Central: Mt. Tarawera-Volcano Hike

Blown to Oblivion! Taupo Volcanic Zone

Bubbling hot springs, geysers, splatting mud pots, unbelievable color, and cooking volcanos…this is the geothermal description of the 160,000 year old Taupo Volcanic Zone.


Mt Tarawera – A Catastrophic Event, June 10, 1886

In 1886, a massive six-hour eruption covered 15,000 square kilometers (5,791 sq. miles) and tore a 17km (10.5mi) rift in the terrain. In a single night of fire, everything was wiped from the face of the mountain. Over 120 people died.

After midnight, the mountain cracked open with a roar. Booms heard and felt across both North and South Islands. “A striking spectacle of a dark, flat-topped mountain more than a mile long, red hot along its crest, and surmounted by a wall of fire 1,500 ft high.”

Henry Roche, Eyewitness, 1886

Mt. Tarawera Crater Hike

With a guide from the iwi (tribe) of Rangitihi, we hiked Mt. Tarawera crater. A 4-wheel excursion from Rotorua, then two hours walking to the volcanic peak through a chilling mist. (Kaitiaki Adventures)

“Keep Left or Die” The guidance as we approached a steep, sliding descent into 90 degree left turn on a narrow ledge. At the corner, our guide firmly planted his feet to ensure you made the turn..but, if not, would have likely gone down with you.

A 17km (10.5mi) rift

The rift that split Tarawera created 10 craters, 2 of which are still active, and the world’s youngest geothermal valley, Waimangu.

Scree Run: From the summit, we moon-walked/ran down a steep sandy/rocky slope of scree into one of the volcanic craters. To stay upright, slam your heels into the scree to avoid a tumble.

The Punisher: From the crater bottom, our guides Ben and Tipene, (Māori for “Steve”) advised it was just a “pop up to the top”…via the ‘Punisher’, a deep sandy, rocky mix path. It was aptly named.


A major component of the eruption was the annihilation of “The Eighth Wonder of the World”, the Pink and White Terraces. I recommend this link – The Night Tarawera Awoke.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia – Painting Charles Blomfield (1848–1926)


More Fire Demons down the road – Not If…WHEN

Ninety miles south of Mt. Tarawera (as the crow flies) are three active volcanos in Tongariro National Park. The park, near Taupo/Tauranga is the home of the Whakapapa (faka papa) Ski Resort on Mt. Ruapehu, and the Tongariro Crossing, “the best day hike in the world” (18 km – Must Do).

Most Recent Eruptions

  • Mt Ruapehu September 25, 2007, a 7 minute explosive eruption that coincided with the ski season at Whakapapa. Prior – 1996.
  • Mt Ngauruhoe (aka Mt. Doom from Lord of the Rings) 1993 through 1995. Prior – 1973.
  • Mt Tongariro – Dormant from late 1800’s until 2012 – August 6 and November 21, 2012.

Related Posts – Central North Island: Click HERE to read about Rotorua’s Hot Spots

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8 thoughts on “Central: Mt. Tarawera-Volcano Hike

  1. Steve…you get what you get and sounds like the Punisher got you! Seriously, those are pretty spectacular photos that show the power of Mother Nature! Don’t mess bc she means business! Interesting story and also noteworthy that there have been eruptions recently. With technology today, I wonder if they can somewhat predict when they will erupt or fairly close to it?? Beautiful!

    1. There are warnings fir eruptions, but not as predictable as you would hope. In December, 2019, 19 tourists and guides died on White Island in the east coast of NZ when it erupted. A beautiful and deadly volcano.

  2. Stunning pics and intriguing story. Digging your heels into the skree…now THAT is tricky business!

  3. Rhonda Sachs Albom August 17, 2020 — 8:35 pm

    That trek is amazing, and the views and images you captured are really impressive. I have been in the Taupo region, but not on that trek, but it’s on the bucket list now.

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