Volcanologists agree that the mountain is ‘dormant’ rather than extinct. Often described as ‘New Zealand’s most climbed mountain’, Mt Taranaki provides non-mountaineers with an achievable summit challenge.
At lower altitudes you’ll walk through tall rimu and kamahi trees; higher up the volcano, sub-alpine shrubs and herb fields are found above the snow line. Lush rainforests can be found on the mountain’s slopes and are a result of the area’s high rainfall and mild coastal climate.
The walking track network in the national park is extensive, ranging from a 15 minute stroll along the Kamahi Track to the three-day Pouakai Circuit. There’s a variety of tracks around the Dawson Falls area, including the walk to Wilkies Pools, a series of eroded rock pools connected with gentle waterfalls.
Taranaki is linked by legend to the mountains of the central North Island. As the story goes, Taranaki once lived with the other volcanoes of the central plateau – Tongariro, Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe. When he made flirtatious advances towards a pretty hill named Pihanga, Tongariro erupted in a jealous fury. Taranaki fled to the west, gouging out the Whanganui River on his way. Today Taranaki is still venerated and its summit is sacred to the Maori people of the area. The land was first formally protected in 1881 when its slopes (within a 9.6 kilometre radius of the summit) were made a forest reserve. Development of huts, tracks and roads followed. Gradually more land was added to the reserve and in 1900 it was made a national park, the second in New Zealand after its not too distant neighbour, Tongariro. It has been a popular tourist destination ever since.
Dawson Falls offers some of the best short walks on the mountain. Descend the short stepped track to join Kapuni Loop Track and turn right to continue on either to the base of the 18 metre falls or the lookout point.
Soak in the view at the highest access point on the Mountain. These walk is a good introduction to the mountain environment and climbs up through some fine examples of pahautea (mountain cedar).
Explore some of New Zealand’s best and most iconic one day walks. If you’re only completing one tramp in Taranaki this is the one to do. You’ll get great views of Mt Taranaki, out over the north Taranaki countryside to the coast and inland to Mt Ruapehu.
In the ancient past, many magnificent mountain gods lived in the centre of the North Island. The male mountains of Ruapehu, Tongariro, Ngauruhoe, Taranaki and Tauhara stood proudly on the Central Plateau, alongside a lone female mountain Pihanga.