The second highest mountain on the north island. New Zealand’s deadliest mountain has claimed the lives of 84 hikers.
Return Distance: 12.6km return with a 1.6km vertical climb
Time: Up 4-6 hours Down 3-4 hours
Track: The path from either the Egmont National Park Visitor Centre or ‘The Plateau” car park to the Tahurangi Lodge is well-formed and easy to navigate. From here you will navigate your way through the rock-covered Hangi Valley via steep man-made steps that seem to never end. The steps lead to the most difficult part of the climb. For the best part of an hour, you make a gruelling steep climb up loose slippery scree that will have you feeling like you’re going backwards at times. As you finally make your way to the top of this treacherous path you will never be so happy to see solid ground. You are now at the foot of “The Lizard”. This next section of the climb involves you to use your hands and well as your feet as you climb up large rocks with your eye firmly set on the top. Don’t be fooled, you are not looking at the summit but the next part of your journey.
Once there you will enter a large snow-covered area that is iced over all year round. You will notice a temperature drop and be exposed to strong winds. Carefully navigate yourself through the ice field taking extra care not to slip. Once you pass through, the last part of the climb awaits you. Going to the right you will walk up some loose stone and gravel which will quickly remind you of the nightmares of a couple of hours ago but fear not as this section is short and before you know it you will have reached the summit.
Return via the same route, taking extra care coming down the mountain, especially coming down on the loose scree.
Difficulty: Hard. This track is testing for the fittest of people.
Weather: Weather conditions can change within minutes from blue skies to thick fog, strong winds and low visibility. It is recommended that you only attempt this hike on a day with good weather reports and light winds. If you find yourself on the mountain during an unexpected weather change make your way back to safety, don’t take any unnecessary risks.
Facilities: There is a public toilet 100m from the Tahurangi lodge and a small day shelter room at the lodge.
When to go: This track is best attempted between Dec to April with the snow is at a minimum. Only experienced hikers with the correct equipment should attempt this climb outside of these months.
Trail Start: The trail starts from Egmont National Park Visitor Centre. If on a busy day the car park is full a park ranger may redirect you to “The Plateau’ car park which you gain access to via Stratford taking the Pembroke Road into the national park and up the mountain. You can start the trail from the car park.
Getting there: Mt. Egmont, or Taranaki as it’s more commonly referred to, towers over the Taranaki region on the west coast of New Zealand’s north island.
New Plymouth is the largest city in the region and the mountain is surrounded by many towns.
Plane: You can fly from most airports in NZ directly to New Plymouth.
Drive: The drive from New Plymouth takes approximately 30 minutes.
The drive from Wellington takes approximately 4 hours.
The drive from Auckland takes approximately 5 hours.
Bus: A free shuttle bus runs every weekend during the summer months that’s leaves from a location near the Volcano View Café on Egmont Road. Look for the car park signs. The first bus leaves at 7:30 am and the last bus returns from the Egmont Visitor centre around 16:30. Buses run hourly.
Parking: Visitors can park at the Egmont National Park Visitor Centre or ‘The Plateau” car park.
What to wear: It is around 15 degrees cooler at the summit than in New Plymouth. Even on a warm day, it’s going to be chilly up top. Pack extra layers, a windbreaker and a hat and scarf if you feel the cold more than others.
Other gear: Hiking shoes, hiking poles. Always remember to bring sunscreen.
Food & Water: This hike has the potential to take up to ten hours. Eat a large breakfast and bring enough food and snacks to keep you fuelled for the day. Bring plenty of water with you as there is nowhere to fill up along the way.
Other information to note: Mt Taranaki is a sacred mountain to the Maori people and it is seen as disrespectful to stand on the highest point.
Safety note: Please beware that while hiking Mt. Taranaki on a summer's day in the right conditions and with the right gear is generally safe, always prepare for the worst. This is New Zealand’s deadliest mountain and your safety should not be taken lightly. Always prepare for the worst, let someone know your plans, bring emergency food and water, extra layers of clothes and check the weather before leaving.
Mt. Taranaki towers over the Taranaki region and no matter where in the region you are it is hard for the mountain not to grab your attention and make your mind wander.
I spent five weeks working in New Plymouth on a construction project in the winter. I watched the snow-capped mountain glow red in the mornings and again red in the evenings every day as I worked and daydreamed about climbing it. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it to the national park during that time but instead came back 9 months later more than ready to finally make it to the top.
Myself and three friends left Wellington on a Friday evening after work and headed north to New Plymouth. Caught in bad traffic we didn’t make it to our Air BnB in New Plymouth until after midnight and quickly scrapped the idea of doing a sunrise hike!
We woke for seven, cooked a big breakfast and hit the road for 8 making one pit stop for coffee and extra supplies. The weather was looking good, blue skies with little cloud. We drove towards the Egmont National Park Visitor Centre and were greeted by a park ranger who told us that the car park was full and that we would have to turn around and head for Stratford and take the Pembroke Rd. into the national park and park at the plateau.
A little disappointed we turned the car around and headed for the plateau. The drive to the car park was stunning and the buzz was back when we arrived at the car park. We parked up, grabbed our backpacks, had a quick read of the information sign and headed towards the Tahurangi Lodge via the summit track. We passed through the Manganui ski fields and looped around the mountain on a pretty well-formed track.
We were maintaining a pretty good pace and made it to the Tahurangi Lodge in less than an hour. There were pretty large crowds in the area many of whom looked like they were part of an organised tour or guided hike. We made a quick ten minute stop here to fuel ourselves before starting the climb.
We progressed onto the Hangi Valley. The Hangi Valley is a stone covered valley that you pass through taking a long steep set of steps which I’m gonna name ‘The stairway to Hell” for the purpose of his blogpost. Why hell? Not because of the steps, although they seem to never end, but once they do end you are greeted by a gruelling climb up super slippy loose scree. Powering up and sliding back I tried to find what looked like the most solid ground crisscrossing up the slope.
Up until this point, we were getting some amazing views of the coast and the mountains of Tongariro National Park in the distance. As we progressed up the mountain clouds were starting to roll in below us and above us.
After eventually making it to the top of the loose scree we were welcomed by a warning sign that I’m sure has tempted many people to turn back. The sign more or less tells you to make sure you’re prepared and it’s not too late to turn back…
We were at the foot of the so-called lizard. Overly happy to be back on solid ground I started the climb towards the crater. This was the most enjoyable part of the hike and it required a little bit of rock climbing, not exactly Free Solo or Dawn Wall style but enough to make it a little more interesting. I met some hikers who were making their way back down and sparked up a conversation with them. They had experienced some bad weather up top, thick fog, heavy winds and snow in the ice field had turned them back. The news came as a bit of a blow but I decided to keep climbing and to access the weather myself.
Our group had broken apart and I was hiking solo when reaching the top of the lizard. Passing over the top I got speaking to some other hikers who had just come down from the summit and said the bad weather had passed. They advised me to keep to the right of the ice-field as it was pretty slippery up there.
As I entered the ice field I could see a track that looked like it had been taken by many to the left but going against my gut feeling and taking the advice of the other hikers I walked to the right and tried to navigate my way across the top of the ice. It didn’t take me long to regret my decision as I took a couple of nasty slips. I eventually made it across and the thought entered my head that they had just come from the other direction and their right was my left!
Looking up at the final part of the climb made my legs shake. It was another climb up loose rock and gravel. I put my head down watching my step and started making my way up the last section. To my surprise after walking what only felt like a few minutes people were congratulating me for making it to the summit. I had made it! And in a quick time of 3 hours and 15 minutes.
I stood above a bed of clouds feeling pretty achieved (and really sweaty) and took in some amazing views that one doesn’t get every day. The winds up the top were pretty strong and chilly and it didn’t take long to cool down. I huddled in the crater and had my lunch. There was a good vibe on the top as newcomers were welcomed and congratulated and others shared where they’re from and what has brought them to New Zealand and their plans while they’re here. Myself and the lads got a few group shots and made our descent down the mountain via the same way we climbed up. The way down was definitely less of a challenge although is tough on the knees.
A great and challenging day was ended with a tasty Indian take away, a few beers (water for me, I was doing a dry month) and watching Blood Diamond on the telly.