Backpack the Pouakai Circuit

15.5 miles  - Loop Trail

Added by Daniel Ernst

This well-marked circuit provides spectacular views towards Mt. Taranaki and the peninsula. There are 2 backcountry huts available for the trek.

The track starts at Taranaki / Egmont National Park Visitor Centre (North Egmont) and can be walked in either direction. Two serviced backcountry huts (15$ each) provide overnight accommodation (equipped with woodburners, toilets, water, bunks and mattresses) and are first come first serve. The track is very muddy especially after heavy rainfalls and good shoes are essential to cross the swamp area. Check with with the local DOC for up to date info on weather and trail conditions.

Day 1: North Egmont to Pouakai Hut (12 km / 7,5 mi)
Starting from the Visitor Centre, the track climbs through forest, subalpine scrub and the towering lava columns of the Dieffenbach Cliffs. The track descends to the Ahukawakawa Track junction once past the Kokowai Track turnoff. A 5 minute walk leads to the Holly Hut, a possible overnight stay when started late. From the hut a 1 hour return side trip will take you to the towering Bells Falls. Follow the boardwalk from the junction to Holly Hut across Ahukawakawa Swamp. After crossing the swamp of the track ascends a ridge through mountain cedar to reach the Pouakai Track. Follow the ridgeline until the Mangorei Track junction. Pouakai Hut is a 5 minute walk down the Mangorei Track. The Mangorei Track is a good exit from the circuit if weather conditions are bad.

Day 2: Pouaki Hut to North Egmont Visitor Centre (13 km / 8 mi)
Return upon the ridge to the Pouakai Track junction and follow the signs through open tussock lands. After a descend you're passing the scenic alpine tarns (lakes) - a perfect photo opportunity! The track then ascends Henry Peak (1220 m) before descending Kaiauai Track to the Kai Auahi Stream. Follow the track until a short climb leads up to the Ram Track junction. The quickest return to the visitor centre from there is via the road.

Note: Making this trek in the winter is much more difficult and requires crampons, an ice axe and winter condition expertise.

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Easy Parking
Picnic Area


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Overall rating: 

Fantastic Variety

We hiked the circuit from North Egmont visitors centre through to Holly Hut, then to Pouakai Hut, and out the next day. It's a relatively easy hike with a well-marked and built-up track, although steep in places. The huts are modern and really nice, although both were totally full when we did it (which was Easter weekend in late March), so may be worth carrying a bed roll of you're going at a busy time of year. There's good camping near both huts if you'd rather bring a tent. My favourite thing about the Pouakai Circuit was how varied the landscape was. You travel through subalpine scrub with the spectacular Dieffenbach Cliffs hanging above you, through dense bush, across the open Ahukawakawa Swamp (this part is boardwalked), and across the open tops of the Pouakai Range. There are brilliant views of Mt Taranaki throughout, and you get a chance to see this awesome mountain from many different angles. The side trip to Bells Falls from Holly Hut is well worth doing. If you're only doing one trip in Egmont National Park, I think this would be a good choice. It provides an opportunity to take in the parks many varied landscapes without busting a gut.


🥇Top Contributor

over 4 years ago

Perfect Hike, Perfect Huts

I did the upper loop trail around Taranaki and loved it! You're presented with epic views of the iconic mountain the entire way, and can see incredibly far in the distance once you're near the top. Be careful of the season, because it can still be very snowy on the upper trail even if it's hot at the base. The huts are fantastic and should definitely be made use of!

🥈 Contributor

over 4 years ago

Wonderful 2-day hike

Especially the first day from the visitor center to the Pouakai hut is wonderful. Be prepared to climb a lot at the end of the hike, you have to ascend a couple 100m in order to get to the hut. When I went in December, the mornings were very cloudy. If you want to take pictures of the reflection of Mt. Taranaki in the pond, do it upon settling down in the hut. IMPORTANT: hut is first-come, first-serve, however, you need to buy hut asses to pay with in advance, available at the visitor center.

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