WALKING AND HIKING IN AND AROUND OHAKUNE
Perfectly positioned at the southern gateway to the dual World Heritage Tongariro National Park and just a short drive from a huge selection of tracks and trails, Ohakune is the perfect place to base your self out of.
I'M AN ORIGINAL CATCHPHRASE
Ohakune is without a doubt the best place to stay when doing the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. The North Island's only mountain town offers a great choice of accommodation, excellent dining and shopping opportunities and a spectacular setting at the foot of the mystical Mount Ruapehu. Set right in the heart of the Tongariro National Park, Ohakune is the perfect place to rest and prepare for the challenging Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Shuttles depart daily from Ohakune offering a door to door service. See below for operator details.
Tongariro Northern Circuit - Great Walk
Round the Mountain Track
Under 2 hours walks around Ohakune
Mangawhero River Walk
Time: 30 minutes
Start Point: Burns Street, southern end of Ohakune, or Old Station Road, The Junction, Ohakune.
Meandering along the banks of the Mangawhero River, this easy, well-maintained path connects the main town centre with ‘The Junction’ area at the foot of the mountain and is a pleasant family-friendly walkway. Ohakune 2000 Inc. volunteers maintain the route and are re-introducing native plant species to attract birds and animals to the area.
The river itself has its origins high on the slopes of Mount Ruapehu and follows a fault line down the mountain, through the volcanic landscape and over two waterfalls before it reaches Ohakune. From here it continues on until it joins the Whangaehu River.
The Mangawhero River Walkway can be easily combined with the Jubilee Walkway for a longer trail if desired.
Time: 15 minutes round trip
Start Point: DOC Visitor Centre at the foot of the Ohakune Mountain Road
This well-constructed walkway is suitable for wheelchairs and pushchairs and is a side loop from the Mangawhero Forest Track. The loop crosses a peaceful mountain stream and passes through native ferns and kamahi providing a nice easy family walk.
Mangawhero Forest Walk
Time: 45-minute loop track
Start Point: Foot of the Ohakune Mountain Road
Within easy walking distance of the township, Mangawhero Forest Walk is a great introduction to the native forest of central North Island - an abundance of species including broadleaf, kahikatea, kamahi, matai and rimu trees surround the track. Crossing the Mangawhero River, from which it takes its name, the trail descends through the towering kahikatea trees to a swamp-like volcanic crater.
Time: 20 minutes
Start Point: Ohakune Giant Carrot, Rangataua Road, southern end of Ohakune
Starting at the famous Ohakune Giant Carrot, this pleasant 20-minute stroll through the Jubilee Park Scenic Reserve loosely follows the path of the Mangateitei Stream and is a leisurely track suitable for all abilities. The trail winds through the forest and finishes at Burns Street at the southwestern entrance to Ohakune. From here it is easy to link with the Mangawhero River Walkway and continue on to the northern end of the township.
The track is quite steep in places and often becomes very muddy in rainy weather so it is advised that you wear sturdy footwear when walking this trail.
Hapuawhenua Viaduct Walk, via the Ohakune Old Coach Road
Distance: 7km (Marshall Road carpark)
Time: 1.5-2 hours return
Start Point: The official start is at the Ohakune Train Station on Thames Street, but if you wish to shorten it, you can drive the first 3km to Marshalls Road car park (add another 8km to the round trip, approximately 90 minutes, if walking from Goldfinch St, central Ohakune)
Following the first stage of the Ohakune Old Coach Road, the Hapuawhenua Viaduct Walk takes in the Hapuawhenua Tunnel and both the old and new Hapuawhenua Viaducts. These impressive curved lattice structures span the valley side by side and the original viaduct, built-in 1908 and holding World Heritage Engineering status, is testament to the ingenuity and perseverance of those who were responsible for its construction. It is possible to walk the full length of the original structure, from which you can occasionally watch the trains crossing its replacement further down the valley
Waitonga Falls Track
Time: 1.5hrs round trip
Start Point: 11km from Ohakune on the Ohakune Mountain Road
Difficulty: Easy – some steep sections
This easy walk through beech and kaikawaka forest and across scenic marshland brings you to the Tongariro National Park’s highest accessible waterfall and the alpine stream below. With picture-perfect views of the mountain reflected in the Rotokawa tarn (a shallow mountain pool) and the chance to fully appreciate the valley vistas, this trail is well worth a visit.
The route winds along the wooded slopes of Ruapehu and crosses the Rotokawa marshes on a raised boardwalk finally descending to the base of the falls. The falls are beautiful at all times of the year, but during the winter months, the volume of water passing over the falls makes them particularly remarkable. Green hooded orchids and white sun orchids can also be seen along this track.
Mangawhero Falls Walk
Distance: Less than 1km
Time: 10 minutes
Start Point: Mangawhero Falls car park, 13km from Ohakune on the Ohakune Mountain Road
A great short track if you happen to be in the area, the Mangawhero Falls was used as the location for ‘Ithilien’, where Gollum catches fish, in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Easily accessible from the Ohakune Mountain Road, this beautiful waterfall is best viewed in the winter months when a greater volume of water passes over the volcanic formations and leaving sparkling icicles surrounding the area.
Lake Rotokura Track
Time: 1-hour return
Start Point: Rotokura car park on Karioi Station Road – Look for the sign on SH49, left hand side, 12km from Ohakune in the direction of Waiouru.
Lake Rotokura is sacred to the local Māori iwi (tribe) who believe its waters have healing powers. The pretty surroundings, easy access and picturesque reflections of the mountain in the waters make this a popular track.
The route begins at the car park and heads through the ancient beech forest, past the man-made Dry Lake, which is home to a variety of native and exotic waterfowl, and then loops around Lake Rotokura. The area is part of Karioi Rahui, a DOC ecological reserve developed in conjunction with the local iwi, and is home to an increasing population of native bird species including the North Island Brown Kiwi.
If you wish to picnic on this track, please use the grassy area by Dry Lake as eating near Lake Rotokura is disrespectful in the Māori culture. Fishing here is also strictly prohibited.
The Lakes Reserve
Time: 30 mins
Start Point: Ohakune, Mountain town
Located 2.5k from the main Ohakune town area on the LHS along the road to Raetihi brings you to this 1.8km loop off Lakes Road. Park at the locked gate area and walk the 4WD track from there, the entrance to the loop is on the right about 100mtrs up Lakes road.
The road/track is a combination of metal and dirt and is a great stroll in the bush around a small lake. The loop is easily driveable if you prefer, and is also a favourite detour for mountain bikers. This lake is the southernmost blowhole (or vent) of The Pacific Rim.
Half-day walks in and around Ohakune
Ohakune Old Coach Road
Time: 4 hours one way
Start Point: Horopito or The Junction, 14.5km from Ohakune. Transfers available.
This historic trail was used by horse-drawn coaches in the early 1900s to transport passengers between the two railheads of the unfinished North Island trunk line. The cobbled route became obsolete with the completion of the railway and was lost to the forest for almost 100 years.
Recently restored, the route ambles along the lower slopes of Mount Ruapehu passing sites of historical interest including the camps of railway workers, the ruins of the Taonui viaduct and both the original and replacement Hapuawhenua Viaducts with their impressive engineering.
The original viaduct took two years to construct and has Category 1 Historic Places status. It was also the location of New Zealand’s first commercial Bungy jump, operated by the famous A J Hackett.
The terrain along this route varies greatly from the cobbled tracks under the cool canopy of some of the last remaining virgin forest in the North Island to recently constructed pathways through the relatively open bush.
The track is quite steep in places and often becomes very muddy in rainy weather so it is advised that you wear sturdy footwear when walking this trail. Also be aware that this track is popular with mountain bikers and, as the tracks are quite narrow in places, you may need to leave the path to allow them to pass.
Lake Surprise Track
Time: 5 hours return
Start Point: 15km from Ohakune on the Ohakune Mountain Road
The walk to Lake Surprise is a mountain walk which we feel is on a par with the Tongariro Alpine Crossing but without the crowds. This is a walk which has been ground out of the land by massive glacial and volcanic activity. Although at times it felt like we were in the South Island, this is in the heart of the North Island - the Lake Surprise walk on Mt Ruapehu.
It begins by stepping off the side of Mountain Road and sidling across some rather steep scree slopes. Once past those, the terrain rises up over classic high country alpine meadows. From the highest point, you can look down on the lake, and the classic U-shaped glacial valley which we would cross, as well as the rocky wall of the U to get up out of the valley, which from here looked rather forbidding.
The descent begins over sheets of jumbled rock which are benign in the late autumn sun but would be pretty treacherous if icy. Two crystal clear streams must be crossed; eventually, they and we all arrived at the top of the lava flow and plunged down it. Here the streams become waterfalls, one on each side of the lava flow, leaving a milky white deposit of silica.
From this distance, it was easier to see that the rocky cliff we had just come down was once a liquid lava flow pouring downhill.
Boardwalks cross some of the glacial valleys which still feels scraped down to bare rock after how many thousands of years ?- that glacier did a pretty thorough job!
We reach the Mangaturuturu Hut, which positively echoes of many happy nights around the fire. The hut is set in more beech forest providing a pleasant shady stroll. However, this is rudely interrupted when the forest abruptly gives way to a boulder-strewn lahar course which looks as mauled as any west coast beach. Another reminder of the power of the mountain - as if we needed it by now.
We got a bit lost trying to find our way up off the valley floor but yes, that boulder-strewn dry watercourse full of tree trunks really is the right way, so we scrambled up it...and up....and up. Just as we were starting to doubt ourselves again, we rounded a corner to discover the aptly named Lake Surprise.
This walk is part of the Round the Mountain circuit so can be done point to point, probably about 10 hours from Whakapapa to Mountain Rd, or in and out from Mountain Rd. Whichever you do, respect the mountain’s fast-changing climate, check the mountain forecast before leaving and be ready for anything.