Mangawhero Falls

Tongariro National Park / Ruapehu, North Island, New Zealand

About Mangawhero Falls

Hiking Distance: 300m round trip
Suggested Time: 10 minutes

Date first visited: 2004-11-17
Date last visited: 2004-11-17

Waterfall Latitude: -39.31999
Waterfall Longitude: 175.50223

Waterfall Safety and Common Sense

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.

Those extras pertained to some filming locations, and apparently, in The Two Towers, the falls was the location of the Forbidden Pool.

Mangawhero_Falls_012_11162004 - Mangawhero Falls
Mangawhero Falls

This was 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.

Nevertheless, we were glad that 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.

Accessing Mangawhero Falls

Actually, the visit to the Mangawhero Falls was pretty straightforward.

Mangawhero_Falls_021_11162004 - Approaching the lookout for Mangawhero Falls
Approaching the lookout for Mangawhero Falls

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.

The lookout was perched at the top of the crumbly cliffs looking across from the grotto right towards the falls.

However, 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.

Mangawhero_Falls_025_11162004 - Around the Mangawhero Falls Lookout, we noticed some other waterfalls in the area though they were harder to see
Around the Mangawhero Falls Lookout, we noticed some other waterfalls in the area though they were harder to see

Since we had timed our visit to be in November, Mangawhero Falls had a pretty healthy flow as the waters were free falling 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.

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.

Mangawhero_Falls_027_11162004 - Looking downstream and downslope from the Mangawhero Falls Lookout
Looking downstream and downslope from the Mangawhero Falls Lookout

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.


Mangawhero Falls resides in Tongariro National Park near Ohakune in the Central North Island region of 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.

Tongariro_Desert_Road_003_11162004 - On our way to Ohakune from Turangi, we took the Desert Road towards Ohakune, which seemed true to its name
Ohakune_Mtn_Rd_007_11162004 - We noticed this attractive waterfall from the road somewhere between the car park for Waitonga Falls and the car park for Mangawhero Falls
Mangawhero_Falls_002_11162004 - Looking further uphill along the Ohakune Mountain Road from the car park for Mangawhero Falls
Mangawhero_Falls_006_11162004 - While we were walking to Mangawhero Falls, we noticed this other mostly hidden waterfall tucked away in the bush further downstream
Mangawhero_Falls_018_11162004 - View of Mangawhero Falls from the lookout for it
Mangawhero_Falls_026_11162004 - Context of the downstream view from the Mangawhero Falls Lookout with some side ephemeral waterfall hiding in the bush in the distance

We drove to Mangawhero Falls as it was upslope on the slopes of Mt Ruapehu from Ohakune.

From the intersection of SH49 and Goldfinch St in the centre of Ohakune, we headed north on Goldfinch St.

This street passed through town (assuming other street names like Mangawhero Terrace along the way), then eventually became Ohakune Mountain Road.

Mangawhero_Falls_001_11162004 - The car park for Mangawhero Falls
The car park for Mangawhero Falls

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, which was 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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Tagged with: tongariro, ohakune, ruapehu, manawatu, wanganui, lord of the rings, two towers, gollum, forbidden pool, central plateau, north island, new zealand, waterfall, whanganui, turoa

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Cold doesn’t even begin to describe it (Mangawhero Falls) November 3, 2008 11:28 am by Kendy - August of 2007, my dad and I took a short trip to NZ, which I've always wanted to do. We were the only ones booked on the trip around lake Taupo and Tongiriro park that day. This was one of our stops. I do happen to be a Lord of the Rings fan, and I… ...Read More

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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of the award-winning 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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