Lake Taupo is known for an array of water sports, but it’s also one of the best places for hiking on the North Island of New Zealand. For one of the prime vistas of Lake Taupo, the steep trek up Mt. Tauhara offers panoramic views of the Taupo lakeshore and the surrounding mountains of the Central Plateau.
The 90-minute climb to the summit is short but steep. What begins as a trail through a grove of beech forest quickly turns to pastureland, and eventually terminates with sweeping views of the central plains of the North Island. To the south, the snow-capped peaks of Mt. Ruapehu and Mt. Ngauruhoe rise from Tongariro National Park, and Lake Taupo shimmers amid the North Island plains. Looking north, the view on a clear day can stretch all the way out to the beaches of the Bay of Plenty, where the volcanic peak of White Island rests on the northern horizon.
The walk back down is short but equally steep. If your legs feel like mush at the bottom of the trail, you can soothe sore muscles with a relaxing soak in one of Taupo’s natural thermal pools.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Hikers should be in fairly good shape for the climb to up Mt. Tauhara.
- The entire hiking track crosses private land, and signage asks visitors to respect the environment.
- Come prepared for changes in temperature. Bring water and suitable clothing for all weather conditions.
- Bring binoculars for birdwatching: wood pigeons, fantails, and tuis inhabit the area above treeline.
- There is no wheelchair access and there are no toilets available.
How to Get There
Mt. Tauhara is located about 20 minutes from downtown Taupo. To find the trailhead, travel east toward Napier on State Highway 5 before making a left on Mountain Road. Follow Mountain Road all the way to the end to the parking lot. Then continue on foot along a short, unpaved road before the trail climbs over a fence and into the grassy cow pasture. Follow signs up the hill from here.
When to Get There
In wintertime, you’ll snow on the peak of Mt. Tauhara, and the trail can be slippery, wet, or muddy, especially during rainy months. Even in warm weather, temperatures and conditions can change quickly. Clear days are your best bet for experiencing the views and lingering at the summit for photo ops, but be prepared for cold winds at any time of year.
Mt. Tongariro vs. Mt. Tauhara
At an elevation of 3,570 feet (1,088 meters), this dormant stratovolcano is a shorter alternative to the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. While the trail isn’t as well-groomed as New Zealand’s most popular hike in the UNESCO dual World Heritage Area, the silence, water views, and absence of crowds create the perfect day trip from Lake Taupo.