The Tama Lakes are two small, picturesque crater lakes located on the western side of the Tongariro National Park in New Zealand’s North Island. The lakes are situated near the base of Mount Ngauruhoe, which is a prominent volcanic peak and one of the most recognizable landmarks in the region. You can admire the lakes from up close along the 17.6 km Tama Lakes track which takes an average of 6 to 8 hours to complete. The trail to the Tama Lakes is well marked and winds through a variety of stunning landscapes, including lush forests, rugged volcanic terrain, and golden tussock meadows. Find in our complete guide everything you need to know about the Tama Lakes walk to be well prepared!
How to get to Tama Lakes Track
The trailhead of Tama Lakes Track is located in Whakapapa Village at the end of Ngauruhoe Terrace street behind the Whakapapa Chateau. There is plenty of parking available, however respect the parking of the hotel there which is only available for guests.
You will see the sign of the trailhead clearly which is also the start point of Taranaki Falls walk and the Tongariro Northern Circuit.
Tama Lakes Track key facts
Before we dive into the details about the Tama Lakes track, let’s first have a look at the key facts of the trail so you’re well prepared!
Tama Lakes walk distance and duration: The 17.4 kilometre return track takes about 5 to 7 hours to complete.
Tama Lakes walk difficulty and incline: With about 540 meter elevation gain along the Tama Lakes Track, the hike is considered moderately difficult with some slippery loose rocks. The last part to get to the upper lake is a bit of a scramble, but overall it’s a really nice, well maintained trail.
Best time to hike Tama Lakes
Generally the best time to hike to Tama Lakes is in the summer months. You’ll then have the best chance of clear skies when the weather is generally mild and dry. The summer season in New Zealand runs from December to February with temperatures ranging from 15-25°C (59-77°F) in the daytime. However, spring and autumn can be great months too for the Tama Lakes track. But clouds could be more obstructing the view.
In the winter months the trail can be affected by snow and ice, which makes the trek more difficult and hazardous. The Tama Lakes are located in an alpine environment, so weather conditions can be unpredictable in any season and can change rapidly. Before leaving for a hike in Tongariro National Park you can always ask the National Park visitor centre about the current status of the hike. And make sure to prepare yourself with appropriate clothing. Wear layers, hiking boots, eventually bring hiking poles, enough water, food and equipment for a range of weather conditions.
What to expect along the Tama Lakes Track
The Tama Lakes Track is a wonderful hike through undulating tussock country. With a variety of beech forest, sub-alpine vistas, snow covered mountains, towering volcanos and deep blue crater lakes, the Tama Lakes track have it all. It’s a fantastic alternative for the (way) more popular and busy Tongariro Alpine crossing. So if you like to hike in fewer crowds just like we do, then the Tama Lakes Track is for you!
The hike starts along a well maintained gravel path through tussock grass with stunning views on Mount Ngauruhoe and Mount Ruapehu. With a gradual incline you won’t notice much of the elevation gain as you make your way through this impressive landscape. There are plenty of vantage points along the way. We stopped a few times to take in these stunning views of the mountains and volcanos we were surrounded with.
The Wairere Stream flows through the landscape which you will cross at a certain point via a bridge. This is a great spot for a short break before you continue the more uphill part of the track. There are some rocks where you can sit down and take in the incredible views for a moment.
Combining the Tama Lakes Track with Taranaki Falls
Because the Tama Lakes Track is also part of the Taranaki Falls loop track, you can either visit the waterfall on your way up or down. Depending which route you take because it’s a loop. We choose to visit the falls on our way back. Mainly because the light on the waterfall would be a bit better. But also because we choose to hike to the Tama Lakes via the lower track of the Taranaki Falls loop. This meant we could hike back via the upper track and see the waterfall at the right time.
So after you’ve crossed the bridge you’ll have to go to the right following the sign towards Lower Tama Lake. The sign pointing towards the left goes back to Whakapapa Village and takes you along the Taranaki Falls. This path also connects with the Tongariro crossing trail so you might see some people with big backpacks heading to do this amazing hike.
Continuing to the Tama Lakes
From this part on the track becomes a bit steeper for the next 1.5 km until you reach the next flat area. We loved the incredible views of Mount Ruapehu and Mount Ngauruhoe while making our way up the well-maintained track. To get the best views of this landscape it really is so important to pick a clear day! Otherwise the mountains will be covered in clouds which makes the whole experience a bit less impressive.
When you get to the lower Tama Lakes it is time for a little break. Mount Ruapehu is beautifully aligned with the lake and makes a great photo spot. However, from this part it is only 1.5km further to get to the upper Tama Lake which is without a doubt the cherry on the cake!
Although this is not the ‘official’ trail anymore and there are no signs, you will see a worn path. Follow this trail until you can see the lake on your left hand side. Hiking up to the upper Tama Lake is along a bit rougher trail with loose rocks, so make sure to wear sturdy hiking boots to have enough grip! The views from this point are super impressive and definitely worth the extra climb!
The Upper Tama Lake is a true beauty!
How to get around in New Zealand
To experience New Zealand to the fullest and at your own pace, renting a car, campervan or motorhome is the best way to get around. Which one of these options you choose depends on your preference and budget. If you love camping, being outdoors all day and you don’t mind a smaller living space, then renting a camper van is the way to go. It also gives you the freedom to sleep at some of the most beautiful camping spots. But for some of them you’ll have to make a reservation and plan your trip accordingly. The same goes for a motorhome which is bigger than a campervan and fits about 4-6 people. Here’s what you need to know about renting a car, camper van or motorhome in New Zealand.
Car rental New Zealand
Renting a car in New Zealand is the easiest and cheapest rental vehicle available. It will get you to all the best destinations with ease and gives you the freedom to stop for a break wherever you want. However, you should keep in mind that some roads in New Zealand are gravel. Or that you have to cross shallow rivers to some destinations in National Parks. Therefore we personally recommend a mini SUV or SUV model to have enough clearance for these kind of roads.
The best place to book your rental car in New Zealand is on Discover Cars where you can compare different car models, prices, companies and terms and conditions. Make sure to secure the booking of your rental car as soon as possible to have the lowest price possible. Prices go up the closer you get to the pick up date.
Campervan rental in New Zealand
Traveling around in a campervan is one of the most popular ways for a roadtrip in New Zealand. With a bed, small kitchen and seating area you will have all the (basic) needs on four wheels. A campervan allows you to camp at plenty of beautiful places, sometimes for free, sometimes for a fee. It will you give you a true feeling of freedom and connects you with nature.
We personally recommend to book your campervan with Travellers Autobarn as they have a wide range of Stationwagons, 2-berth campervans & 3-5 berth campervans to hire for all budgets. All Travellers Autobarn campervan hires in New Zealand come with free unlimited kilometers, 10% discount to premium campgrounds, 24/7 road side assistance & long term rental discounts. Check the availability and prices today to secure your campervan for a New Zealand dream roadtrip!
More New Zealand travel guides
I hope you enjoyed this complete guide about the Tama Lakes track on the North Island of New Zealand. Make sure to put this awesome walk on your New Zealand North Island itinerary!
There are many amazing other things to do and places to visit on the North Island of New Zealand. So if you’re looking for more inspiration and ideas, head over to our other New Zealand travel guides!