Exploring the iconic Mount Taranaki region is a must-do experience while travelling through New Zealand’s North Island. Many people opt for the Mount Taranaki hike but there are other options if you do not have the experience or fitness level. My favourite was hiking the Pouakai Circuit over 2 days.
If you are looking for New Plymouth walks you have come to the right place. The Pouakai circuit is easy to do for most fitness levels and one of the best walks in the Egmont National Park you need to try!
Where is Mount Taranaki?
Mount Taranaki is located on the West side of New Zealand’s North Island. The mountain is situated in the stunning Egmont National Park which is about a 30-minute drive from the closest city, New Plymouth.
Mount Taranaki is also called Mount Egmont.
How to get to Egmont National Park
They have to let you through the park if you’re staying for more than 1 night. So just beware if you’re thinking of going in for the day.
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The best Taranaki walk: What is the Pouakai Circuit?
With many Mt Taranaki walks to choose from it may be hard to decide exactly what to do. The Pouakai Circuit is one of the best Mount Taranaki walks to see a good chunk of the park.
The walk is a 2-3 day (25km) backcountry loop track that can be walked in either direction, below and beside Mount Taranaki. I recommend walking it in 2 days and 1 night!
You access the hike from a few locations (described below) and have the option of staying at either or both Holly Hut (32 beds) and Pouakai Hut (16 beds) depending on how long you want to walk.
We stayed at Holly Hut and walked in from the Kaiauai car park. It took us just over 5 hours to get there and we had minimal breaks. On the second day it took us just over 3 hours to walk out from Holly Hut- Kaiauai car park.
Details of the Pouakai Circuit walk
Okay apart from the iconic Mount Taranaki you will be greeted with a cheeky north island robin, fantail and many other beautiful birds, epic swamps, tussocks, surrounding mountains, some incredible old volcanic activity and great views of the plains below you right through to New Plymouth. Oh and not to mention a swing bridge or 2…
The only downside regarding the scenery was the uneven surface and tree roots we had to walk over. I wanted to look up and enjoy the trees and view but I was constantly looking at my feet. So, beware of your footing!
Tip: Try your best to park at Kaiauai car park as it makes the track slightly shorter! But there are only 6 car parks and they usually fill up fast. Your next bet would be Pouakai car park and last option Egmont Village especially because it’s overcrowded there.
Working out the dynamics of the Pouakai circuit
You can do the Pouakai track in either direction.
If you’re keen for a long day the first day of over 5 hours and worried Pouakai Hut might fill up (being only 16 bunks) then I recommend doing the loop the way we did, skipping Pouakai and walking straight through to Holly Hut.
However, some people do the whole Pouakai Circuit in one day!
But, you can take up to 3 days to complete the circuit staying at both huts and walking in either direction.
I recommend hiking all the way to Holly Hut because the walk between Pouakai and Holly Hut really isn’t that long (well under 17km if looking at the DOC brochure as they start the distance from East Egmont Village) and can be walked in under 2 hours. Unless you’re keen on a super short day and getting to the hut early and having absolutely nothing to do! Then 1 night is the way to go.
But, you’re more than welcome to walk it over 3 days as many people we passed did! They had wine and did a couple of side walking tracks while at the huts so were sorted.
What to bring:
- If you have them… Gaiters!!!
- Serviced hut pass (can be brought from any I-Site or the Egmont village information centre. While you are there it is a good idea to grab a Pouakai Circuit brochure).
Things to watch out for
- Egmont national park weather. The park has a high amount of rainfall. There is a Maori legend associated with Mount Taranaki and the reason for the continual rain. Check out the story here. (Spoiler… he lost the love of his life!).
- Tree roots
- Uneven surface
- Weather changing
- Steep hills
- No toilet paper!
- Scary swing bridge! (But also super fun).