Hiking a volcano, that sounds so adventurous, even dangerous, like something reserved for only the best mountaineers or scientists. The truth is, hiking Mt Taranaki on New Zealand’s north island was like hiking any other mountain. There was no lava flowing, no steam billowing from its depths and certainly no smoke or ash in the air. But there was snow on the peak and clear blue skies as we traversed our way through some very lush rain forest, past stoat traps and up and down many steps on the “Veronica Loop”, which is a couple of hour trek from the North Egmont visitors center near New Plymouth. New Zealand has some of the best visitors centers with lots of information and a very helpful staff to guide you wherever your heart desires. They also have great mock ups and detailed history about the surrounding areas. At the North Egmont visitors center, they have a nice display about Sir Edmund Hillary, a New Zealand mountaineer that on May 29th, 1953 along with Sherpa Tenzing Norgay became the first known climbers to summit Mt. Everest. Hillary is so famous amongst New Zealanders, In 1992 he appeared on the updated New Zealand $5 note, thus making him the only New Zealander to appear on a banknote during his or her lifetime. They sure love their athletes down here (that’s probably a whole other post in itself). Although we didn’t summit Mt Taranaki or see a stoat, we did have a wonderful time exploring a little bit of this vast park on one of the nicest days since we’ve been here. Luckily for us, the mountain did not erupt and we were able to live to hike another day.
We ended our day in Taranki with a drive up to the Manganui ski field parking lot (or carpark as it’s known in NZ) where we had a picnic lunch and enjoyed views all the way across to Mt. Ruapehu, some 97km or 60 miles away. The parking lot located at Manganui was empty since the ski field was closed, but seemed like another great place to hike from, especially in the summer time when going to the summit, as it was much higher than where we had hiked earlier in the day.
There is so much beauty around the mountain to be seen, but you have to work for it. If you have the time and energy, you could hike for days around the area surrounding Taranaki and not even need a tent. Like many of the hiking tracks (trails), Taranaki has huts situated around the park to stay in as you make your way from one location to another. There is even a small lodge by the North Egmont Visitors center in which you can stay, for a fee, before heading out on your journey. Just be sure to plan and book ahead of time, the people around here like to get outside and play!
If you want to know more about stoats in New Zealand, click here.