There’s nothing quite like the feeling of conquering a mountain climb for a sense of accomplishment, especially when the views along the way are magical.
On three of Rotorua's mountains, the views from the summit are unrivalled and will leave you in awe.
Get an up-close and very personal experience with New Zealand’s very own Grand Canyon.
When Mt Tarawera erupted on 10 June 1886, it left in its wake an incredible volcanic valley with a rift 17km long. In the process, several lakes were created or drastically altered, and what was considered the eighth Wonder of the World, the Pink and White Terraces, were buried.
The summit of this historical mountain provides amazing 360-degree views, and on clear days you can see the east and west coastlines, Whakaari/White Island to the east, Mt Putauaki/Edgecumbe, Mt Ruapehu, and several of the lakes within this volcanic valley.
If you’ve got about four hours free, a climb to the summit of this maunga is a must do. In fact, if you’re keen to undertake the Mt Tongariro Alpine Crossing but don’t have a full day free, or you’re a bit worried about the physicality of it, Mt Tarawera is the perfect alternative. Being on private land with limited access means you'll be taken by helicopter or 4WD as far as the crater's edge, then walk to the summit. This also means you won't have to slog up its entire 1,111 metres.
As mentioned, there are two ways to get to the crater’s edge: via helicopter from the Rotorua Lakefront with Volcanic Air, or via 4WD with Kaitiaki Adventures. If you choose the latter option, Kaitiaki guides will take you for an experience like none other as you walk along the mountain and finish the tour with a fun scree run down into the heart of the volcanic crater.
Kaitiaki Adventures will soon be offering a new full-day tour, extending the original world-class crater excursion by adding a hike around the Tarawera dome above lakes Rotomahana and Tarawera, and linking back up with the popular half-day excursion on the summit of the highest of three peaks, Ruawahia. Keep an eye on their website.
This culturally steeped hiking expedition encompasses the unique environment and history of the area, including the historic events etched into its landscape. This tour offers guests further world-class views and a deeper dive into the history of one of New Zealand’s pristine natural heritage sites.
Mt Kakaramea (Rainbow Mountain)
Speaking of craters and amazing views, Mount Kakaramea is another one for the must-do list. Access to the summit, which is 743 meters above sea level, is free and available by foot or mountain bike.
The trail through this public reserve is well marked and takes you past two colourful crater lakes, through native bush that is still regenerating following the Mt Tarawera eruption, and along bare, colourful steaming ridges. Be sure to bring your camera for some epic selfies.
The trail is roughly 2.5km one way and if you’re reasonably fit, it should take around two hours to reach the summit by foot.
Two free tracks are accessible here, offering a couple of ways to reach the summit of Mt Ngongotahā which is just over 750 metres high.
The Nature Loop Track is a 2.5km loop perfect for families or groups who have about an hour to enjoy the beautiful native flora and fauna covering the maunga (mountain). The gentle grade and even surface of this track takes you through the native bush and to an incredible rata tree that stands 40 meters tall with an impressive 1.8 metre girth.
The Nature Loop Track intersects the Jubilee Track which takes you to the summit. As this area is forested, there is no view from the summit but the sense of accomplishment and being in nature are rewards of equal merit.
If you believe in fairies, listen out for the mythical tribe of fairy people some believe live on the mountain. Legendary stories say their flutes can still be heard on days when mist rolls down over the slopes.