The Pouakai Hut Hike
A journey through lust forest with views over New Plymouth and as far as Mount Ngauruhoe makes The Pouakai Hut one of my top favourite DOC huts.
Trail name: Mangorei Track
Trail Start: End of Mangorei Road, Taranaki
Location: Mount Taranaki, Egmont National Park, New Zealand
Elevation Gain: 805 m
Distance: 10 km round-trip
Duration: 2 hours to the Pouakai Hut
Camp Style: 16 beds available in the hut based on first come first served/non-bookable – no cooking facilities, two long-drops, running un-treated water, a fire, two hut rooms (each room sleeps 8 people). No designated tent pads.
It’s only a short 15 minute walk downhill to the tarns from the flat area, where the famous lake can be found. Beautiful at all times of the day but especially beautiful at sunset and sunrise when the mountain is lit by the sun and reflecting brightly in the water.
There are a few options for trails to the hut, I chose to take the Mangorei Track up to the hut as it is the shortest option which makes for a great trail when carrying an overnight pack. The Mangorei Track trail-head is located at the end of Mangorei Road, Taranaki. The road is well maintained as this is a very touristy area, with a huge carpark (roughly 40 parking spaces) and a few (4 or so) oversized spaces for large camper-vans. We arrived at the carpark at 12pm and majority of the carpark was already full with only a few spaces available, my advice? arrive early!
A short 10 minute walk up from the carpark and past the only toilets until the hut we found the entrance for the trail – a large gravel path leading up through the forest like a driveway. We walked past a couple houses and then hit the official beginning of the trail, which leads through a beautiful lush and overgrown forest.
The trail is boardwalk for 90% of the way, until the last section of the hike where less wood and more mud and gravel is found. The boardwalk continues consistently uphill for the entire journey, however no part is steep. It can be extremely slippery as there is no netting covering the boardwalk yet making it difficult to grip.
There are a few view points roughly an hour in to the hike, a few streams to cross, and a couple bridges. On a wet day or after heavy rainfall this track will be extremely muddy with some sections becoming flooded. Most of the trail is covered by forest until the last 30 minutes or so.
There are two conflicting trail signs that state different hiking times – one states 1 hour 30 mins, the other states the hike will take 2 hours 30 mins. The entire journey from the trailhead to the hut took exactly two hours, with no stops, and wearing overnight packs.
The hut cannot be booked in advance, it is first come first served only, however you must purchase a serviced hut pass or use your yearly hut pass to stay overnight. A ranger is often on site checking the correct pass has been purchased.
The Pouakai Hut is notoriously known for being full past capacity. It only sleeps 16 people, however when we stayed at the beginning of June the hut had 25 people sleeping overnight. Luckily for my group, we arrived at 2pm and scored four of the last six sleeping mats and bed spaces. There are only two rooms, with two bunks each room containing eight sleep spots. I would advise anyone planning an overnight stay to carry a sleeping pad because there is an extremely high chance of having to sleep on the floor.
The hut itself has a fire; a large kitchen bench and sink but no inside tap; two taps outside that produce un-filtered water; two long-drops, no toilet paper is provided – take your own!; two large picnic dining tables; and no lights or cooking facilities.
The Pouakai Range is extremely exposed and can be very cold, very windy, and very wet. Luckily, the weather Gods blessed us with some incredible weather but quite often this isn’t the case. I completed the Pouakai Circuit (a longer trail beginning from the North Egmont Visitor Centre) in January and was met with awful weather – strong winds, rain, fog and no views of Taranaki. It was far colder in January than when I went in June so make sure to watch the forecast and time the weather right – this can be extremely difficult as the mountain weather can change so rapidly but making the call the night before is my best advice.
Once you’re at the top, the scenery is like nothing else. It is absolutely incredible. Mount Taranaki stands tall and seems so close but viewing it from the Pouakai Range really allows for a perspective of how incredibly huge it is. You can see the Holly Hut (part of the Pouakai Circuit) nestled in at the base of the mountain and it makes the world feel so small and insignificant.
If you’re really lucky, on a fine day you can see all the way to Mount Ngauruhoe in Tongariro National Park!
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