Approaching Taupō from any direction, you can’t help but cast your eyes towards our local mountain, Tauhara Maunga, or Mount Tauhara. This dormant (thankfully) volcano forms part of the Taupō Volcanic Zone and although separate from White Island in the north and Mount Ruapehu in the south (hence the name Tauhara which means ‘odd one or odd one out’), our little volcano still is geologically linked.
When we first moved to Taupō, our immediate thought as keen walkers was “Can we climb that mountain?”, and the answer is yes. Although Mount Tauhara is on private land, thanks to the Tauhara Mountain Trust there is public access with a 3km* track to the summit.
From the carpark at the end of Mountain Road, just off SH5, the track initially crosses operational farm land, marked via poles with fluorescent tape (from personal experience, very handy when returning via torchlight). After approximately 1km the track reaches the treeline and from here on, the remaining 2km is a beautiful forest walk.
But don’t be fooled by this walk. What it lacks in distance, it makes up for in altitude, going from 550m at the carpark to 1,088m at the summit trig beacon. And while the track is fairly well formed throughout, it’s quite steep and rocky/rooty in places.
As you might expect then, you need to be reasonably fit to do this walk, and at a moderate pace, it will take around an hour and a half to the summit. Fortunately, along the way, there’s lots of beautiful forest scenery to keep you distracted.
Besides the forest, the reward for your efforts is of course the views from the top. Looking south west, the summits of Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe are unmistakable, just over 80km away, while to the south and south east, the Kaimanawa Range fills the horizon.
On this particular day, we decided to head up for sunset, and while we were making our way up, everyone else was coming back down, so we ended up having the mountain to ourselves. It wasn’t the most spectacular of sunsets, but simply being there in the peace and quiet was reward enough, especially since we knew this wouldn’t be our last time on our local mountain.
*The signboard in the parking area says that the track is 2.5km long, but having measured it severals times via GPS, it’s actually closer to 3km if you follow the track all the way to the trig beacon on the summit.