Mangawhero Falls was a waterfall that Julie and I were made aware of during our pre-trip planning to New Zealand when we were watching some of the DVD extras in the Lord of the Rings pertaining to some filming locations. Apparently, in The Two Towers, the falls was the location of the Forbidden Pool, where Gollum was caught by Faramir (with a little guilty deception from Frodo). There was quite a bit of CGI and it was hard to tell how much of a resemblance the waterfall was to the cameo it made in the movie, but one thing was for certain – we were glad the movie helped to bring us to this site as we were treated to a pleasant 25m tall plunge waterfall on the slopes of Mt Ruapehu in Tongariro National Park.
Actually, the visit to the falls was pretty straightforward. From the signed car park (see directions below), it was only a short 150m walk to the overlook yielding the view you see pictured at the top of this page. Since we were at the top of the crumbly cliffs looking across from the grotto right towards the falls, it didn’t look like there was a sanctioned way of getting down to the base of the waterfall and its plunge pool (aka “The Forbidden Pool”). So our visit was brief (no more than 20 minutes), and most of that time was spent just chilling out at the overlook checking out both the falls and the expanse downslope.
Since we had timed our visit to be in November, Mangawhero Falls had a pretty healthy flow as the waters were freefalling into its rocky grotto below. The spray from the crashing action of the water certainly must have helped to create the deep recess behind it in a typical process of waterfall formation, and from the size of that recess, it seemed like this must be a pretty old waterfall. That said, I’ve seen pictures in the literature where the falls wasn’t doing so well later in the season so undoubtedly the source of the falls was snow melt, and the highest likelihood of seeing it with healthy flow would be during the Spring runoff.
From the intersection of SH49 and Goldfinch St in the centre of Ohakune, we headed north on Goldfinch St, which passed through town (assuming other street names like Mangawhero Terrace along the way), then eventually became Ohakune Mountain Road. The signposted car park was on our right after about 15km from the Goldfinch St and SH49 intersection.
Note that the car park for Waitonga Falls was about 1.4km before the Mangawhero Falls car park; also on the east side of Ohakune Mountain Road.
For reference, we drove from Turangi to Ohakune via the Desert Rd (SH1) to Waiouru, then on the SH49 to Ohakune. This drive was about 94km long. Turangi was about 50km south of Taupo. Taupo was nearly 3.5 hours drive (278km) south of Auckland. In the other direction, Ohakune was about 100km north of Wanganui.
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