Mt. Taranaki is an extremely impressive and beautiful volcano, located in the otherwise very flat western part of the North Island. The mountain reaches a hight of 2500m above sea level wich means that there even is a small permanent snow field in the crater.
After getting all the necessary information at the North Egmont Visitor Center the evening beforehand, we started out tramp just as the sun was rising on the horizon. Sadly we missed most of the sunrise though as the upper route was closed due to a landslide. This meant that we headed downhill and into a thick and certainly very old forest.
After quite a lot of up and downhill we reconnected with the main trail about 2 hours later. After hiking on a steep and mostly overgrown track we were delighted by the very gradual and well maintained main track.
We had lunch at Kahui hut were met a young hunter staying there with two adorable dogs. He was part of a group of Department of Conservation hunters who are trying to eradicate goats in Egmont National Park. Goats apparently are a pest for the native environment. According to the hunter we met, they estimate that they are a few dozen goats left in the 341 square kilometers park.
The trail deteriorated in the afternoon with big parts being mostly overgrown and in generally bad condition. One part was along a rock field at the bottom of a valley, but at least it was easy to follow the trail. After hiking for about 10 hours in total, we arrived at Waiaua Gorge Hut were we stayed for the night.
Throughout the night a strong wind had picked up resulting in heavy gusts being persistent as we started hiking on our second day. We were faced with a steep uphill on top of a crest. Luckily the trees gave us cover from the wind but stretches of the trail were very moody and therefore slippery. I was definitely relieved that it hadn’t rained the night before.
The uphill led us to any open ridge where we were completely exposed to wind, resulting in a couple of rather sketchy kilometers. The trail was thin and most of the time right next to a steep downhill. This was made worse by high grass being pushed over the trail by the wind, often resulting in us barley being able to see the trail.
Luckily we made it across the open area without any major trouble and we connected with a trail going more or less straight down towards South Egmont Visitors Center. While we were now save from the wind, the hike down to the visitor center was probably the most painful one. We descended around 500m on just plain stairs. Something my knees remembered for quite a few day.
After a long and rejuvenating lunch at the visitor center we only had to the short 2.5 hour hike back to the northern visitor center. It wasn’t necessary a long day, but it was for sure a hard one. We were more then ready for a good nights sleep.
This trail is definitely a hard hike. Big parts of the trail are very overgrown. Steep sections are often muddy and therefore very slippery. Combined with the sketchy ridge this hike is not for complete beginners. Though, for anyone looking for adventure this trail combines a beautiful old forest with staggering views of Mt. Taranaki. I certainly enjoyed it!
Day 3: Summit
We woke up to beautiful weather. According to the local rangers we probably picked one of the best days of the season for the summit of Mt. Taranaki. The route to the top and back down probably takes around 6-8 hours and is a pretty strenuous hike
While it does start with a (rather steep) dirt road and some stairs the trail deteriorates quickly becoming nothing more then a designated route after a while. Around a third of the uphill is on very loose gravel that is completely without a trail resulting in constant slipping and sliding. Once that section is completed it is basically a rock scramble for the remaining 500 meters of elevation to the crater.
Once the small snowfield in the crater is traversed a mini version of the previous uphill is repeated for the last small bit to the summit: Loose gravel followed by some rock scrambles.
While climbing the 1500m to reach the summit of Mt Taranaki was definitely hard and to a certain extent frustrating it was well worth it once we reached the top. The views were just stunning: No clouds could be spotted for 100s of kilometers. Apart from the whole Taranako region we were able to see Tongariro National Park and even the Southern Alps appeared om the horizon. Standing on such an isolated mountain was an experience I’ll most certainly wont forget and what made this trip well worth it.