Start this walk early to soak in beautiful sunrise views extending all the way to Mts Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu.
The walk starts at the far end of the car park along a rocky trail lined with alpine plants such as hebe and tussock.
An impressive concrete tunnel is reached after about 850m. This is designed to protect walkers from rockfall and slips from above. At its end is a narrow pathway bordered with more hebe and alpine plants on one side and a rockface, covered in lush moss, on the other.
The trail becomes less apparent as it enters the gorge. Here, walkers are surrounded by large boulders and rocks and will need to carefully rock-hop through this area. The gorge section is very short – around five minutes.
Though the trail is indistinct, track markers lead the way uphill to reach the far side of the gorge. In winter and spring, the area is prone to avalanches and slips. An avalanche in 2016 sent 1000 tonnes of debris through the gorge and narrowly missed two hikers.
The track out of the gorge becomes more defined as it leads higher up the mountain and the inclines are gentler as it sidles along the 1160m contour line to Manganui Lodge and ski field. The ski field typically opens in June. In winter, this place may be bustling with snowboarders and skiers. In summer it can be nearly deserted.
There is a public shelter and toilet at the ski field. Here, there are good views to the north and along the coastline.
This track is part of the 4-5 day Around the Mountain Circuit, but it is also a perfect short walk in its own right, especially for those who do not have the fitness required for the multi-day trek but who want to experience an alpine environment.
In winter, the track can be covered in snow and ice and even in summer it can be cold up at the ski field.