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The best overnight hike around Taranaki: Pouakai Crossing [Everything you need to know]

In this guide, I tell you everything you need to know about the Pouakai Crossing hike in the heart of Egmont National Park in the Taranaki region. You can do it as a day hike or over 2-3 days. The Pouakai Crossing is probably the best-known hike in the area and offers some of the best views of Mount Taranaki. It passes through the iconic points of the Pouakai Circuit. If you only have to do one hike during your stay in Taranaki, this is the one!

Pouakai Crossing information

– General information 

Pouakai Crossing (one way)
– Duration: 7h30 – 9h30min / possibility to do it overnight and stay in the huts
– Distance: 19 km 
– Difficulty: Advanced (medium to high level)
– Start: Egmont National Park Visitor Centre
– Arrival: Mangorei Road
Pouakai Circuit (loop)
– Duration: 2 to 3 days
– Distance: 25 km
– Difficulty: Advanced (medium to high level)
– Start and finish: Egmont National Park Visitor Centre

Best time to hike the Pouakai Crossing 

This hike can be done all year round. However, the best time to complete it is in summer, between December and April.

Although the path remains passable all year round, snow and ice can affect the higher parts of the trail in winter and spring. Extra caution is therefore required if you wish to do this hike at this time. 

It is important to check the weather conditions with Metservice and the DoC before starting this hike in any season. Conditions can change very quickly, even in summer. For example, I did this hike in summer and yet it started to snow on part of the trail. So stay alert and prepare yourself a bit in advance for this hike so you’ll have the right equipment for any situation.

view from Ahukawakawa Wetlands

How to prepare for Pouakai Crossing hike? What should you bring?

Speaking of preparation, let’s take a look at how to prepare for this hike so that your experience is a success. What to expect during the hike? What equipment to bring and how to get there?

This is based on my own experience and therefore includes equipment for staying overnight in a refuge. 

What to expect on the Pouakai Crossing?

The Pouakai Crossing hike is 19km (24km if you hike Pouakai Circuit) and its difficulty is moderate to high in some parts. You will need a good level of fitness to complete this walk safely and enjoyably. 

Some parts of the trail can be wet and muddy, especially in winter or after rainy weather. And others are quite steep, with volcanic rocks. So it is very important to be careful and always stay on the marked path. Especially as you will not have any phone coverage in some places like the Ahukawakawa Wetland area.

What to bring as equipments?

As I said before, weather conditions can change quickly in the mountains, so it is important to be equipped for any situation. The Pouakai crossing is considered an alpine hike. 

Which equipments ?

  • A backpack
  • Good waterproof hiking boots
  • A waterproof jacket adapted to the alpine climate (Benoit and I had, respectively, a Kathmandu and a NorthFace jacket – ideal for this type of trek in summer and winter). Waterproof trousers are also a must in winter.
  • Breathable merino layers
  • Sunglasses, cap/hat
  • Sunscreen
  • Mobile phone
  • First aid kit
  • Protective cover for your backpack in case of rain (optional)
  • Walking sticks (optional) 
  • Map, compass or GPS (optional)

What to bring for snack/food and for the hut :

  • Plenty of drinking water. The water at the refuge is not filtered, but as it is rain water, we drank it without any problem.
  • Sufficient food for snack and dinner if you stay in the hut. Think about the weight of your bag!
  • Small stove, cutlery, kettle for the evening and breakfast at the refuge
  • Sleeping bag
  • Extra clothes for the refuge or for the descent the next day (I’m sure you’ll appreciate being dry after sweating during the 6 hour hike to the refuge)
  • Toothbrush, soap or wipes if you want to clean yourself up.
  • Headtorch if needed
  • A pack of cards. You have to keep yourself busy in the hut in the evening

Pouakai Hut: Don’t forget to book your bunk ($15 per night per person) in the hut in advance on the DOC website. This hike is becoming more and more popular and there are only 16 beds available. This hut provides mattresses. There are also toilets and a fireplace to warm you up. In the kitchen, there are also sinks, however, please note that there are no cooking facilities so please bring your own stove, cutlery etc if required.

How to get there?

The Pouakai crossing is a one-way hike. The start is at the North Egmont Visitor centre and the end at Mangorei road, so you need to arrange transport to/from one end of the trail.

Shuttle services are available. I booked our shuttle through this website for $35 per person. You park your vehicle at the Mangorei Road Car park and they pick you up around 7:30am to take you to the start of the walk at the visitor centre.

Let’s cross Pouakai and see Mount Taranaki

Here is the way we followed during our hike in late December 2020 while we were doing a road trip through the Taranaki region.

North Egmont Visitor centre at Holly Hut (3-4 hours)

After we parked our campervan at the end of Mangorei Road, the shuttle we had booked the day before arrived at 7:30am sharp. We meet a nice lady. She asks us if we have done this walk before and gives us the map to follow. She also warns us about the recent snowfall and the freezing temperatures at the start. Being in the middle of summer, we hadn’t thought that the snow would be there and so hadn’t planned on enough underlay to keep warm. Fortunately, when we arrived at the start of the hike, we quickly stopped at the information centre to buy an extra layer. And it won’t be too much 😉 

The beginning of the hike goes up through the forest, locally called the ‘Goblin Forest’ because it looks like an enchanted forest, home to the so-called Kamahi trees. Before arriving in the bush where you can finally see Mount Taranaki and have a great view of the national park with the Tasman Sea in the background. The weather is capricious on this part with some showers, and even a little snow. There are a few steep and slippery spots to be crossed with caution such as the ‘Boomerang Slip’. In the photo on the left, you can see the path we took along the mountain.

Once past the “Kokowai Track” junction, the trail gradually descends offering a view of Ahukawakawa Wetland. We take the path to the first hut for a short break at Holly Hut. 

Holly Hut to Pouakai Hut (2 hours)

After our short break at Holly Hut, we are back on the road to reach our overnight hut. This section crosses the Ahukawakawa Wetland. Its unique microclimate is home to many plant species, some of which are common at this altitude and some of which are found nowhere else in the world. Despite the wooden path through the area, it is very wet and muddy. Be careful where you step so you don’t end up with wet socks. No, no I’m not speaking from experience at all 😉 

The hike gets steep with many stairs through the mountain to reach the junction of the Pouakai Tarn. Which means we are almost to the hut!!! We arrived at the hut at about 3pm and decided to rest a bit before going to see the famous Pouakai Tarn, one of the best views on Taranaki. However, the weather was not with us and we couldn’t see Taranaki tonight, hidden behind the clouds. Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day. 

Pouakai Hut at Pouakai Tarn (20min)

We spend a pleasant evening at the Pouakai Hut, but quickly go to bed. Tired but also amazed by the day we had. We wake up early the next morning and fortunately the weather is good. We can go and discover the view of Mount Taranaki at Pouakai Tarn. Small lake reflecting Mount Taranaki. 

The small detour to get to Pouakai Tarn is only 15-20 minutes. Once there, we finally understand why this place is known to have the best view of Mount Taranaki.

pouakaicrossing8

Pouakai Hut at Mangorei Road (1-2 hours) 

After a good breakfast at the hut, we start to walk slowly towards Mangorei Road, which will be the end of this fantastic expedition. The road is quite easy, as it is a long descent through the “Goblin Forest”. 

For those wishing to continue and do the loop via the Pouakai Circuit, you only need to turn back to the Pouakai Track junction. Turn left to cross Maude Peak and Henry Peak before heading back down the Kaiauai Track to the North Egmont Information Centre. The distance from Pouakai Hut to the information centre is 13km (5-7 hours). 

What else to do in Taranaki?

This hike will remain the highlight of my Taranaki road trip and is certainly one of the best I have done in the North Island of New Zealand. The views all along the way as well as on the mountain are incredible. Again, be sure to check MetService for weather forecasts and advisories before venturing out. You can also speak to someone at the North Egmont Visitor Centre who will have the latest information. 

If you are not too keen on hiking, but still want to see Mount Taranaki, there are many viewpoints in the surroundings: Te Rewa Rewa Bridge, Lake Mangamahoe, … You can find them in the blog post dedicated to the Taranaki region. Besides, there is much more to discover in the area.

Have you already done this hike? Or are you planning to go there soon? Give me your feedback in comments! 


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