Tama Lakes and Taranaki Falls, Tongariro National Park NZ

The Tama Lakes / Taranaki Falls Track is an attractive walk through Tongariro National Park, with good views of both the big volcanoes.

Tama Lakes and Taranaki Falls

The Tama Lakes Track is sometimes billed as a lower-key version of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. It is a very nice walk, but it can’t be compared to the Crossing, which is more spectacular. Nevertheless, it is a unique landscape shaped by volcanic forces, and you’ll share it with a fraction of the people. The Tama Lakes are beautiful, especially the Upper Tama, and you get good views of the big volcanos, Mt Ngāuruhoe and Mt Ruapehu. Taranaki Falls was an unexpected highlight, and is well worth a visit by itself. It’s also an easier walk than the Crossing, although not short at about 18km.

Track notes at the end.

Tama Lakes and Taranaki Falls: The Scenery

Tama Lakes and Taranaki Falls
There were a lot more people at the falls in the afternoon.
Tama Lakes and Taranaki Falls
Dry streambeds.
Tama Lakes and Taranaki Falls
One of six craters in the area.
Tama Lakes and Taranaki Falls
More craters, including Lower Tama Lake.
Tama Lakes and Taranaki Falls
There were views of Ruapehu for most of the walk. It looked a lot closer than in my wide angle photographs, but I preferred the overall look of the wider angle shots I took. It’s an impressive bulk but not all that photogenic a mountain.
Tama Lakes and Taranaki Falls
Us backed by Ruapehu. This was our last walk before leaving NZ so I thought I’d include one of us here.
Tama Lakes and Taranaki Falls
Upper Tama Lake is actualy two craters filled with water. There is a species of plant found nowhere else that grows in the lake.
Tama Lakes and Taranaki Falls
Upper Tama Lake and Ngauruhoe.
Tama Lakes and Taranaki Falls
Attempt at an artistic shot here.
Tama Lakes and Taranaki Falls
Interesting shapes and textures.
Tama Lakes and Taranaki Falls
We wandered up to another high point to see more of Upper Tama Lake.
Tama Lakes and Taranaki Falls
A new plant for me. There were many but this was distinctive and pleasing.
Tama Lakes and Taranaki Falls
Upper Tama Lake and Ruapehu.
Tama Lakes and Taranaki Falls
Wider angle on Mt Ruapegu.
Tama Lakes and Taranaki Falls
A large colourful cairn and Lower Tama Lake
Tama Lakes and Taranaki Falls
Ngauruhoe with some interesting alpine plants as foreground.

Tama Lakes and Taranaki Falls

Tama Lakes and Taranaki Falls
There were all sorts of heath plants on this walk, many (most?) of which were new to me.

Tama Lakes and Taranaki Falls

Tama Lakes and Taranaki Falls
Descending to the falls and walking out that way through forest.
Tama Lakes and Taranaki Falls
Our main aim was to walk to the Tama Lakes, and Taranaki Falls was just on the way, but they turned out to be a highlight.
Tama Lakes and Taranaki Falls
One more small waterfall. I didn’t take any pics of the forest, which looked more or less like any other NZ forest. Nice enough of course.

Track Notes

Tama Lakes and Taranaki Falls
This route follows a marked track the whole way. The dotted lines indicate a couple of short side trips we took at the end of the official track. For the most part it’s possible to follow existing impact tracks or walk around alpine plants, thereby minimising disruption.

This is a straightforward walk on a marked track the whole way. We did a couple of short off-track side trips for extra views. It was possible to do these with minimal disruption to the alpine plants, something I think about on the North Island since they don’t have extensive alpine environments like the South Island.

Most of the walk is pretty flat, with one short steep section, near Upper Tama Lake and the turnaround point. There’s more info on the DOC website. They estimate 5-6 hours return. You can make a partial circuit on the Taranaki Falls portion of the track.

Author: Edward Hathway

I'm a clinical psychologist and keen hiker.

2 thoughts on “Tama Lakes and Taranaki Falls, Tongariro National Park NZ”

  1. Sory to hear that you are leaving NZ –
    I have enjoyed your posts with the spectacular photography, and really admired the ability and fitness of you and Sophia in conquering some very challenging mountain terrain.

    1. Thanks Jenny 🙂 We’ve recently done some nice walks in South Korea (we are still on holiday), but occasionally I’ll get a kind of flashback memory from the NZ mountains and it makes my heart ache!

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