Taranaki Falls

Tongariro National Park / Ruapehu, North Island, New Zealand

About Taranaki Falls


Hiking Distance: 6km loop
Suggested Time: 2 hours loop

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

Waterfall Latitude: -39.19754
Waterfall Longitude: 175.56434

Taranaki Falls was a waterfall that flowed over an ancient lava flow, which gave rise to its 20m drop.

Situated near the three volcanoes anchoring Tongariro National Park, I got to experience the fickle weather for myself when I did this hike two-hour hike solo.

Taranaki_Falls_056_11162004 - Taranaki Falls
Taranaki Falls

It started off under some inclement weather, but then the weather changed to clearing skies just as started to reach the beautiful waterfall.

Mt Ruapehu, Mt Ngauruhoe, and Mt Tongariro were essentially like cloud magnets so it tends to rain almost every day here.

Given the bad weather and persistent cloud cover, I wasn’t able to get decent views of the famous volcanoes when I did this hike.

However, I’d imagine it would have really added to the experience under clearer skies.

Taranaki_Falls_023_11162004 - Frontal look from the base of Taranaki Falls
Frontal look from the base of Taranaki Falls

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.

The First Half of the Taranaki Falls Loop Track

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).

Therefore, I ended up starting the hike going in this direction meaning I would eventually do the hike in a clockwise loop.

Taranaki_Falls_002_11162004 - On the wide open brown tussock grasslands as I was leaving Whakapapa Village to get onto the Tongariro Northern Circuit towards Taranaki Falls
On the wide open brown tussock grasslands as I was leaving Whakapapa Village to get onto the Tongariro Northern Circuit towards Taranaki Falls

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.

Therefore, 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.

Taranaki_Falls_004_11162004 - Sign at a trail junction within a lush native forest area while walking the Taranaki Falls Loop
Sign at a trail junction within a lush native forest area while walking the Taranaki Falls Loop

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 the quintessential New Zealand bush accustomed 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.

Taranaki_Falls_013_11162004 - Looking at Taranaki Falls with some weird hexagonal table that I wasn't sure what it was for
Looking at Taranaki Falls with some weird hexagonal table that I wasn’t sure what it was for

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 waterfall.

Around the plunge pool, the waterfall produced a lot of spray as a result of its recent injection of water from the bad weather.

As I had my fill of this close-up perspective of Taranaki Falls, I then walked up a few switchbacks.

Taranaki_Falls_040_11162004 - Looking back at Taranaki Falls from a rest bench while ascending switchbacks leading up to the Tongariro Northern Circuit
Looking back at Taranaki Falls from a rest bench while ascending switchbacks leading up to the Tongariro Northern Circuit

One of the switchbacks had a well-positioned bench along with a nice view back at Taranaki Falls.

Ultimately the track rejoined the Tongariro Northern Circuit at the top of the climb.

As the sign predicted, it took me a little over an hour to get to this point from where I started.

I made a couple of short detours on both sides of the bridge over the Wairere Stream to get a good top down look over Taranaki Falls.

The Second Half of the Taranaki Falls Loop Track

Taranaki_Falls_064_11162004 - Looking over the top of Taranaki Falls towards the meandering Wairere Stream making its way along the fringes of bush on one side and open terrain on the other
Looking over the top of Taranaki Falls towards the meandering Wairere Stream making its way along the fringes of bush on one side and open terrain on the other

Next, I kept right and took the Tongariro Northern Circuit back to Whakapapa Village.

I was further helped along by the fact that the weather started clearing up along this stretch of the trail.

The remainder of the hike 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.

Taranaki_Falls_077_11162004 - Looking down over a stream along the way back to Whakapapa Village from Taranaki Falls to complete the circuit walk
Looking down over a stream along the way back to Whakapapa Village from Taranaki Falls to complete the circuit walk

I somehow got the feeling this stream was more a result 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…

Authorities

Taranaki Falls resides in Tongariro National Park near National Park 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.

Chateau_Tongariro_010_11182004 - I started the hike to Taranaki Falls from the Chateau Tongariro
Taranaki_Falls_003_11162004 - The circuit trail to Taranaki Falls was wet due to rain that was starting to come down harder as I got further along in the hike
Taranaki_Falls_005_11162004 - One of the miscellaneous cascades while hiking through the lush rainforest section of the track to Taranaki Falls
Taranaki_Falls_007_11162004 - The bridge over the Wairere Stream as I was leaving the lush rainforest for the open terrain near Taranaki Falls
Taranaki_Falls_008_11162004 - Another miscellaneous cascade on the Wairere Stream as I made my way closer to Taranaki Falls after having left the rainforest section of the hike
Taranaki_Falls_009_11162004 - Finally, I started to see the impressive Taranaki Falls up ahead after having hiked for a little over an hour
Taranaki_Falls_012_11162004 - Almost right up to the base of Taranaki Falls at the half-way point of the circuit hike that I did from Whakapapa Village
Taranaki_Falls_014_11162004 - The misty base of Taranaki Falls was now within reach by about an hour's hike from Whakapapa Village.  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
Taranaki_Falls_020_11162004 - Frontal look at Taranaki Falls from its misty base
Taranaki_Falls_026_11162004 - Looking back across the base of Taranaki Falls from its base before I started the ascent towards its top and the Tongariro Northern Circuit
Taranaki_Falls_041_11162004 - Looking towards some other cascade near Taranaki Falls, which I noticed during my ascent to the top of the main waterfall
Taranaki_Falls_058_11162004 - Approaching the trail junction with the Tongariro Northern Circuit near the top of Taranaki Falls at the far end of the circuit hike
Taranaki_Falls_062_11162004 - Looking across the bridge just upstream from Taranaki Falls
Taranaki_Falls_069_11162004 - Looking back towards the footbridge upstream from the top of Taranaki Falls
Taranaki_Falls_073_11162004 - Looking back at the context towards the footbridge upstream of Taranaki Falls as I was making my way back to Whakapapa Village along the Tongariro Northern Circuit
Taranaki_Falls_079_11162004 - Looking down over a gully that was draining alongside the circuit hike that I did to visit the Taranaki Falls
Taranaki_Falls_080_11162004 - Some other surprise ephemeral waterfall seen on the return hike to Whakapapa Village from Taranaki Falls
Taranaki_Falls_090_11162004 - More gentle tussock terrain as I made my way back to Whakapapa Village with the context of that ephemeral waterfall in the background
Taranaki_Falls_093_11162004 - Looking in the distance towards another small or ephemeral waterfall during my return hike from Taranaki Falls towards Whakapapa Village
Taranaki_Falls_095_11162004 - Walking alongside a stream that I wasn't sure if it was engineered for the track or if it was natural on my way back from Taranaki Falls
Taranaki_Falls_096_11162004 - Returning through a section of lush foliage as I got nearer to the Whakapapa Village near the end of my Taranaki Falls experience
Taranaki_Falls_097_11162004 - Back at the other trailhead for the long loop hike taking in Taranaki Falls as I was near the Whakapapa Village again

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From the intersection of SH47 and SH48 on the western side of Tongariro National Park, we drove up the slope on SH48 towards Whakapapa Village, where the circuit track for Taranaki Falls started and ended.

About 2.5-3km up the SH48 was 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.

We were able to find street parking in the villlage past Ngauruhoe Terrace or around the Chateau Tongariro.

The Taranaki Falls Track began and ended (the endpoints were about a block apart) from the end of the Ngauruhoe Terrace near the Skotel Alpine Resort.

For context, Whakapapa Village was about 2 hours drive (143km) north of Whanganui, which itself was about 2.5 hours drive (193km) north of Wellington. From the other direction, Whakapapa Village was about 3 hours drive (225km) south of Hamilton, which itself was about 90 minutes drive (125km) south of Auckland.

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Tagged with: tongariro, northern circuit, ruapehu, whakapapa, central plateau, north island, new zealand, waterfall, national park, manawatu, wanganui, whanganui



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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.
Read More About Johnny | A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls.