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Guide to Hiking to Pouakai Hut & Tarn – The BEST View of Mt Taranaki

Guide to Hiking to Pouakai Hut & Tarn – The BEST View of Mt Taranaki

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Mount Taranaki is without a doubt one of the most impressive natural landscapes in New Zealand. This huge free-standing volcano is truly beautiful and can be viewed from afar. In fact, from the town of New Plymouth and the surrounding area, the views of Mount Taranaki are spectacular.

However, in recent times, one viewpoint has become somewhat famous however still not well known. That viewpoint is from the Pouakai Tarns, just past the Pouakai Hut. In my opinion and many others, it’s from this hut (or actually just past it) that you get the best view of Mount Taranaki!

This amazing view is all thanks to a tarn or alpine lake commonly called Mount Taranaki Lake (its actual name is the Pouakai Tarn.) On a calm day, the tarn gives a perfect reflection of Mount Taranaki. Seeing this for yourself is easily one of the best things to do in New Zealand.

This reflection photo has become famous on social media (that’s actually how I found out about it) meaning more people and less room at the hut.

For that reason, I decided to write a complete guide not only on how to get the perfect photo but also about staying in the Pouakai Hut as well as getting there!

Related Read: Have yet to visit famous Hobbiton movie set? Well, read my honest thoughts on if Hobbiton is worth it.

Hiking to the Pouakai Hut and Tarn

The boardwalk to the Pouakai Hut
The boardwalk to keep your feet out of the mud!

The Pouakai Hut is actually part of the three-day Pouakai Circuit in Egmont National Park. This circuit loops around Mount Taranaki. However, it’s not necessary to hike the circuit to get to the Pouakai Hut. Instead, you can hike for two hours to the hut from the parking lot on Mangorei Road, stay the night at the hut, and hike back down the next day.

Of course, this can also be done all in one day since it only involves around 4 hours of walking. However, staying overnight in such a beautiful place is definitely a must-do in my opinion!

The start of the trail is about a 20-minute drive from the center of New Plymouth. To get there, simply head to Mangorei Road and follow it right to the end. Here, there is a very large car park.

The start of the trail is around 100 meters (328 feet) up the road from the car park. This trail is sometimes referred to as Mangorei Track and you can find it marked on Google Maps as such.

The muddy trail to the Pouakai Hut
In some places you can’t avoid the mud!

The hike to the hut is mostly uphill and is around 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) long with around 700 meters (2,297 feet) of elevation gain. It is an out and back trail, so you’ll hike back on the same trail as you did on the way there.

The Pouakai Tarn is (where people take the famous reflection photo of Mount Taranaki) located just another short 15-minute hike further than the Pouakai Hut.

The area gets really muddy so I recommended taking waterproof hiking boots, although it’s not required. Most of the trail is shaded from both the sun and wind until the last part of the trail.

Day Hike to the Pouakai Hut and Tarn

View of Mt Taranaki from near the Pouakiai Hut
Wildflowers and volcanoes! What a view!

If you don’t have time for an overnight trip then you can hike to the Pouakai Hut and back all in a day. That being said, it is important that you pick a day that is not windy if you want to see the reflection in the Pouakai Tarn, or as it’s known, “the best view of Taranaki.”

There is almost always less wind in the morning, so it could be a good idea to get hiking early. Also during the day, the trail does become crowded with day hikers and the same goes with the tarn viewpoint.

Booking the Pouakai Hut

Bunk Beds at the Pouakai Hut
It’s not flash but it sure beats hiking with a tent!

Staying at the Pouakai Hut now requires a booking in advance (as of November 2020). In recent times, the Pouakai Hut operated on a first-come-first-serve basis with just a general serviced hut pass, but that is no longer the case.

Go onto the DOC website and book your stay at the Pouakai Hut in advance for $15 per night per adult, and $7.50 per child (under 10 are free).

It is important to note that your booking only secures you a bunk bed, not any specific bunk. If you want to ensure you get to choose your bunk, then get to the hut early to choose your bunk.

The Pouakai Hut is also very popular, and during the summer months or on weekends you might have a hard time securing a booking. For this reason, it is best to plan your stay in advance and secure your booking as soon as possible!

Staying Overnight at the Pouakai Hut

The kitchen at the Pouakia Hut in Mount Taranaki
The kitchen is basic but you can cook some good meals!

The Pouakai Hut has 16 bunks beds and therefore sleeps only 16 people. Like all serviced huts in New Zealand, the Pouakai Hut bunks only have mattresses and you’ll need to bring your own sleeping bag and pillow.

The hut also features a basic kitchen with sinks for disposing of water and ample counter space. There is a water tank outside with water that you can access, however it is recommended that you boil the water before drinking.

The hut does not have gas or equipment for cooking, so you’ll need to bring your own!

view of the outside of the Pouakai Hut
The Pouakai Hut!

There are pit toilets located just outside of the Pouakai Hut. They aren’t the nicest bathrooms, but for one night they definitely do the trick.

There is no running water, flush toilets, or showers at the Pouakai Hut – it isn’t a Great Walk and you’ll have to hike the Routeburn Track or similar for those kinds of luxuries!

Camping at the Pouakai Hut

Camping at the pouakai hut
Since writing this blog I made it back to the hut but this time I camped!

Yes, you can actually camp near the hut for free but there are a few rules to this. The main one is to not destroy any vegetation and the other is you must be at least 500 meters from the Pouakai Tarn.

To simplify it, if you walk up past the hut towards the tarn you will reach a flat cleared area. This area has been cleared naturally and it is here that you can camp. You will, however, have no protection from the wind so pick a good day or take a sturdy tent.

I found out about camping only after I had done the hike and stayed overnight in the Pouakai Hut. At the top, I saw the signs for camping and spoke to the ranger who confirmed this.

standing on a rock with a view of Mt Taranaki
I never get sick of the views!

On my next visit to the Pouakai Hut, I skipped staying in the hut altogether and camped with Bailey. We were really lucky with the weather so it was actually a really enjoyable experience. I mean, just look at the view from our tent!

Camping was 100% free and Bailey and I were the only people there!

The Best View of Mount Taranaki (Pouakai Tarn Reflection Photo)

The famous Mount Taranaki photo
Not a bad spot for a photo!

The famous photo of Mount Taranaki (see my photo above) is taken just a short walk from the Pouakai Hut at the Pouakai Tarn. The trail is signposted and you can find it easily.

If you’re spending the night at the Pouakai Hut, then be sure to first drop off your overnight gear at the hut and claim your bunk bed before heading to the tarn. In fact, I’d actually suggest waiting until just before sunset to walk to the tarn.

The most beautiful times to photograph Mount Taranaki are of course at sunrise and sunset. During these times you’ll usually find only one or two other people at the tarn and the winds can be calmer – especially in the morning. So of course, the advantage of staying in the Pouakai Hut overnight, or camping for that matter, is that you can visit the Pouakai Tarn at sunrise or sunset!

If you’re wanting to take a photo similar to mine above, then I’d suggest a focal length of anything from 24mm to 35mm. From the edge of Pouakai Tarn, this will give you a wide enough view to get a great shot and allow for a little bit of cropping later.

The Pouakai Tarn is actually a small pond, not a huge lake like it appears in the photo. That is the magic of photography I suppose!

For more info on taking great photos, check out our blog which includes essential tips for taking better travel photos! If you’re traveling more in NZ, be sure to check out the best photography location in Mount Cook, and the most Instagrammable places in Queenstown!

Where to Stay in New Plymouth (Near the Pouakai Hut
Trailhead)

the Pouakai Cabins in New Plymouth, New Zealand
Could you imagine a nicer place to stay?! Photo Credit: Pouakai Cabins

The Pouaki Hut and Mt Taranaki are closest to the city of New Plymouth. Aside from being the gateway to Egmont National Park, it’s also a great place to stay with lots to do!

Here are our top picks of places to stay either before or after (or both) your hike to the Pouakai Tarn:

Ducks and Drakes Boutique Motel and Backpackers – This place is a great budget option right in New Plymouth. Dorms start at only $30 NZD per night and privates at only $84 NZD. The motel is clean and very comfortable!

Egmont Eco Leisure Park & Backpackers – These hostels and hotels are great places to stay for those on a budget. It’s surrounded by nature and right by a river, just a 5-minute drive from the center however it’s also only a 15-minute drive to the Pouaki Hut car park. Privates start at $125 NZD a night and dorms $26 NZD.

The Metrotel – The Metro hotel is a modern hotel that specializes in studios and apartments. We love staying in studios or apartments because it means you can cook yourself, saving you lots of money! The hotel has amazing reviews, it’s located right in town and a queen studio starts at only $169 NZD per night.

Plymouth International – Another great hotel specializing in studio apartments is Plymouth International. Its located close to town and the beach and also has a pool (great for summer)! A standard studio starts at $170 NZD per night!

Georges BnB Nature and Lifestyle Retreat (OUR TOP CHOICE)– The BnB Retreat is one of the closest hotels to the start of the trail to the hut. They are also on a beautiful quiet property, one side is a sea view and the other a mountain. Each room comes with a patio, a kitchen with a microwave, and a dining and seating area! The cheaper options will have a shared bathroom. Private queen suites start at only $110 NZD.

Didn’t find what you’re looking for? Click here to browse all accommodation in New Plymouth!

Freedom Camping in New Plymouth

freedom camping in New Plymouth
Gotta love freedom camping!

If you’re traveling around in a campervan or motorhome and want to freedom camp in New Plymouth, then you’re in luck! There are a few great places where you can do this including Lake Rotomanu and Tapuae Beach.

Tapuae Beach is my favorite spot and it is actually one of the best beaches in all of New Zealand – so be sure to check it out! I actually spent a night here before hiking to the Pouakai Hut and it was really beautiful.

Renting a Car or Campervan in New Zealand

Bailey takes a selfie with a JUCY campervan
Ready to hit the road!
Bailey stands infront of a JUCY campervan in New Zealand
JUCY is another favorite!

The first step to planning your New Zealand road trip is choosing your set of wheels! Most people rent a campervan or motorhome to get around, but you can also just rent a normal car and stay in hotels (as opposed to camping.)

You can search for rental cars online with Discover Cars in advance to compare car models and prices. We’ve used this website all over the world and if you want more details, read our honest review of Discover Cars for more details!

You can also do this with motorhomes and campervans on a website called Motorhome Republic. It shows all of the available campervans and motorhomes for your specific New Zealand road trip dates. You can compare prices and company reviews here too!

JUCY is our personal favorite campervan rental company in NZ. We love JUCY because they have such a range of both cars and campervans available, so you’re pretty much guaranteed to find something to suit your budget and travel style.

We’ve actually secured an exclusive discount code for our readers with JUCY. Just click here to browse their availability and use the code DTRAVEL24 at checkout to get 5% off! What a good deal!

You can check prices, availability and book with JUCY online here.

Star RV is another company we personally recommend but specifically for motorhomes! They offer larger motorhomes (as opposed to budget campervans) at really reasonable rates.

Star RV has actually given us a discount code for our readers too! Use the code DTRAVEL24 at checkout to get 5% off your motorhome rental! Note, this code is only valid for bookings made before June 21, 2024 with travel dates before Dec 21, 2024. Click here to browse availability, prices, and book with our discount code!

Thanks for reading!

enjoying a sunset at the Pouakai Hut with views of Mount Taranaki
Thanks for reading our blog!

Staying at the Pouakai Hut and watching the sun both set and rise is arguably the best view of Mount Taranaki and was a dream come true.

Mount Taranaki is such a magnificent volcano and staying at the Pouakai Hut gives you the best opportunity to get an amazing shot –  or just enjoy one hell of a view! To me, it’s hands-down one of the best things to do in New Zealand!

I hope this blog has helped you on your journey and feel free to leave us feedback in the comments! If you would like to see more blogs from New Zealand, click here, otherwise check out some of most popular blogs below:

33 Free and Cheap Things to do in Queenstown

Guide to Visiting Hot Water Beach

How to Conquer the Whanganui Journey

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Sya

Monday 4th of April 2022

Hi, Love the article! Just wanna confirm, when you say 4 hours walk to the lake. Is that 4 hours one way or return? Thank you!

destinationlesstravel

Tuesday 5th of April 2022

Hey Sya,

So glad you like it!

It is a 4-hour return (at a fast pace) hike I would allow 5 hours + if you don't hike a lot.

Thanks Daniel

Mark

Tuesday 16th of February 2021

Hey guys, This is a great guide with amazing photos. I do have to correct you though about camping near Pouakai hut. It's true that you can camp right outside the hut in a designated site. However, you are not allowed to camp within 100 meters of a trail (that is for any national park in New Zealand). The photo you have of the tent above Pouakai hut with the insane views in that flat area is actually not allowed there. That spot is right next to the trail. It would be great if you can remove this so people don't get the wrong idea. Cheers.

destinationlesstravel

Wednesday 17th of February 2021

Hey Mark,

Thanks for that I guess when we did it the hike was nowhere near as popular and even the hut warden didn't mind. However, now it's one of the busiest trails in NZ and I can see the issue.

I'll update the blog as soon as I get a chance!

Thanks Daniel

Manu

Saturday 30th of January 2021

You legend! this post has all the answers I needed. Thanks buddy, and keep travelling :)

Jamie

Saturday 2nd of January 2021

Hey guys, Great guide and amazing photos! Is it realistic/possible to do the summit track and then head to Pouakai Hut or vice versa? Or would that be too long of a walk?

Thanks :)

destinationlesstravel

Saturday 2nd of January 2021

Hey Jamie,

Thanks so much!

To be honest that would be one hard day! We actually did the summit track but never wrote about it and it is really hard. Takes most of the day and after we were dead! If you consider yourself really fit you may be able to do it just be sure to leave really early in the morning so you have plenty of time. Also, remember the hut is first come first serve so you may have to sleep on the floor if it's full.

Have fun! Daniel

Claudio

Wednesday 4th of November 2020

Hi guys, I would like to do it in a day... checking on google map i can t see the the carpark at the end of Mangorei Road, looks that is just a small road that ends before the trail... is it? Thanks in advice! 😉

destinationlesstravel

Thursday 5th of November 2020

Hey Claudio,

There is a parking lot at the end of Mangorei Road and the trail starts from there. You can easily make it there and back in a day.

Thankas Daniel