Imagine a forest park where you can sit on the veranda of a tramping hut, gazing at sparkling rivers, and rolling foothills clothed in golden alpine tussock.
Climb onto the open tops, and you are greeted with panoramic views of Lake Taupo and the snow-capped volcanic peaks of the Central Plateau.
Kaimanawa Forest Park is southeast of Lake Taupo, and extends over a number of remote mountain ranges separated by the headwater valleys of several major North Island rivers. The southern sectors are steep alpine uplands with high peaks and wide tussock areas, and the north is entirely forest clad. There is ample scope for wilderness tramping, hunting, fishing, rafting and canoeing. The park is noted for sika and red deer hunting and for its protected herd of wild horses. The sika deer herd is the only wild herd in the Southern Hemisphere. Many trampers, hunters and fishermen use helicopter transport to access remote areas as long tramps can be quite strenuous.
The northern access to the park is via Taharua Road off the Napier-Taupo Road (S.H.5) and the western access is via three Hydro Access Roads off the Desert Road (S.H.1) south of Turangi. The three roads lead to some impressive gorges with names like Tree Trunk Gorge and the Pillars of Hercules.
A wonderful feature of Kaimanawa Forest Park is the beautiful river valleys, some with wide tussock terraces and grassy flats, and others fully bush clad. They are all linked by a well-defined tramping track system and have good fishing pools, picnic areas and swimming holes. The most pleasant and picturesque are the Oamaru, Tongariro, Tauranga-Taupo and Waipakihi rivers. Trout fishing in the Lake Taupo basin is world-renowned and the park has lots of productive water. Wildlife is plentiful and the most common birds seen are pigeon, fantail, bellbird, rifleman, robin, grey warbler, tomtit, whitehead and kakariki.
Break your journey just south of Turangi and take in some of the beauty of this park along the Tongariro River. You will want to explore further.