New Zealand’s North Island is covered in absolutely stunning landscapes and well-maintained tracks, so it’s an absolute dream destination for hikers and explorers. The hardest part of hiking New Zealand is sometimes choosing a track to begin with! To make life a little easier, we’ve put together this list of our absolute favourite hiking tracks on the North Island that we think you should check out.
From short trips up mountain-sides to endurance-testing multi-day adventures camping around the edge of lakes — there’s sure to be something on this list for you to enjoy. So tighten your shoelaces, make sure that day bag is zipped up, and keep on reading to see what we think are the very best hiking trails on the North Island.
Explore North Island’s Best
- Tongariro Alpine Crossing
- Taranaki Falls
- Coromandel Coastal Walk
- Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk
- Pinnacles Track
- Mount Maunganui (Mauao) Summit
1. Tongariro Alpine Crossing
Tongariro National Park, North Island
Let’s get straight to the point: this is one of the best hikes in New Zealand and you should do it if you get the chance. It’s pretty cliché to say this about anything in NZ, but this hike will make you feel like you’re travelling across Middle Earth in The Lord of the Rings — specifically, the Return of the King, when they’re lighting the Beacons of Gondor (trust us, just look it up).
This alpine crossing will take you the better part of a full day to complete, but it’s well worth the time and effort. You’ll see active volcanoes, the three Emerald Lakes, cross epic craters and lakes, and scramble up the ominous-sounding Devil’s Staircase. The path can be busy in summer and very difficult in winter, so the spring and autumn months are often best for enjoying the views.
Visit the official Tongariro Crossing website for a map of the area. And bring the camera (and some Lembas bread).
DISTANCE: 19.4km One-way (6-8 Hours)
DIFFICULTY: Moderate (Spring, Summer), Hard (Winter)
BEST TIME: Spring to autumn months are most comfortable; winter can be very cold.
2. Taranaki Falls
Ruapehu, North Island
This walk is a nice, easy looping track for a relaxing day. A rocky track meanders alongside a trickling stream, surrounded by the lush greenery of the alpine landscape. In the distance, the looming volcanic ranges attract rain and snow in the colder months. It’s one of the most picturesque and diverse landscapes anywhere on the North Island.
There are actually two paths to choose from on this hike — the Upper track rewards you with amazing views of the mountains and open moor landscape, ending at the top of the waterfall; the Lower track takes you along the river and among the trees, ending at the bottom of the falls. We highly recommend trying both tracks as each is unique and beautiful enough to justify it.
Visit the Department of Conservation website for more information on each of the tracks.
DISTANCE: 6km One-way (2 Hours)
BEST TIME: All year, but the summer months are best for taking a dip in the pools at the bottom of the waterfall.
3. Coromandel Coastal Walk
Port Charles, North Island
Packed with stunning landscapes, beaches, lookouts, mountains, and rivers, the Coromandel Peninsula is worth spending at least a few days exploring. If you’re looking for a moderately-challenging hike to take in as much of the area as possible, allow a full day to take the Coromandel Coastal Walk between Stony and Fletcher Bays.
You’ll cross bridges over running rivers, see tree-covered mountains, see geothermal vents, walk through lush forest, and get stunning views of the rugged coastline. It’s an absolute treat to hike through this ancient trail on foot — but somehow even better on a mountain bike (if you’re an experienced rider).
Check out the official Coromandel website for more information on the walk.
DISTANCE: 10km One-way (3.5 Hours)
BEST TIME: All year
4. Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk
Te Urewera National Park, North Island
Located on the sparsely-populated eastern side of North Island, Lake Waikaremoana is a beautiful, rugged, remote part of New Zealand to slow down and explore at your own pace. You can spend a few hours peacefully exploring the tracks…or, you can take the Great Walk around the entire circumference of the Lake. It will take you several days and isn’t a path to be taken without preparation as it is quite remote.
The Lake is surrounded by richly-forested mountains, rocky outcrops, pebble beaches, and sheer cliffs formed from millenia of landslides and storms. This is about as wild as any landscape in New Zealand gets, and is a surprisingly quiet part of the country for tourism. You can either camp in the designated campsites, or retreat inside from the weather in one of several huts along the way.
Check out the Department of Conservation website for more information on how to explore and stay in the Lake area.
DISTANCE: Anywhere from half a day and up to 4 days
BEST TIME: All year, but treacherous in wild weather.
5. Pinnacles Track
Putangirua Pinnacles Scenic Reserve, North Island
Jutting out from the rocky tundra below, these massive pillars of stone are unlike anywhere else in New Zealand. Carved out of the earth by the stream below over thousands of years, the ominous-looking rock formations cannot be missed if you want to explore the hiking trails of the North Island. There are three routes you can take through the Reserve and we’d recommend trying all three.
Oh and more Lord of the Rings trivia? Don’t mind if we do. The Putangirua Pinnacles Scenic Reserve is an iconic filming location from the Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. The Army of the Dead might have called them home in that movie, but we promise these spooky looking granite pinnacles aren’t haunted.
Check out the New Zealand tourism website for more information on the tracks.
DISTANCE: 7km One-