Stratford offers the best access points to the iconic Taranaki Mounga.
Egmont National Park was established in 1900, and is dominated by the dormant volcano of Taranaki Mounga. Taranaki Mounga is a cone-shaped 2518m high peak that offers spectacular scenery. There are beautiful walks through the abundant rain forest to waterfalls, wetlands and excellent viewpoints. Standing as it does in isolation from other mountains it is one of the best parks from which to get an elevated view of another New Zealand - the rural heartland of Taranaki.
Local Māori believe that Taranaki Mounga once stood with the mountains of the central North Island. After a dispute over the maiden Pihanga, Taranaki fled his ancestral home, carving out the bed of the Whanganui River on his journey to the coast.
A variety of easy, short walks branch off the main access roads. A number of beautiful waterfalls are in easy reach of Dawson Falls and it is worth walking through the Goblin Forest to Wilkies Pools - a series of plunge pools formed by the scouring action of water borne sand and gravel.
A well defined back-country tramping track circles the mountain. It takes up to 5 days with some high level summer track options shortening the tramp to 3-4 days.
Manganui is Taranaki Mounga snowboard and ski area. It features small beginner/intermediate, and larger off-piste adventure-type intermediate/advanced terrain and is located on NZ's most accessible alpine area. Again, the best access is via Stratford.
Taranaki - the Sleeping Giant
Almost perfect in its symmetry, Mt Taranaki is the largest in a series of volcanoes that have erupted and eroded away in Taranaki for the last two million years. With its last eruption in 1775, the present cone formed some 20,000 years ago. It is classed as dormant.
The Egmont National Park containing Mt Taranaki was formed in 1900 and is the second oldest national park in New Zealand. Within its 33,500 hectares (129 square miles), the range of vegetation is extraordinary. From the base to the summit is like travelling from the sub-tropical Kermadec Islands to Antarctica.
For Māori, the mountain is considered tapu (sacred). Generations of Māori chiefs have climbed its flanks to find answers through meditation in times of peace and war.
Each year, more than 300,000 visitors come to the Park as it is one of the most accessible National Parks in the country, with three sealed main roads leading to the Visitor Centre at Dawson Falls, the Plateau and ski field at East Egmont, and the Visitor Centre at North Egmont.
There are some 300kms of walking tracks in the Park from short walks up to the five-day ‘Round the Mountain’ walk. Short walks can take you to some of the most scenic waterfalls and areas of the Park. For example, the 15-minute Kamahi Track from the Mountain House goes straight into the heart of the rainforest where heavy lichen and moss grow on kamahi trees creating the famous Goblin Forest.
All tracks are well-signposted and regularly maintained. Department of Conservation (DoC) huts are spaced approximately a day’s walk apart right around the mountain and require a ‘Back Country Hut’ pass to stay overnight.
All the walks provide spectacular views of the mountain, the surrounding countryside, the moss-laden mountain forest and in the distance, the mountains of the central North Island.
Spectacular views of the Manganui Gorge and the main peak are gained after only 15 to 20 minutes.
The Dawson Falls area has become noted for its scenery and the half day walks are a major attraction for both young and old. All of these tracks are clearly marked with colour coded signs and direction markers, and the entrance to the bush area has a large map showing where each track goes and approximately how long walk takes.
The falls were discovered by Thomas Dawson, Manaia telegraphist, in March 1883, and their tourist potential was realised in 1894-5 when Manaia Road was extended and a small house erected for tourists’ use.
Mt Taranaki is said to be the most climbed mountain in New Zealand – but while the mountain looks deceptively pretty and benign, weather conditions can change within minutes – catching inexperienced and unprepared trampers and climbers unawares. All climbers should check in with DOC and notify them of their climbing intentions.
In summer an ascent and return is achievable in eight hours, but in winter, mountaineering equipment such as ice picks and crampons are required, and a guide is also recommended. The most common summit climb route is from the North Egmont entrance. You can walk from the Stratford National Park entrance (East Egmont Plateau) across to the North Egmont entrance for an ascent. DOC and the Stratford Visitor Information Centre have more detailed information about the Park’s numerous tracks, walking times, hut passes for DOC, and weather conditions.