Mount Taranaki is New Zealand’s most perfectly formed volcano. Often described as ‘New Zealand’s most climbed mountain’, Mt Taranaki provides non-mountaineers with an achievable summit challenge.
Mount Taranaki, or Mount Egmont, is an active but quiescent stratovolcano in the Taranaki region on the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island. Although the mountain is more commonly referred to as Taranaki, it has two official names under the alternative names policy of the New Zealand Geographic Board.
The 2,518 meters mountain is one of the most symmetrical volcanic cones in the world. There is a secondary cone, Fanthams Peak, 1,966 meters, on the south side. Because of its resemblance to Mount Fuji, Taranaki provided the backdrop for the movie The Last Samurai.
At lower altitudes you’ll walk through tall rimu and kamahi trees; higher up the volcano, sub-alpine shrubs and herb fields are found above the snow line. Lush rainforests can be found on the mountain’s slopes and are a result of the area’s high rainfall and mild coastal climate.
There’s a veritable maze of tracks around the Dawson Falls area, including the walk to Wilkies Pools, a series of eroded rock pools connected with gentle waterfalls.
For many centuries the mountain was called Taranaki by Māori. The Māori word tara means mountain peak, and naki is thought to come from ngaki, meaning “shining”, a reference to the snow-clad winter nature of the upper slopes.
It appeared as Mount Egmont on maps until 29 May 1986, when the Minister of Lands ruled that “Mount Taranaki” would be an alternative and equal official name. The Egmont name still applies to the national park that surrounds the peak and geologists still refer to the peak as the Egmont Volcano.
Mount Taranaki provides unique recreational and educational opportunities for the region’s residents and visitors. The mountain provides excellent climbing (with care and planning), skiing, tramping and photography.
Mt Taranaki can be a dangerous place for climbers. Weather conditions can deteriorate very quickly and many ill-prepared climbers have met their death on the slopes of the mountain.
Make sure your group has a capable leader and that everyone is carrying a sleeping bag, cooking utensils, sufficient high-energy food (with some extra for emergencies), a waterproof raincoat and overtrousers, gloves, a hat, and several layers of warm (wool or fleece) clothing.
Mt. Taranaki is the youngest and most southerly of a group of volcanoes, including Pouakai and Kaitake, that are within Egmont National Park. The peak was sighted by the British navigator Capt. James Cook and was first climbed in 1839.
The mountain is the source of more than 50 rivers and streams and is a botanically unique area containing a wide variety of vegetation from sub-tropical semi-coastal forests in the Kaitake Ranges through to sub-alpine herb fields at 1,800m on the main cone.
There are three roads leading part-way up the mountain. The highest is to East Egmont plateau, with a viewing platform and parking facilities for the skifield. It lies at the transition between subalpine scrub and alpine herb fields.
To ensure adequate and early warning of any volcanic activity, the Taranaki Civil Defence Emergency Management Group has installed the Taranaki Volcano Seismic Network: A group of five seismometers designed to gather accurate information about earthquake activity. From this information, it can be determined if it is a volcanic earthquake.