When the water is still, Lake Rotokura acts like a mirror to Mount Ruapehu, delivering a great postcard view. A relatively easy 2-kilometer (1.25-mile) walk crosses through Lake Rotokura Ecological Reserve, located east of the town of Ohakune, just outside the boundaries of Tongariro National Park. This is a peaceful short walk, leading to a setting that’s quite beautiful in clear conditions.
Make your way to a dirt parking area at the south end of the Lake Rotokura Ecological Reserve, where there is a Department of Conservation sign at the start of Rotokura Walk, listing the distance to Dry Lake as 5 minutes and to Rotukura as 15 minutes. Follow a wide dirt trail north, ascending through a light beech forest. The trail goes gradually uphill, with a few moderate spots, crossing a woodland with lots of nice ferny areas. At the mid-point of the 1-kilometer long track, you will walk along the edge of Dry Lake. Despite its name, you should actually see plenty of water in this shallow reed-covered pond (who ever named it must have had a dry sense of humor). There are picnic tables along the track, and you are asked to picnic here and not at Lake Rotokura, which is sacred to the Māori.
The trail leaves Dry Lake and ascends through more forest toward Lake Rotokura. As the trail levels out, you will come to the shore of the lake. The snow-covered mass of Mount Ruapehu rises above the pines on the far side of the lake. This cone-shaped volcano is the highest peak on New Zealand’s North Island and the nation’s largest active volcano. Pause and enjoy this calm mountain view as ducks drift across the lake. When there isn’t much wind, the calm water creates a nice reflection of Mount Ruapehu. See if you can arrive in the morning when the lake is likely to be still. The walking track ends at the lakeshore, although thin footpaths seem to go off in both directions around the lake.
After absorbing the view of Lake Rotokura, simply return the way you came. There are 75 meters (250 feet) of elevation change along this easy hike. Dogs, bikes, and horses are not allowed. No fee or permit is required to walk to Lake Rotokura, so get out and enjoy!
Directions: Take State Highway 49 east of Ohakune for 11 kilometers to Karioi Station Road (where there will be a sign for Rotokura Ecological Reserve) and turn left. Drive north up Karioi Station Road for three kilometers to the car park at the end of the road. The pavement runs out after 1.1 kilometers, but continue up a gravel road across railroad tracks and over a small bridge to reach a dirt turnaround at the end of the road where the track begins.
Trailhead address: Karioi Station Road, Tangiwai, Manawatu-Wanganui, 4691, New Zealand
Trailhead coordinates: -39.437782, 175.519195 (39° 26′ 16.01″S 175° 31′ 09.10″E)
You may also view a regional map of surrounding New Zealand tracks, campgrounds, and lodging.
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