If you're looking for walking trails in Rotorua, the Tarawera region has walking and hiking options for all levels of fitness. Discover walking trails through geothermal valleys, walks around Lake Tarawera, and even hikes on the summit of Mount Tarawera itself. Hidden gems include stunning waterfalls and lakeside natural hot pools.
If you love walking, hiking and getting outdoors into nature, there are several great opportunities to explore the Tarawera area.
These walking and hiking trails reward you with spectacular natural landscapes, glistening lakes, native forests, towering waterfalls, and otherworldly volcanic and geothermal environments.
Skirting the edge of Lake Tarawera, the 15km Tarawera Trail is considered to be moderate in difficulty and takes the average fit tramper four to six hours to reach the end. The trail passes through beautiful native bush that’s been regenerating since the Mount Tarawera eruption in 1886. Along the trail, you’ll be treated to secluded bays and views of the lake and Mount Tarawera. Most people walk in one direction from the official car park near Buried Village, then water taxi back to The Landing, but you can do this in reverse, too.
The trail ends at Te Rātā Bay, known for Hot Water Beach created by the natural hot springs right on the lake’s edge. Here you’ll find Hot Water Beach Campsite (open year-round) and nearby Totally Tarawera glamping spots (check for seasonal availability). Return water taxi transport by Totally Tarawera is available, but must be booked in advance as the water taxi does not operate if there are no bookings.
Another way to enjoy this trail is by booking the floatplane Adventure with Tarawera Trail Hike tour with Volcanic Air. This includes vehicle transfer from the Rotorua lakefront to the start of the trail, then a floatplane pickup from Hot Water Beach, returning you to the city. While at Hot Water Beach, you’ll have time for a picnic lunch (which can be provided for additional cost), and a warm soak in the natural geothermal springs or a refreshing lake swim before your return flight home.
The summit of Mount Tarawera has been likened to the Grand Canyon, a dramatic natural landscape with red volcanic scoria slopes and vast craters.
A visit to this historic maunga (mountain) is the best way to fully appreciate the scale of the 1886 eruption, where you can see how the earth was ripped open and formed a 17km rift that created what is now Waimangu Volcanic Valley.
A sacred place for local Māori, access to the mountain is limited to guided tours only through Kaitiaki Adventures and Volcanic Air. Travelling with Kaitiaki Adventures, you’ll ascend the mountain as far as possible by 4WD before continuing on foot for a guided hiking experience around the volcanic crater, and even a scree run into the crater, if you’re keen. With Volcanic Air, a scenic helicopter tour delivers to the side of the mountain just a few minutes’ walk from the crater’s edge to start your guided walk. A fly-drive combo with these operators gives you the best of both adventures.
Atop the mountain, you’ll enjoy incredible panoramic views of the Rotorua Lakes District and national parks, and on a clear day, you can see the line of North Island volcanoes Putauaki (Mount Edgecumbe), Whakaari (White Island) and Mount Ruapehu.
The Tarawera Falls are one of the region’s hidden gems, accessed via picturesque walk following the Tarawera River from the Tapahoro (outlet) on Lake Tarawera.
Getting to the start of the trail is an experience in itself with options by water taxi with Totally Tarawera, or by air with Volcanic Air. Or for a full day experience with a private guide, MDA Experiences can craft a bespoke adventure tour to discover the best of the region.
The trail is 5km one way to the Tarawera Falls viewing area, with a number of popular swimming spots and smaller cascading waterfalls along the way. At a height of 65m, the falls pour out of a cliff after the river disappears underground into flooded caves in the rhyolitic lava flow from an old eruption of Mount Tarawera.
Waimangu Volcanic Valley
This geothermal thermal valley was created by the eruption of Mount Tarawera in 1886, uncovering spectacular geothermal features such as geysers, steaming hot springs, and brightly coloured crater lakes like the crystal-blue Inferno Crater. Everything in the valley has re-established itself from complete devastation from the eruption, creating a unique ecosystem of geothermal-adapted native plants and wildlife. Admission to the Waimangu Volcanic Valley includes internal shuttle buses, allowing you to walk down into the valley, and then ride the bus back up the hill to the visitor centre at the end of your walk.
Buried Village Waterfall Walk
While the main attraction at Te Wairoa, Buried Village is the archaeological site and museum, it’s also home to a hugely rewarding short walk to the Wairere Waterfall. There are some steep steps which can get slippery when wet, so watch your step and take your time as you descend. You’ll come to view the water from Te Wairoa Stream as it tumbles 30m over the Waitoharuru Cliffs. Allow 20 minutes for this short walk.