Mount Ngongotaha Walks – Do you believe in Fairies (Patu-Paiarehe)? You very well may after walking the Jubilee Track and/or Nature Walk. The mountain is said to be home to a tribe of fairy people whose thin, reedy voices and flutes can still be heard on days when mist rolls down over the slopes.
Mount Ngongotaha Walks - home of the fairy people
Out of all the Rotorua walking tracks, these two would be my favorite . Being so close to the city, (6.5km), makes them easy to get to when I feel like a fix of mother nature… and fairies.
The two tracks share the same starting point at the Violet Bonnington Reserve with a short walk through farmland to get to the forest. There is the one route for about 5mins before separating into the two tracks.
I get a surprise whenever I step from the farmland into the forest because the contrast is so extreme. One minute farmland with the smell of hay and long grass, the next it’s lush New Zealand native flora accompanied by the pungent, sweet scent of decaying vegetation. The effect is immediate. It feels fresh, natural and calming; especially when it’s raining.
Mount Ngongotaha Walks - looking down the bank at NZ native flora
Once the track splits, the Jubilee Track continues straight on up and the Nature Walk branches off into a big loop that crosses the Jubilee Track again higher up the mountain. It then carries on before looping again to come back to the start point.
Picture an oval (Nature Walk) with a line up through the middle (Jubilee Track) extending on up and that’s more or less the two walks.
This track runs parallel to Paradise Valley Rd for a while but once it turns inwards the city sounds die away. Then, you can feel the fairies. :)
Although the track meanders, it’s heading uphill a lot of the way. Because of this a reasonable level of fitness would be required.
Taking time to read the numerous information boards on the Mount Ngongotaha Nature Walk and then taking photos could easily extend the walk by another 30-45mins. I found this out myself. Learn about and/or see our plants, trees, fern and fungi as well as the birdlife, animals, pests and management of these.
Mount Ngongotaha Walks - My brother Dean and niece Kerry enjoying the Nature Walk
As an example, Mount Ngongotaha has one lonely Rata tree. It is a NZ native tree that is hundreds of years old and some 40m high. To stop the introduced possums from destroying it, trees have had to be cleared away from the surrounding area; this stops the possums jumping across. As well, some type of band has been placed around the trunk so the possums can’t climb up to the canopy.
The volunteers of the Mt Ngongotaha forest Restoration Trust have done a great job, not only with the tracks but also with planting baby Rata. They can be seen from the track enclosed by wire netting to stop access by the possums.
Walking up, up and up. If I want to know how good my fitness is (or isn’t) I head up this track. It’s a kicker that goes all the way to the summit of Mount Ngongotaha.
There are some information boards along the way (great if you want a breather) but not as many as the Nature Walk has.
I'm always fascinated by the varied type of plants in the forest and NZ fungi can be so cool, some of them look positively spacey. I wonder if that's where they got some of the ideas for the movie Avatar. What do you think? Click on the pic below to start the photo gallery.
And then what about this one? The fungi are like a whole lot of tiny parachutes coming into land.
Mount Ngongotaha Walks - Parachute fungi, that's what they look like
Exit the track onto Mt Ngongotaha Rd, turn left and the summit is a few hundred meters further on up. There is nothing up there really apart from a telecommunications tower, but I do have a wee story a bit further on about this part of the mountain.
From here it’s either backtracking all the way or doing the big loop. Doing the loop extends the walk to about 10km but from the top it’s all easy as you can only go down. The road is closed to vehicles for about 2km.
It’s an amble down Mountain Rd with some parts having spectacular views across farmland or across the lake to Lake Rotoiti way in the distance. There is the city to see and also Mt Tarawera behind it; our most recently active volcano (1886).
Mount Ngongotaha Walks - view of Mokoia Island on the walk back down Mountain Rd
It’s lovely and quiet up on the mountain with only the sounds of whatever breeze there is, your own breathing and footsteps, birds and possibly farm animals once you get to paddocks.
Make sure to take some money and stop in at Aorangi Peak for coffee 10am - 3pm. This is our highest restaurant with the most spectacular views over Rotorua.
Once down the bottom, Clayton Rd will take you back to Paradise Valley Rd.
As children, my brothers and I, along with other neighbourhood kids, would think nothing of walking up Mountain Road to the top of Mt Ngongotaha. Why we would take it into our heads to do this I have no idea. Fun maybe? Probably. I must admit, we did have a lot of fun up there.
Along the way there was a water reservoir. Behind it was a favorite place to play on the vines that grew prolifically, and still continue to grow I see. Swinging out over gullies was so much fun and I can’t think of anytime when any of us fell off although I'm sure we must have.
Vines criss-cross the track
Next stop would be Aorangi Peak (nowadays a restaurant) that had a teashop. Here, we would buy lollies to fortify us for the last assault getting to the summit.
At the top there used to be a viewing platform with the brassy dial thing that could be swung around to various points. You could see right to the coast of the Bay of Plenty. It’s so disappointing that this can’t be done anymore because I’m sure it would get a lot of visitors. The only signs it was ever there are the footings.
To get home again we would cut behind the viewing platform where a cable track had been laid underneath the ground. Using this track we would run all the way down the hill, falling over sometimes because parts of it were steep, until we hit the road. It would have taken all of 10-15min to get down.
As soon as I walk into the forest now, the smell takes me right back to those times when life seemed like one long summer holiday. If only huh?
Below is a map to the two tracks to give you a visual idea of how it all comes together. As you can see, the local bus stops not too far from the start of the walks. Route 7, Mitchell Downs via Clayton Rd is the bus you would use.
Parking is available at the Violet Bonnington Reserve. Because it is isolated I tend to park a few hundred meters down the road where there is housing.
Just prior to entering the forest two eco toilets are available for use otherwise it's au natural. Don't be like my girlfriend who twice ended up using her undies as toilet paper. Not on this track though. So, if you ever come across some buried around the place....
Just thinking about it, it can't be that uncommon. When taking part in a marathon once, my brother left his in a bush beside a church.
Mount Ngongotaha Walks - Eco toilets
What ages are catered for?
I wouldn’t think small children would be up for these walks. Maybe part of the way at the beginning would be ok but it would be tiring for little legs.
What do I need to bring?
Sunscreen, wet weather gear, definitely good shoes and a hat/cap if going down via the road.
Is it wheelchair/pram friendly?
No, not at all.