8 Taupo Walks & Hikes For Your New Zealand Hiking Adventure

Located in the heart of New Zealand’s North Island, Taupo is an adventurer’s paradise. To experience the area to its fullest, save time on your NZ itinerary to tackle the best Taupo walks & hikes.

The town of Taupo sits upon Lake Taupo, the largest lake in New Zealand. The lake’s scenes are among North Island’s finest. But the top walking & hiking tracks in Taupo go well beyond its shores. As you wander around Taupo, you’ll slip through lush native forest and volcanic landscapes. You’ll venture through geothermal wonderlands and traipse alongside rivers and waterfalls.

Ready to launch the ultimate Taupo hiking adventure? Hit the trails with this complete guide to the top hikes & walks in Taupo.

Top Taupo hiking & walking trails

Huka Falls Loop

Need a quick primer to the Taupo hiking scene? Take on the easy Huka Falls Loop. The entire walk runs only 0.6 kilometres. It’s a great option if you’re travelling to Taupo with kids or just want a leisurely walk.

Huka Falls

The trail gains a mere 22 metres in elevation, ending with excellent views over Huka Falls. Although the falls drop only 11 metres, the crashing waters show off the Waikato River at its mightiest. Spend some time at the viewpoint to admire its power and majesty.

SEE ALSO: Top Tourist Attractions in Taupo

For a longer alternative route to Huka Falls, start at the Spa Thermal Park. The Spa Thermal Park to Huka Falls Walk is a more scenic option. The 3-kilometre track should take most hikers about 1.5 hours to complete.

Got energy to spare? You can extend the walk another 7 kilometres to Aratiatia Rapids on the Aratiatia Rapids Track.

  • Distance: 0.6 kilometres
  • Time: 15 minutes
  • Difficulty: Easy

Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Ready to take things up a notch (or two)? Brace yourself for Tongariro Alpine Crossing. The epic trail is often labelled as one of New Zealand’s greatest day hikes. And with good reason. For hikers, tackling the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a highlight of any trip to New Zealand.

Most hikers start the Tongariro Alpine Crossing hike at the Mangatepopo Valley. The trail climbs over old lava flows to Mangatepopo Saddle, wedged between the Ngauruhoe and Tongariro peaks. From the saddle, you’ll catch fantastic panoramic views over Tongariro National Park. If the weather is in your favour, you may even see as far as Mount Taranaki, the second-highest peak on North Island.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing

The hike continues to the Red Crater, the highest point on the track. Atop the active volcano crater, you’ll witness all Tongariro’s geothermal majesty.

From the Red Crater, the trail descends to the stunning Emerald Lakes. The aquamarine-coloured lakes form one of the most famous scenes in Tongariro National Park. After the Blue Lake, you’ll make the final descent to the trail’s end at Ketetahi hut.

As spectacular as the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is, its magic doesn’t come easy. The trek stretches 19.4 kilometres and will take a full day.

The trail is also susceptible to weather conditions. The best time to hike the trail is between November and May. From June to October, the trail becomes covered in snow & ice. You’ll need good alpining skills at this time of year.

  • Distance: 19.4 kilometres (one-way)
  • Time: 7 to 9 hours
  • Difficulty: Challenging

Opepe Scenic and Historic Reserve

Located between Taupo and Napier, The Opepe Scenic and Historic Reserve is a fantastic place to immerse in the outdoors. The reserve covers a large swath of dense native forest. There’s even a few important historical sites hidden along the way.

Two main walking tracks traverse The Opepe Scenic and Historic Reserve. The shorter Northern route clocks in at 1.5 kilometres. The Southern route is 3 kilometres long.

RELATED: Best Places to Stay in Taupo

On the Northern walking track, you’ll trek through a mature podocarp forest. The tree species is rare in the region. Most in the area were destroyed by volcanic activity, fires, and logging. Among the podocarp, keep your eyes out for native NZ bird species.

The Northern section was also home to a historic battle during the 1869 New Zealand Land Wars. The skirmish pitted the Bay of Plenty Calvary against local Maori warriors. On one of the side tracks, you can visit the cemetary where nine soliders were laid to rest.

On the longer Southern walking track, you’ll pass through another native forest. Unlike on the northern side, the forest is still regenerating from damage from the area’s historic settlement. You’ll still see remnants of its past here, including tōtara fencing and a water well.

  • Distance: 1.5 kilometres (Northern) / 3 kilometres (Southern)
  • Time: 30 to 45 minutes (Northern) / 1 to 1.5 hours (Southern)
  • Difficulty: Easy

Tongariro River Trail

Looking for a leisurely riverside walk or mountaing biking ride? Find your way to the Tongariro River Trail. The popular loop trail follows the banks of the beautiful Tongariro River just south of Turangi. Along the way, you’ll pass through native forest with beech trees & manuka.

Tongariro River

The Tongariro River Trail is a fantastic option for a family hiking or biking adventure. The terrain is mostly flat, barring the short climb to the Tongariro River Lookout. (For the magnificent views of the river, volcanoes, and mountains, it’s well worth the small effort though.)

Although the entire track is 15 kilometres, the easy walk should take most hikers about 2 to 3 hours. A bike ride should last anywhere between 30 minutes and 1.5 hours.

  • Distance: 15 kilometres
  • Time: 2 to 3 hours (walking) / 30 minutes to 1.5 hours (biking)
  • Difficulty: Easy

Great Lake Pathway (Lion’s Walk)

Want to see Lake Taupō in all its glory? Take a walk on the Great Lake Pathway (Lion’s Walk). The easy and flat walk ventures along the lakeshore between Lake Taupo Yacht Club and Five Mile Bay. It’s one of the most popular lakeside walking trails in Taupo.

Lake Taupo

On the way, you’ll dazzle at the majestic snow-capped peaks of Mt Tongariro, Mt Ngauruhoe and Mt Ruapehu across Lake Taupō. There are plenty of great stops along the way. Along the trail, you’ll find great beaches & swimming spots. There’s even a “hot water beach” where you can feel the power of the Taupo’s geothermal waters tickle your toes.

The Great Lake Pathway (Lion’s Walk) is about 10 kilometres. It should only take about 3 hours to complete. The trail is also a popular cycling destination. A few short years ago, it was even voted New Zealand’s Favourite Urban Ride!

  • Distance: 10 kilometres
  • Time: 3 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy

Waihora Lagoon Walking Track

Located west of Lake Taupo, Pureora Forest Park is one of the area’s finest slices of virgin forest. And one of the best ways to discover it is on the Waihora Lagoon Walking Track.

At just 730 metres, the loop track is one of the shortest around Taupo. Don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s anything less than spectacular.

Waihora Lagoon

The trail’s boardwalk ventures to Waihora Lagoon. This tranquil spot forms one of the most beautiful scenes in Pureora Forest Park. On a calm day, the towering rimu and kahikatea trees glisten and shimmer in the lagoon’s waters.

While the walk itself is short, getting here can be an adventure. The Waihora Lagoon Walking Track is 40 minutes west of Taupo. The three-kilometre stretch from State Hwy 32 to the car park on Waihora Road is a bit bumpy. Driving a 4WD vehicle is recommended.

  • Distance: 730 metres
  • Time: 15 minutes
  • Difficulty: Easy

Rangatira Point Track

One of the best journeys to experience Lake Taupo by foot is the Rangatira Point Track. The track whips around Tōtara Bay southwest of Taupo.

From the trailhead at Acacia Bay, you’ll enjoy views of Taupō and Mount Tauhara to the northeast. The path also winds into the native bush along the shore on its way to Whakamoenga Point via Te Karaka Point.

The Rangatira Point Track runs just 3 kilometres. Budget for about 1 hour and 30 minutes to complete the return trek.

  • Distance: 3 kilometres
  • Time: 1.5 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy

Craters of the Moon

Looking for another family-friendly addition to your Taupo hiking plans? Whisk yourself away to the otherwordly Craters of the Moon in Wharakei.

Craters of the Moon

The popular geothermal area simmers with Taupo’s volcanic beauty. As you stroll its pathways, you’ll pass by active craters, steam vents, and bubbling mud pools.

The 2.7-kilometre-long Craters of the Moon walk should take about 45 minutes to complete.

  • Distance: 2.7 kilometres
  • Time: 45 minutes
  • Difficulty: Easy

Ryan O'Rourke is a seasoned traveler and the founder & editor of Treksplorer, a fiercely independent guide to mid-range luxury travel for busy people. With over 20 years of extensive travel experience, Ryan has journeyed through over 50 countries, uncovering hidden gems and sharing firsthand, unsponsored insights on what to see & do and where to eat, drink & stay. Backed by his travel experience and in-depth research, Ryan’s travel advice and writing has been featured in publications like the Huffington Post and Matador Network. You can connect with Ryan on Twitter/X at @rtorourke.

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