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Silica Rapids Walk, Tongariro National Park

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December 2021 Issue

An alpine walk with a little bit of everything. Photo: Nikki Addison

Begin by crossing a large wooden bridge to access the Lower Silica Rapids Track and continue straight at the fork. 

Follow the gravel track through beech trees and native ferns, accompanied by the sound of running water. At around one kilometre you’ll cross another stream, known as the Golden Rapids for its unique bed of orange clay caused by iron oxide. 

The track then leaves the forest to go over a lengthy wooden boardwalk through an alpine marsh. Then, it’s back into the forest to a bridge crossing Waikare Stream, which flows from the Silica Rapids. At another fork, continue straight onto the Silica Rapids Upper Track for half an hour, until reaching the rapids. If there has been recent rain, you may spot the Punaruku Falls tumbling from a rocky cliff to the left of the track on the way. 

The forest gives way to open scrubland dotted with alpine flowers and tussock grasses. Waikare Stream rushes alongside the path, eventually turning into the creamy white silica terraces and golden rapids that form the walk’s destination. A wide, wooden viewing platform provides the vantage point to take photos and read information signs telling that the cream and gold colourings are a result of silica mineral deposits in rocks formed by the rapids. Cliffs formed by lava flow flank the stream on one side. 

The final part of the loop heads towards Bruce Road and care needs to be taken around the rocks on the track immediately following the viewing platforms, before the path turns into a sturdy boardwalk. 

A gentle climb becomes a steep descent leading to a gully with another bridge, this time crossing the Tawhainui Stream. After a short, sharp climb up the other side, the track levels out into open plains dotted with volcanic rock and red and golden tussock. Stunning views of Mt Ruapehu and Mt Ngauruhoe are guaranteed on a clear day.

Towards the end of the track, an information sign highlights the area’s volcanic history, detailing a prominent lava flow that is crossed as part of the walk. The track ends on Bruce Road, from where it is an easy 2km walk along the tarmac to Whakapapa Village. 

Total Ascent
From Whakapapa Village

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