A night on a sleeping giant
Situated in a small clearing in a goblin forest, Waingongoro Hut provides unimpeded views of the toothed peak of Mt Taranaki 1600m above, and a night halfway up the iconic volcano.
The hut sits at the end of a dead-end track, high above a steep gorge of the Waingongoro River, and while it feels splendidly isolated the hut can be reached in little over an hour.
There are numerous tracks to the hut, but the most direct route is from the Dawson Falls car park, 900m up the mountain via the Ridge Loop and Waingongoro tracks. By taking a short detour on the Wilkies Pools Track, you can also visit these spectacular pools on the way.
It’s an easy 20-minute walk to the pools, along boardwalks and a well-graded track, where you’ll find crystal clear water flowing down an old lava flow. The water has eroded a series of bathtub-sized pools and cascades down smooth channels like a waterslide. We spent an hour exploring the stream, hopping from pool to pool and enjoying the spectacular views over Taranaki.
From the pools, Waingongoro Hut is a further 40-minute walk via the Ridge Track and Waingongoro Track through lush forest of stunted bonsai-like trees, all draped in wisps of hanging moss.
The track passes the Waingongoro Swingbridge, which hangs an airy 24m above Waingongoro Stream and is the highest swingbridge in the park. The 16 bunk hut is a further five-minutes’ walk.
The hut is split into two rooms and has a fireplace and a deck looking out onto the eastern face of Mt Taranaki. It also has a large living area and kitchen.
I sat on the deck in the sun for hours, watching as clouds streamed over the mountain’s summit, forming a white cap.
Sleeping on a volcano is an incredible, if slightly unnerving, experience. The last major eruption of Taranaki was 1854, but it has been unusually quiet since (volcanologists say it erupts roughly every 90 years). Scientists give it a 50 per cent chance of erupting in the next 50 years, higher than any other New Zealand volcano. With these thoughts running through my head, I slipped into an uneasy sleep on this (currently) sleeping giant.
- Total Ascent
- Waingongoro Hut ($15,16 bunks)
- Dawson Falls car park
- Waingongoro Hut (gpx, )
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