The Tauranga-Taupo Falls would have to be one of the more spectacular falls in the North Island. The track in there is still not an official one though DOC have it in their Management Plan to develop a proper track in here in the near future.
The track to these falls begins at the end of Kiko Rd, which turns off Highway 1 about 11kms north of Turangi.
From the carpark there are two tracks leaving from the same point. The right hand one goes to Ngapuketurua and the left hand one is a loop track which joins the Ngapuketurua Track further up.
Take the left hand track and after about 20mins you will come to a point where the track goes under a large tree trunk. The turn off to the Tauranga-Taupo Falls is 25 metres before this point. The actual turn off is not well marked but there are some arrows scratched on a tree.
From this point on there is a padded track and there are small pieces of red permolat or orange paint sprayed sprayed on trees. We found the track easy to follow on the way to the falls but less easy to follow back. Take care.
Initially the track descends to cross a stream and then climbs up the other side. After that it follows a wide bush covered ridge gently descending. Take time to look at some of the giant Red Beech trees along this section.
After about an hour from the turn off the track passes a tree with the letter O painted on the downhill side. This tree was an important landmark when this track was less defined. However there is now a good pad so the track begins to descend more steeply and you begin to hear the roar of the falls below you.
The track veers to the left and follows along a ledge in the bush for a while before dropping into a little gully that bisects the terrace and descends steeply again.
You will soon find the only point where you can clearly view the falls here. Take the opportunity to get photographs here because the falls are in a slot and while you can hear them, this is the only place you can see them.
Climb a few metres above the view point and regain the track which now sidles to the right and into a little gully. From this gully you can see river gravel below and it is tempting to think you can get down here. However there is a big bluff between you and the gravel flats. Only go down the gully until you are about 30m above the gravel and then sidle over another ridge where you can make steep but managable progress through the bluffs to the river flats.
There is a nice beach to sit on and have lunch here, though if you notice a large dead tree lying across the flats, well that tree fell there while I was lunching here about 5 years ago. I got a heck of a fright.
While lunching here you can hear the falls and see the spray shooting out from the slot. This is also the furthest up the river that trout can get. In spawning season I have seen the small stream here full of trout which could just be picked up with your hands. Don't though. I think that is illegal.
Many people will consider this far enough but there is a rough overgrown track which goes to the top of the falls. It is not marked but well padded.
Go back away from the falls and into the bush for a few metres and pick up a track which climbs steeply from the valley floor. It soon begins to sidle across the bluffs back towards the falls and then climbs steeply again right next to the falls. It is steep here so be carefull, there are plenty of roots to hang on to so use them. You can peek over the bluffs and look down on the waterfall directly below you.
The track emerges from the bluff line and into easier bush. Note the point where you came up here, it isn't so obvious on the return. Climb a ridge and then sidle to the left on little tracks above the gorge. Take care you don't slip. You soon come to a little saddle and you can see the river below. make your way down to the river at the point it enters the slot gorge.
It is possible to continue up the river from here but the river but you must cross the river soon after the top of the gorge. The river is swift at this crossing and the run out is bad. Looking at it today the crossing would be easy but at other times I have seen it it would be quite dangerous. Don't assume you can always cross.
The river above the gorge is very pleasant, winding through gravel flats. You can continue up here to see more slot gorges but you soon enter private land and permission is required by Air Charter Taupo to enter. They lease out hunting blocks here and have a couple of huts along the river, so don't assume you will not be discovered.
Return by the same route taking care to follow the route. The paint marks are not as plentiful on the return side of the trees so keep checking that you are onthe track.