There are many excellent day walks in the Taupo area but without a doubt the best is the Huka Falls Walkway:
This hike is a nice pleasant walk along the shore of New Zealand’s longest river the Waikato River. This hike begins at the Aratiatia Dam outside of Taupo and concludes at Taupo’s Spa Park via the Huka Falls for a total distance of roughly ten kilometers. The hike can be extended which is what I did by continuing to follow the Waikato River into town and back to whatever hotel you are staying at.
To get to the hike’s start point at Aratiatia Dam you will need to take a taxi or do what I did and have your spouse drop you off. The dam is easy to get do and well sign posted, so it is hard to miss. The dam is the first of, if you can believe this, 39 hydro-power stations on the Waikato River:
Hydro-power is widely used in New Zealand and actually accounts for 22% of the nation’s energy demands which is pretty impressive. The dam doesn’t make to large of a lake behind it’s walls as shown in the photograph below where you can also see a geyser going off in the distance:
The reason for this is that the dam opens at regular intervals during the day to keep a regular and predictable flow of water down the river to power the various hydro-stations. The first time in the morning when the dam opens is at 10AM which makes it a good time to begin the hike so you can see the dam open before leaving on the walk. This is what the river gorge outside the dam looked like before the water was released:
The gorge was filled with huge fish as well which made me wish a had a fishing pole with me:
These fish ended up going for quite a ride once the dam opened its doors:
The flood waters from the dam was pretty cool to see and I highly recommend checking out before taking off on the hike. The trail where the Huka Track begins is located right next to the dam:
The start of the trail is lined with many colorful flowers before giving away to more typical north island vegetation later on:
Eventually the trail begins to run parallel to the river where you can see other transportation options available to go up the river on:
The high speed jet boats looked like a pretty fun option to experience the river with:
However, I was quite content simply walking up the trail along the river. Eventually the trail exits the native vegetation and enters and area of lush green grazing land filled with you guessed it, sheep:
After a short walk up a hill, a lookout provides a great view of the Wairakei Geothermal Power Project:
This geothermal power station in one of seven geothermal power stations in the area. Geothermal power is another renewable energy source widely used in New Zealand that accounts for 12% of the nation’s energy supply.
From the lookout the trail moves into a thick woodland of pine trees:
The pine trees were extremely thick and it was actually nice to get some shade and be out of the sun for a little while. Eventually the trail exited the pine trees and ran adjacent to the river again where I could see really see how amazingly blue and clear the water is:
The trail then entered the bushland again providing more welcome shade:
The trail began to move up the hillside and providing some nice views of the beautiful Waikato River:
The trail then levels off before giving way to a remarkable view of the roaring waters of Huka Falls:
The trail begins to head down the hill providing additional views of this magnificent waterfall:
Just up the river from the waterfall you can stand on a bridge that crosses the river and get a good look at the rapidly moving water traveling down this narrow gorge and over the falls:
It is hard to tell from the photo how rapidly moving this water is but trust me you would not survive rafting down this gorge with how violent the rapids were the day I visited.
The hike from Aratiatia Dam to Huka Falls was an approximate distance of 7.8 kilometers. The end of the Huka Track was only about 2 kilometers away and the proximity to the city was becoming more evident as I hiked past the Huka Falls as more resorts and hotels came into view across the river from me:
Also campgrounds were coming into view as well:
The trail was definitely getting filled with more walkers from these campgrounds and resorts who were making the short walk to Huka Falls. Who can blame people from wanting walk along this trail with a river that looks this beautiful:
Towards the end of the trail is something anyone walking the trail should try out and that is the hot spring that bubbles up from underneath the surface near the river:
This water is a perfect temperature and makes a little pool you can sit and relax in before the water exits into the river. The warm water from this hot spring causes the river’s water to be warm in this area making it popular with locals:
I felt really good after exiting the pool and was totally rejuvenated and ready to continue my walk. The trail officially ends at the spa park grounds where more great views of the river can be found:
From the park I followed the road back into town that goes right by the Taupo bungee jumping location:
You won’t catch me doing that anytime soon but the location did offer some more great views of the Waikato River as it ran into Taupo:
About a half hour later I was back at my hotel after approximately 15 kilometers of walking on this day. Due to the dip in the hot spring I felt like I could walk another 15 kilometers because I felt so great. All in all a fantastic walk, with great views, and a soothing hot spring that I highly recommend anyone visiting the Taupo area to check out.
Next Posting: Video of the Huka Falls
Prior Posting: Video of the Hobbiton Movie Set