The Taranaki Falls is a stunning 20-meter-high waterfall that cascades over a volcanic rock face. Located in Tongariro National Park New Zealand, you can reach the Taranaki Falls via a 6 kilometers loop track which takes about 2-3 hours to complete. The walk is beautiful along golden tussock meadows with views on Mount Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe volcano. You will walk along rugged volcanic terrain and through lush forest which makes the Taranaki Falls Loop walk a varied but fun and easy day hike.
Because the Taranaki Falls walk is also part of the Tama Lakes Track you can extend the hike to these picturesque crater lakes. Find in our complete guide everything you need to know about the Taranaki Falls. From the best time to visit, what to expect along the trail and more!
How to get to Taranaki Falls Walk Trailhead
The trailhead of Taranaki Falls Walk is located at the end of Ngauruhoe Terrace which is located in Whakapapa Village. Here you will see the beautiful Chateau Tongariro which is unfortunately permanently closed due to safety standards after seismic assessments.
Because the Taranaki Falls walk is a loop track, you can either start the trail clockwise or anti clockwise. Both have a different trailhead and parking. But there’s only 200 meters in between them so you don’t have to backtrack for too long. If you decide to walk the clockwise route, you can park along the main highway which has plenty of parking. Starting the trail counterclockwise you can park at a smaller parking lot near Skotel Alpine Resort. However, respect the private parking of the hotel which is only available for guests.
You will see the sign of the trailhead clearly which is also the start point of Tama Lakes walk and the Tongariro Northern Circuit. In peak season the parking can be busy with hikers attending the Tongariro Crossing.
Taranaki Falls walk key facts
Before we dive into the details about the Taranaki Falls Loop walk, let’s first have a look at the key facts of the trail so you’re well prepared!
Taranaki Falls track distance and duration: The Taranaki Falls walk is a 6 km loop track that takes about 2 hours to complete. But the best is to have 2-3 hours so you can spend some time relaxing at the falls and taking in the beautiful scenery along the way.
Taranaki Falls track difficulty and incline: With only 150 meters of incline the Taranaki Falls walk is an easy day walk. The path is very well maintained and a great family-friendly activity.
What is the best time to do the Taranaki Falls walk?
The best time to hike the Taranaki Falls walk depends on a few factors. Because Tongariro National Park gets snow during the winter months, you’ll want to plan this hike during the spring, summer or autumn months. Because the trail is mostly exposed there isn’t much natural shade, only in the forest. So if it’s a hot summer day, you might want to protect yourself with sunscreen, sunglasses and eventually a hat.
Regarding the best time of the day, I would advise you to go in the morning. Not only to beat the crowds but also because the position of the sun is then at its best. On a nice sunny day, you might even see a rainbow appear at the bottom of the falls which is truly magical!
What to expect along the Taranaki Falls walk
Because the Taranaki Falls walk is a loop track, you can decide if you want to do the walk either clockwise or counterclockwise. Both offer amazing views but starting clockwise you will have to climb a bit more stairs up in that direction. Anti-clockwise is a more gradual incline along a gravel path.
From both ways you’ll have stunning views of Mount Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe volcano, so there isn’t a clear winner in which way is the best to go. It doesn’t differ too much so just choose what feels the best for you! We did the Taranaki Falls walk anti-clockwise and found it a very easy walk this way. Taking the stairs down instead of up was a nice little extra energy saver.
Both ways the track starts between tussock grass before you go into the forest for a few hundred meters. 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.
The Taranaki Falls lookout
Once you’ve crossed the last bridge you will see a sign pointing to the Lower Tama Lake to the right and Whakapapa Village to the left. If you do the track clockwise you will also cross a bridge before getting to the Taranaki Falls lookout, but you will then only see this sign later on when getting back via the lower track.
The lookout point on the waterfall is right along the trail and you will find several benches where you can take a break and enjoy your lunch or a snack.
You can also get down to the falls if you want to explore them from a bit closer. Be careful though, you will have to navigate over some boulders.
Continuing to the Tama Lakes track
When you’ve got plenty of time and energy left, we highly recommend extending the Taranaki Falls walk to the Tama Lakes. These picturesque crater lakes are about 4 -5 kilometres farther located than the Taranaki Falls. The path is also very well maintained with a little bit of scrambling the last meters to the Upper Tama Lake. One important thing I’d like to notice is to only do the Tama Lakes track with good weather, as the volcano will be otherwise not visible. Also, the vibrant blue color of the lake will be less visible on cloudy days than on a beautiful sunny day.
Taranaki Falls history and fun facts
The Taranaki Falls were formed by volcanic activity, which began around 250,000 years ago. Over time, the volcanic activity created a series of mountains and valleys, including the Tongariro National Park, where the falls are located.
The falls were first seen by European explorers in the 1800s. About 90 years later the area was designated as a national park in 1894, making it one of the oldest national parks in New Zealand. The park was later designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1990, recognizing its unique natural and cultural significance.
One of the most interesting geological features surrounding the Taranaki Falls is an old lava flow that can be seen in the area.
The lava flow is from a volcanic eruption that occurred over 20, 000 years ago. This lava flow originated from Mount Ruapehu, which is located in the same volcanic region as Tongariro National Park. The lava flow is made up of basalt, a type of volcanic rock that is formed when lava cools and solidifies. Over time, the lava flow was eroded by water and weather, resulting in the formation of a series of valleys and canyons that are visible in the area around Taranaki Falls.
The presence of the old lava flow adds to the beauty and uniqueness of the area around Taranaki Falls. It provides a fascinating glimpse into the geological history of the region and helps to explain why the landscape around the falls is so rugged and dramatic. You can learn more about the area in the Whakapapa Visitor Center.
FAQ Taranaki Falls
Can you swim in Taranaki Falls?
Although you would be able to take a quick dip in the natural pool of Taranaki Falls, it is not recommended. The pool at the base of the waterfall is not very deep and can be hazardous. Also, the water can be very cold, even during the summer months. And besides that, the current and power of the Taranaki Falls is strong.
How did the Taranaki Falls get formed?
The Taranaki Falls were formed by a volcanic eruption that occurred about 15,000 years ago. The eruption was caused by the Tongariro Volcano, which is still active today. The volcanic activity resulted in the formation of a large crater that filled with water, creating a lake. Over time, the water in the lake eroded the rock, creating a channel that the water flowed through, eventually leading to the formation of the Taranaki Falls.
The Taranaki Falls are located on the Taranaki River, which is fed by several smaller streams that originate from the surrounding mountains. The water that flows over the falls comes from snowmelt and rainfall that occurs in the surrounding mountains.
The rock face over which the falls cascade is made up of a volcanic rock called andesite. Andesite is a hard, dense rock that is resistant to erosion, which is why the falls have remained relatively unchanged for thousands of years.
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 still 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 this 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 pickup date.
Campervan rental in New Zealand
Traveling around in a campervan is one of the most popular ways for a road trip 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 give you a true feeling of freedom and fully connects you with nature.
We personally recommend to book your campervan with Travellers Autobarn as they have a wide range of Station wagons, 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, a 10% discount to premium campgrounds, 24/7 roadside assistance & long-term rental discounts. Check the availability and prices today to secure your campervan for a New Zealand dream road trip!
More New Zealand travel guides
I hope you enjoyed this complete guide about the Taranaki Falls walk on the North Island of New Zealand. Make sure to put this awesome walk to the beautiful Taranaki waterfall in Tongariro National Park on your 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!