View across mountain to Lake Taupo

Hiking Taupo’s Treacherous Mt Tauhara

Buried in the city all winter so far, Mum and I were up for a challenge on our recent weekend in Taupo. Arriving late night on the bus from Auckland had left me a little loopy – considering a spontaneous crossing of Mt Tongariro. Thankfully at around 2am we came to our senses – as we were definitely not fit enough, nor prepared enough to attempt such a trek.

Popping into the Taupo i-Site the next morning, we decided on Mt Tauhara, having been assured by the lovely local staff it was a reasonably easy hike. It would take about 1.5 hours up and half an hour back, said the visitors centre assistant. Their only warning; “it could be a little muddy with all the rain we’ve had”.

Climbing Mt Tauhara

Finding the walking track

Hopping the stile to start Mt Tauhara track
Hopping the stile marking Mt Tauhara track

Locating the trail would have been somewhat difficult without pointers from the i-Site staff. Following Napier-Taupo Road, turning left onto Mountain Road, a carpark appeared before the fence. Then spotting the fluorescent stile set us on track.

Grassy hills and fields with Lake Taupo in the distance
Taupo farming landscape

Climbing the grassy hillside on the lower part of Mt Tauhara is pretty easy going while enjoying spectacular views over Taupo, across the Lake, and beyond.

If you’re after a short walk with a great view, stopping just before the forest is perfect – about 10-15 minutes up the hill.

Entering the forest

Entering the forest is where things start to get interesting.

Mushrooms sprouting from tree trunk
Fungi sprouting from ever corner

Slopes are a little steeper, temperatures a little cooler, and fungi a little more frequent. Walking with a little extra oomph in the step brings you to some stumps in the trees – about 20 mins later.

From here on in is the real endurance test.

Creeping up dirt crevasse, hopping over branches, and trudging through sludgy mud – sneakers just hoping to stick on our feet. Just when a clearing seems to break, twisting trails take us further up the forest.

As our bodies begin to slow in the setting sun, breaking news flashes through the trees – MOTHER DAUGHTER DUO STUCK UP MT TAUHARA.

I wondered if we should call it a day. We’d come quite a long way, longer than they said it would take, and lumberjack lads reported still another 30 mins to the top.

Poised to overcome the dirt crevasse
Creeping up dirt crevasse

Like the slopes though, Mum was showing no sign of giving up. Onward and upward.

Directing each other along perilous pathways and over precarious rocks, we carried on.

Then the weather turned.

When the weather turns

Sleeting hail came hurtling from the heavens above, like a tempersome toddler testing it’s powers. It seemed like we’d gone up and over one mountain already, and yet the top was still nowhere in sight. Rainjacketless and cold – I told Mum we’d give it another 15 minutes.

15 minutes came and went. I was getting cold with the slower pace, and the light was really beginning to fade. “Mum, I think we should head back”…

Carving up one more clay track and suddenly we were at the summit – emerging hundreds of meters above the original hillside.

Trig station at summit of Mt Tauhara overlooking Lake Taupo
Met by moody skies at the summit
Farmland and forest views from Mt Tauhara summit
Worldly views

Only one minute earlier there was no light in sight, and suddenly the world was at our feet. Imagine if we’d turned back! But those are important decisions to consider up any mountain.

Reaching the summit

Farming land and forests, Mt Ruapehu across the Lake – landscapes don’t get much better than this.

Overall summiting took us about 2 hours, and the descent about 45 minutes, although Mum claims her hip slowed us down a little.

Friends descend the paddocks toward Lake Taupo in the sunset
Late afternoon rays warm the winter fields

What to wear up Mt Tauhara

Although the track may not be quite as treacherous as I have made out for storytelling effect, it does require a decent level of fitness and being careful to use your common sense.

We walked in late May, which is autumn/winter time and hit a very cold snap. Never underestimate the potential for rapid weather changes up the mountain, and always check with the local guides for weather conditions and advice before you walk.

Now I leave you with my recommendations for what to take up Mt Tauhara in winter.

  • Layered thermal clothing
  • Rain jacket
  • Hiking shoes
  • Beanie (warm hat)
  • Water
  • A snack

See also Titirangi Village on the Verge of Heaven.


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