Tama Lakes walk - with views of three volcanic peaks
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.