“This trail in the volcanic Tongariro National Park leads runners to two lakes in old eruption craters.
— Joan Pendleton
Lake · River/Creek · Views · Waterfall
The weather can change quickly especially at the higher elevations. Be prepared for wind, cold, and rain, even on nice days.
Tama Lakes Track is a spectacular track through the Tongariro volcanic area. It goes through a variety of terrains - forested, tussock covered, sub-alpine, and alpine. Along the way it passes a major creek, waterfalls and two beautiful blue lakes. This is all with a back drop of active volcanoes in the distance.
Tama Lakes Track and several other trails, start from a well-marked trailhead slightly north of the Whakapapa Visitor Center, on State Highway 48. From its trailhead, Tama Lakes Track begins by climbing very gradually through grass, tussock, brush, and forested terrain.
At about 1.9 miles from its trailhead, Tama Lakes Track crosses a sturdy bridge over the Wairere Stream. To the left of the bridge, Taranaki Falls plunges 66 feet over a lava flow cliff. Taranaki Falls can best be seen after crossing the bridge, and taking a very short side trip down Taranaki Falls Track.
After crossing Wairere Stream, Tama Lakes Track goes through tussock covered terrain with great views of Mt. Ruapehu, an active volcano, in the distance to the south (right) of the trail. The trail gradually climbs, then gradually descends, and finally becomes level as it reaches a trail junction about 4.3 miles from its trailhead. Shortly before this trail junction, Mt. Ngauruhoe, another active volcano, starts rising to the northeast (left) of the trail. Go left at this trail junction to follow Tama Lakes Track.
After the trail junction, Tama Lakes Track is flat for another .7 miles, as it continues through tussocks. Mt. Ngauruhoe can clearly be seen to the northeast, and Mt. Ruapehu is to the south. Ahead, one can see the lip of a large bowl. This bowl is an old eruption crater that has filled part way with water - Lower Tama Lake. The trail approaches the old eruption crater and then follows its rim, with great views of Lower Tama Lake below.
After passing Lower Tama Lake, Tama Lakes Track becomes harder to follow. Look for orange tipped poles to guide the way. The trail climbs steeply over dirt, gravel, and rocky terrain as it leaves Lower Tama Lake behind. After about a third of a mile, a barren ridge is reached, and the trail is relatively flat until its end, high above Upper Tama Lake. This section can be quite windy and chilly. Upper Tama Lake is also in an old eruption crater. At the end of Tama Lakes Track, there are great views of both Tama Lakes, Mt. Ngauruhoe, Mt. Ruapehu, and all the tussock covered lands below.