Tama Lakes walk - with views of three vol­canic peaks

Walking New Zealand - - New Zealand Walk - www.walk­ingnewzealand.co.nz

One of my favourite walks is from Whaka­papa Village to Tama Lakes in Ton­gariro Na­tional Park. Ev­ery time we walk this trail, it’s a new ad­ven­ture, be­cause conditions and scenery vary so much, even at the same time of the year – so it’s a good idea to have four or five lay­ers of cloth­ing avail­able

Al­though we usu­ally go there in mid win­ter to en­joy be­ing sur­rounded by snowy peaks, the scenery ranges from to­tal snow cover, with lots of ice on the path, to bare rock on the flats, and a dis­play of alpine veg­e­ta­tion in a mul­ti­tude of colours.

It is of­ten icy cold un­til 10 30am, by which time we have re­moved sev­eral lay­ers of cloth­ing - then the chill comes in again at about 3.00pm.

The track, a horse trail from days gone by, starts at the end of Ngau­ruhoe Place be­hind the Chateau, and con­tin­ues along an undulating path through red tus­sock and manuka.

Not far along, a trail leads off to the left to Taranaki Falls pro­vid­ing a loop for the re­turn trip.

Much of the track was on well main­tained board­walk across wide open spa­ces, smoth­ered in pretty alpine scrub.

We had awe­some views of snow cov­ered peaks for most of the way. There are sev­eral small gul­lies to cross be­fore reach­ing a junc­tion at the turn-off to the lakes.

The main track con­tin­ues on to Wai­ho­honu Hut, and a left turn leads to Lower Tama Lake at 1,240 me­tres. It is a lovely pic­nic spot, with stun­ning views of Ruapehu, Ton­gariro, Ngau­ruhoe and Taranaki.

This is an easy walk, and we reached the lake in just over two hours.

The lakes are old ex­plo­sion craters and lie on the Tama Sad­dle be­tween Ruapehu and Ngaru­a­hoe. From here a steep climb to 1,440 me­tres takes you to the Up­per Lake, which is even more beau­ti­ful than the lower one.

This climb can be dif­fi­cult, de­pend­ing Above: Look­ing down on the Up­per Tama Lake. Left: At the junc­tion to the Lower Tama Lake.

on conditions. At times it is very icy, and cram­pons are needed, and it is of­ten very windy. We reached there just in time to see a young cou­ple ‘Bag­ging’ the sum­mit with a ‘nudey photo’ – in­ter­est­ing views at moun­tain lakes!

Re­trac­ing our steps, we were soon back down at the junc­tion and it was an easy walk out, giv­ing the op­por­tu­nity to en­joy spec­tac­u­lar scenery – blue skies, snow capped moun­tains, and bright coloured alpine gardens.

It seemed much eas­ier on the way back, and we soon reached the turn-off to Taranaki Falls. These are well worth a visit, and again, each visit is very dif­fer­ent.

Some­times wa­ter falls into a lit­tle hole in a frozen pool, at oth­ers a high vol­ume of wa­ter splashes into and around the pool. What­ever the flow, it makes a good photo stop.

The last hour from the falls was through re­ally pretty beech for­est, a wel­come change from rocky land­scape.

When the track fi­nally emerges onto tus­sock grass with the Chateau clearly vis­i­ble, it seems like the walk is fin­ished – but the path is grad­u­ally up­hill all the way back, and takes longer than ex­pected.

This year we were lucky to have clear blue sky and no wind or rain – a per­fect walk – five and a half hours re­turn.

It is best to check at the Whaka­papa Vis­i­tor Cen­tre for conditions be­fore leav­ing.

Walk­ing New Zealand, issue no 238 - 2017

Above right: Mt Ruapehu with alpine veg­e­taion in the fore­ground. Be­low right: Two walk­ers on the start of the walk to the Tama Lakes.

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