Tawhai Falls is a lovely little waterfall in Tongariro National Park. The short single-drop waterfall along the tree-lined Whakapapanui Stream is located near Whakapapa Village, home of the park’s main visitor center and campground, making it a convenient and enjoyable addition to your Tongariro itinerary. The 20-minute walk to the falls is 0.8 kilometers (0.5 miles) round trip with 40 meters (130 feet) of elevation change.
Start from a turnout along the road to Whakapapa Village where there is a sign for Tawhai Falls Walk. Stroll 150 meters down the wide dirt track to a bench that has views above the surrounding brush toward the nearby volcanoes. The track continues down a switchback to the left, getting closer to Whakapapanui Stream. Proceed another 150 meters to a T-junction. A short path to the right ventures out to an overlook at the brink of the falls. The viewpoint is just behind the cliffs alongside the top of the falls and has a wooden railing for safety.
The best views of the waterfall come from the base, so return to the T-junction and take the other path, continuing another hundred meters down a switchback to the bank of Whakapapanui Stream. Turn right and look upstream to see Tawhai Falls.
The trail ends here, with a view upstream toward the waterfall. If you’re feeling a bit agile, make your way up the rocks on the side of the stream to get even closer. For the best view, climb up onto a rock outcropping that is just across the plunge pool from the waterfall. Look across the beautiful turquoise pool toward the gusher of white water. Tawhai Falls is listed as 13 meters (43 feet) tall, but is probably a bit shorter. Nevertheless, it’s quite a nice waterfall in a lovely setting that almost feels tropical, which you would not expect given its proximity to enormous alpine volcanoes.
After gazing into the falls for a while, head back downstream and take the track back to the start. The trail ends at Tawhai Falls, so there’s no getting lost. Dogs and bikes are not allowed, but no fee or permit is required to walk to Tawhai Falls, so get out and enjoy!
Directions: From Taupo, head south on State Highway 1 for about 50 kilometers to Turangi. Turn right on State Highway 41, drive 2.7 kilometers and turn left on State Highway 47. Take this road for 37 kilometers and turn left up State Highway 48 toward Whakapapa Village. The car park for Tawhai Falls is 2.5 kilometers up this road on the left, 3.7 kilometers before Whakapapa Village.
Trailhead address: State Highway 48, Tongariro National Park, Manawatu-Wanganui, 4691, New Zealand
Trailhead coordinates: -39.175314, 175.5136 (39° 10′ 31.13″S 175° 30′ 48.95″E)
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