a clockwise loop.

Looking at Taranaki Falls with some weird hexagonal table that I wasn't sure what it was for I immediately walked onto a dirt trail that was flanked by tall tussock grasslands that would have had expansive views all around with some of Tongariro National Parks' famous volcanos rising above me. It turned out that this section of track was part of the longer Tongariro Northern Circuit, which was one of the multi-day Great Walks of New Zealand. However, it really started to rain hard by the time I got to this point in the hike so I was pretty much focused on staying on the trail, watching my step (as my vision was somewhat limited from the hood of my rain poncho), and paying attention to the signs to ensure I stayed on the correct path to Taranaki Falls.

About 30 minutes from Whakapapa Village, I reached a trail junction within the lush native forest as the scenery changed from open tussock lands to the green of quintessential New Zealand bush used to consistent rains. This junction was where I left the Tongariro Northern Circuit and proceeded onto the bush trail following the Wairere Stream (more or less) where the sign here indicated that I still had 40 minutes to go. As I continued walking through this covered part of the track, I noticed some tiny cascades here and there before I ultimately made my way out of the bush where I crossed a bridge (traversing the Wairere Stream).

After the bridge (about 25 minutes from the departure of the Tongariro Northern Circuit), the scenery was a bit rockier but it pretty much followed the Wairere Stream all the way up to Taranaki Falls. I noticed some weird infrastructure like a low hexagonal table that I wasn't sure what it was for. I ultimately found some open use trails that led right up to the boulder-fringed base of the impressive 20m waterfall, which was spraying the plunge pool area given its recent injection of water from the bad weather.

As I had my fill of this close-up perspective of the falls, I then walked up a few switchbacks (one with a well-positioned bench and a nice view back at Taranaki Falls) before ultimately reaching the top of the climb where it appeared the track I was on junctioned back with the Tongariro Northern Circuit. As the sign predicted, it took me a little over an hour to get to this point from where I started. At this point, I then kept right and took the Tongariro Northern Circuit back to Whakapapa Village, but not before making a couple of short detours on both sides of the bridge over the Wairere Stream to get a good look from the top of Taranaki Falls towards the scenery beyond. I was further helped along by the fact that the weather started clearing up when I got to this point.

The remainder of the trail was undulating gently through more open tussock grasslands with a few surprise ephemeral waterfalls seen randomly about. It seemed like with the latest injection of rain, there was a gully following along the track that seemed to flow as if it was a creek or something, but I somehow got the feeling it was more of a little bit of trail engineering than a natural stream. Eventually after nearly 2.5 hours of this moderate but pleasant bush walk through volcanic landscapes and rainforest, I was back at the other trailhead at the end of the Ngauruhoe Terrace Road. And from there, it was another 5-10 minutes or so walk back to the Chateau Tongariro and a nice hot shower...

Directions: From the intersection of SH47 and SH48 on the western side of Tongariro National Park, we drove up the slope on SH48 for about 2.5-3km to the signposted car park for Tawhai Falls on our left. Further up SH48 for another 3.6km was the Chateau Tongariro and the Whakapapa Village.




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PHOTO JOURNAL
Looking over the top of the falls towards the meandering Wairere Stream making its way along the fringes of bush on one side and open terrain on the other
Even though this photo was taken on the Tongariro Crossing two days after the Taranaki Falls hike, I'd imagine this was the type of scenery I would have seen had the weather improved
The main reason why we spent a few nights at the Chateau Tongariro was to do the Tongariro Crossing hike.  It was a good thing we were flexible because we had to wait out bad weather
I started the hike to Taranaki Falls from the Chateau TongariroI started the hike to Taranaki Falls from the Chateau Tongariro, but this photo was taken 2 days after I did the hike when the weather had finally cleared up

On the wide open brown tussock grasslands as I was leaving Whakapapa Village to get onto the Tongariro Northern Circuit towards Taranaki FallsOn the wide open brown tussock grasslands as I was leaving Whakapapa Village to get onto the Tongariro Northern Circuit towards the falls

The trail was wet due to rain that was starting to come down harder as I got further along in the hikeThe trail was wet due to rain that was starting to come down harder as I got further along in the hike

Leaving the Tongariro Northern Circuit as the track went from tussock grasslands to lush rainforestLeaving the Tongariro Northern Circuit as the track went from tussock grasslands to lush rainforest

One of the miscellaneous cascades while hiking through the lush rainforest section of the track to Taranaki FallsOne of the miscellaneous cascades while hiking through the lush rainforest section of the track to Taranaki Falls

The bridge over the Wairere Stream as I was leaving the lush rainforest for the open terrain near Taranaki FallsThe bridge over the Wairere Stream as I was leaving the lush rainforest for the open terrain near the falls

Another miscellaneous cascade on the Wairere Stream as I made my way closer to Taranaki FallsAnother miscellaneous cascade on the Wairere Stream as I made my way closer to the falls

Finally, I started to see the impressive Taranaki Falls up aheadFinally, I started to see the impressive waterfall up ahead

Almost right up to the base of Taranaki FallsAlmost right up to the base of the falls

The misty base of Taranaki Falls was now within reach.  Notice how some of the flanking volcanic cliffs were showing red, which indicated there must be some rust or iron in the composition of the lava that made up the cliff in the first placeThe misty base of the falls was now within reach. Notice how some of the flanking volcanic cliffs were showing red, which indicated there must be some rust or iron in the composition of the lava that made up the cliff in the first place

View of Taranaki Falls with an inviting bench to admire the sceneView of the waterfall with an inviting bench to admire the scene

Looking towards some other cascade near Taranaki FallsLooking towards some other cascade near Taranaki Falls

Approaching the trail junction with the Tongariro Northern Circuit near Taranaki FallsApproaching the trail junction with the Tongariro Northern Circuit near the falls

The bridge just upstream from Taranaki FallsThe bridge just upstream from the falls

Looking back towards the footbridge above Taranaki Falls from the top of Taranaki FallsLooking back towards the footbridge above the falls from its top

Looking back towards the footbridge upstream of Taranaki Falls as I was making my way back to Whakapapa Village along the Tongariro Northern CircuitLooking back towards the footbridge upstream of Taranaki Falls as I was making my way back to Whakapapa Village

Looking downstream along some small ephemeral stream towards the open terrain further downslope of the Tongariro Northern CircuitLooking downstream along some small ephemeral stream towards the open terrain further downslope of the Tongariro Northern Circuit

Some other surprise ephemeral waterfall seen on the return hike to Whakapapa Village from Taranaki FallsSome other surprise ephemeral waterfall seen on the return hike to Whakapapa Village from Taranaki Falls

More gentle tussock terrain as I made my way back to Whakapapa VillageMore gentle tussock terrain as I made my way back to Whakapapa Village

Walking alongside a stream that I wasn't sure if it was engineered for the track or if it was naturalWalking alongside a stream that I wasn't sure if it was engineered for the track or if it was natural

Returning through a section of lush foliage as I got nearer to the Whakapapa VillageReturning through a section of lush foliage as I got nearer to the Whakapapa Village

Back at the other trailhead for the long loop hike taking in Taranaki FallsBack at the other trailhead for the long loop hike taking in the falls


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