Ruapehu reflections – a short hike to Tongariro National Park’s highest waterfall through spectacular alpine scenery

Walking to Waitonga Falls on a clear chocolate-box day doesn’t disappoint.

This easy 4km hike has many highlights including the traverse across an alpine wetland via a boardwalk where majestic Mt Ruapehu is mirrored in the Rotokawa Pools.

The entry point to the walk is via a swing bridge over a mountain stream framed with native bush.

From here the track gently heads upwards through beautiful kaikawaka and mountain beech forest.

The abundance of beautifully patterned lichens on the tree trunks shows how pure the air is here (lichens are very sensitive to toxins in the air).

And, depending on what time of year you visit you may see mistletoe and sundews.

When you get to the boardwalk – the midway point on route to the falls – it is worth taking a seat on the well-positioned bench to soak in the view if time is on your side.

The track then heads downhill through more forest to Waitonga Falls – Tongariro National Park’s highest waterfall at 39m.

The track is well formed until you get to the base of the valley and view of the Waitonga Falls. If you want to get to the base of the falls you need to do a bit of boulder-hopping upstream, which is totally doable. It’s rather nice sitting on a boulder near the falls enveloped by the cool fine spray of the waterfall on a hot day.

Then it’s back the same way, up to the alpine meadow, along the boardwalk and downhill for the final descent.

Waitonga Falls

Walk time: 1 hour 20 minutes (4km return via same track). The track begins from the parking area 11km up the Ohakune Mountain Rd and is clearly signposted.

Track notes: The weather on Mt Ruapehu is very changeable all year round so make sure you take warm and waterproof clothing with you.

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