Taranaki (Mount Egmont), a dormant volcano that last erupted in 1755, dominates the entire western third of the North Island. Often likened to Japan’s Mount Fuji, its profile is a cone rising to 2518m, though from east or west the profile is disturbed by the satellite Fantham’s Peak (1692m). In winter, snow blankets the mountain, but as summer progresses only the crater rim remains white. The mountain is the focal point for EGMONT NATIONAL PARK, the boundary forming an arc with a 10km radius around the mountain, interrupted only on its north side where it encompasses the Pouakai Range and Kaitake Range, older, more weathered cousins of Taranaki.

Surrounded by farmland, the mountain’s lower slopes are cloaked in native bush that gradually changes to stunted flag-form trees shaped by the constant buffeting of the wind. Higher still, vegetation gives way to slopes of loose scoria (a kind of jagged volcanic gravel) – hard work if you’re hiking.

Three sealed roads climb Taranaki’s eastern flanks, each ending at a separate car park a little under halfway up the mountain from where the park’s 140km of walking tracks spread out. North Egmont is the most easily accessible from New Plymouth but you can get higher up the mountain at East Egmont, and there are particularly good short walks around Dawson Falls. The i-SITE in New Plymouth has extensive information on the park.

All three trailheads are under an hour’s drive from New Plymouth, but with accommodation close to all of them, avid hikers may choose to base themselves inside the park. Gung-ho hikers go for the summit (not a trivial ascent by any means:; deaths do occur). If you want to spend longer than a day on the mountain, the varied Pouakai Circuit or the testing Around the Mountain Circuit might fit the bill.

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