Egmont National Park: The Complete Guide

volcanic mountain reflected in lake with dry grassland and blue sky


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Egmont National Park

Address
Taranaki, New Zealand
Phone +64 6-756 0990

Home to the perfect conical peak of the volcanic Mount Taranaki, Egmont National Park is one of three national parks in New Zealand's North Island. Established as the country's second national park in 1900, Egmont looks quite curious on the map: It's almost a perfect circle (with a few bumpy offshoots) because it was determined in the late 19th century that the land within a 5.9-mile radius of the mountain's summit would be protected. This can be seen clearly if you fly over or near Taranaki on a flight between the North and South Islands.

The park is located roughly halfway between Auckland and Wellington, on the west coast of the North Island, and is a worthwhile detour if you're traveling the length of the island. Close to a wild and beautiful stretch of coastline, it can also be enjoyed on day trips from nearby New Plymouth and other coastal towns. Here's everything you need to know about visiting Egmont National Park.

Things to Do

Egmont National Park revolves around Taranaki (also known as Mount Egmont); it is the park's most distinguishing feature and the reason most people visit. Having last erupted in 1755, the 125,000-year-old volcano is considered dormant. Hiking is the best way to view and experience the mountain. Trails to picturesque lookouts range from a five-minute jaunt to six-hour hikes (and a lot in between). If you enjoy multi-day treks, there are also two- and five-day circuits.

Limited opportunities are also available for hunting (goats and opossums, the latter of which are considered a pest in New Zealand) and skiing, at a small ski field in the southeastern section of the park.

Don't miss visiting the 59-foot-high Dawson Falls, a 30-minute drive from Stratford.

New Zealand, Male hiker admiring scenic view of Mount Taranaki volcano in spring
Westend61 / Getty Images

Best Hikes and Trails

Short, easy hikes dominate at Egmont National Park, making this an ideal park to visit if you're traveling with kids or have time constraints. Nevertheless, there are a range of day and multi-day hikes, too. Here are some of the best:

  • Family-Friendly Trails: The Ambury Monument Walk, Nature Walk, Connett Loop Track, and Mangaoraka Loop Track are all 15- to 40-minute trails that are suitable for kids and people with lower mobility. They lead to lovely lookout spots with great views of the mountain, and some pass through mossy forest (called goblin forest).
  • Ngatoro Loop Track: This 0.9-mile loop hike passes through atmospheric goblin forest, where you'll find ferns and twisted tree trunks covered in moss and lichen. The trail starts and ends at the visitor center; note that it's steep in places.
  • Maketawa Hut Circuit: This 4-mile loop trail passes through forest, crosses rivers, and ascends ladders, leading to some of the best lookouts in the park. It takes about three hours to complete.
  • Kokowai Round Trip: This six-hour, 7.5-mile loop trail is an ideal option if you want to experience both the forest and alpine landscapes of Mount Taranaki.
  • Mount Taranaki Summit Track: Experienced mountaineers can climb to the summit (8,261 feet). The 7.8-mile, out-and-back trail takes eight to 10 hours to hike, and should only be attempted in summer. Even then, conditions can change rapidly and be treacherous. If you do hike to the summit, the local Maori people request that you don't stand directly on the summit, as it is considered sacred.
  • Pouakai Circuit: The shorter of Taranaki's two multi-day circuit hikes, this 15.5-mile hike allows you to experience all of the park's landscapes in two to three days.
  • Around the Mountain Circuit: This advanced hiking trail is 32.3 miles long and takes four to five days to complete. Going all the way around the base of the mountain, the circuit takes hikers through river, forest, and alpine scenery.

Where to Stay

As Mount Taranaki is considered sacred, visitors are asked not to camp on the mountain. If you really want to camp, you'll need to do so outside the park boundaries, in and around the towns near the national park. Hikers on multi-day trails can stay in one of seven huts in the park, which range from standard to serviced. Serviced huts should be booked in advance, especially during the busy summer season.

The park also has a couple of larger Department of Conservation-run lodges: the Konini Lodgeand the Camphouse. These are ideal for large groups, but smaller groups or individuals can also book a bed. Advance bookings are essential. A few private operators run accommodation in the park, too; information on these can be found on the DOC website for the park.

New Plymouth, a short drive from Egmont National Park, is a sizable city by New Zealand standards, with a population of around 85,000. You can find a wide variety of accommodation here, from simple campsites and hostels to upmarket hotels and boutique guesthouses. It's the easiest place to stay if you want to make day trips into the park while still having access to a range of amenities.

Scenic view of mount Taranaki in New Zealand
RLSPHOTO / Getty Images

How to Get There

Many people arrive from New Plymouth, which is just a half-hour drive from North Egmont Roadend. Hawera, Opunake, and Stratford are other population centers that are a short drive from the park's entry points.

New Plymouth is a regional hub in this part of New Zealand, and you can get there by air directly from Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch. Flights from other regional centers will go via one of these major cities.

If you're traveling through the North Island by road, consider driving the Surf Highway 45 that connects Hawera—south of the national park—with New Plymouth. The journey takes about 90 minutes to drive in one go, but part of the fun of this trip is stopping at beachside towns and surf spots along the way, including Oakura, Ahu Ahu, and Komene Beach. Another road trip option is the Forgotten World Highway, which cuts inland through Taranaki, connecting Taumarunui in the King Country with Stratford, east of Mount Taranaki.

Tips for Your Visit

  • You don't actually need to go anywhere near the park to see spectacular Mount Taranaki. As well as seeing it on some flights between the North and South Islands, on a clear day, the peak is visible from up and down the coast. (Sometimes you can even see it from Farewell Spit, located at the top of the South Island.)
  • Dogs aren't allowed in the national park.
  • Weather conditions can change rapidly on the mountain. Climbers' lives have been lost when the weather has deteriorated. Always tell someone where you're going and when you plan to return when embarking on a longer hike on Mount Taranaki. Be prepared for a change in weather, and don't take unnecessary risks.
  • Mount Taranaki is considered sacred. As well as being asked not to camp on it or to set foot on the summit itself, visitors are requested not to cook on or around the summit and to remove all trash from the park.
  • One of New Zealand's more unusual native wildlife species can be found in Egmont National Park: a giant, carnivorous land snail called the Powelliphanta snail. Keep an eye out for it!
  • Avoid disturbing the rectangular wooden boxes you might find around the forest: These are traps laid to capture stoats, rats, and opossums, which are a danger to native birds and wildlife. These can injure curious hands and fingers.
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Egmont National Park: The Complete Guide