Curtis Falls

Egmont National Park, North Island, New Zealand

About Curtis Falls


Hiking Distance: 4.8km round trip
Suggested Time: 2.5 hours

Date first visited: 2010-01-07
Date last visited: 2010-01-07

Waterfall Latitude: -39.30005
Waterfall Longitude: 174.10583

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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.

Curtis_Falls_038_01062010 - Curtis Falls
Curtis Falls

Unfortunately with the changing weather situation on the slopes of Mt Taranaki, we couldn’t take chances with Bells Falls and we ultimately decided on doing Curtis.

Besides, it also gave us a chance at exploring the easterly face of the conical 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.

Hiking the Curtis Falls – Undulating through two gullies

We began our hike from a well-signed car park near the so-called Mountain House (see directions below).

Curtis_Falls_002_01062010 - Signs near the car park where we started our hike to Curtis Falls
Signs near the car park where we started our hike to Curtis Falls

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.

In any case, small black flies were swarming us, but fortunately they didn’t seem to bite (unlike the reviled sandflies that we had encountered in much of Fiordland).

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.

Curtis_Falls_006_01062010 - Julie hiking within the lush terrain near the start of the track leading to Curtis Falls
Julie hiking within the lush terrain near the start of the track leading to Curtis Falls

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.

Curtis_Falls_012_01062010 - After the second climb on the track to Curtis Falls, Julie and I then had to descend this steep metal steps
After the second climb on the track to Curtis Falls, Julie and I then had to descend this steep metal steps

By this time, we had spent about 45 minutes of hiking from the trailhead to get here.

Hiking the Curtis Falls – Boulder Scrambling

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.

In fact, 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.

Curtis_Falls_014_01062010 - Julie on the boulder scramble leading to the Curtis Falls
Julie on the boulder scramble leading to the Curtis Falls

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.

From this close to Curtis Falls, we could 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.

Curtis_Falls_060_01062010 - Julie standing in front of Curtis Falls, which also provided a sense of scale
Julie standing in front of Curtis Falls, which also provided a sense of scale

That meant getting through the awkward boulder scramble, and then going up and down the trail twice before finally returning to the car park.

Was Curtis Falls Worth The Effort?

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.

However, 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).

Curtis_Falls_074_01062010 - On the return hike from Curtis Falls, we still had to endure the undulations so it was just as strenuous on the way back as on the way there
On the return hike from Curtis Falls, we still had to endure the undulations so it was just as strenuous on the way back as on the way there

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.

Personally, I still found the experience fulfilling, but it would have been nice had the conical volcano shown itself, especially when we scrambled the boulder field.

Authorities

Curtis Falls resides in Mt Egmont National Park near Stratford in the Taranaki region of North Island, New Zealand. It is administered under the jurisdiction of the Department of Conservation. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Curtis_Falls_003_01062010 - Walking towards this sign and the bush as we were about to start the hike to Curtis Falls in earnest
Curtis_Falls_004_01062010 - A sign that caught our attention pertaining to Didymo, which was apparently some kind of parasite threatening the flora on Mt Taranaki
Curtis_Falls_007_01062010 - Julie crossing the first streambed near the start of the first serious climb en route to Curtis Falls
Curtis_Falls_009_01062010 - Julie on the bush track after the first gully, which returned to the thickness of the bush en route to Curtis Falls
Curtis_Falls_010_01062010 - Julie descending towards the next gully on the Curtis Falls Track
Curtis_Falls_013_01062010 - Julie following the arrows and embarking on the boulder scramble en route to Curtis Falls
Curtis_Falls_017_01062010 - After about 10-15 minutes on the awkward boulder scramble, we finally started to see Curtis Falls way up ahead
Curtis_Falls_021_01062010 - Context of Curtis Falls as we approached it
Curtis_Falls_035_01062010 - Another look at Curtis Falls from close up
Curtis_Falls_044_01062010 - Another look from right up at the base of Curtis Falls
Curtis_Falls_067_01062010 - Direct look at the width of Curtis Falls

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We’ll describe the driving directions to the Curtis Falls Track 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.

Curtis_Falls_001_01062010 - Looking across the main road from the car park for the Curtis Falls Track towards the Mountain House
Looking across the main road from the car park for the Curtis Falls Track towards 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.

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

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Tagged with: egmont, national park, stratford, taranaki, north island, new zealand, waterfall, new plymouth, mountain house, curtis creek



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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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