Lake Rotopounamu is a beautiful and secluded lake in the heart of the Tongariro National Park in the lower North Island, just to the south of Lake Taupo. The name translates as "greenstone lake", no doubt a reference to the beautiful color of the water on a sunny day. The walk is a complete circuit of the lake and is popular in the summer.
The lake itself is just one kilometer (just over half a mile) in area and nine meters deep. It is believed to have been formed by a landslide around 10,000 years ago. It is surrounded on all sides by native bush.
Location & How to Get There
Lake Rotopounamu is less than an hour's drive south of Taupo or ten minutes south of Turangi. Follow State Highway 1 to Turangi and just past the town turn right to National Park and then left onto Te Ponanga Saddle Rd. Just over the brow of the hill is a small parking area on the right of the road; the entrance to the walk is directly opposite.
The walk is approximately six kilometers (3 ½ miles) in length. You should allow a couple of hours to complete it.
This is a walk suitable for all ages and fitness levels. The track is well formed all the way, being wide and gravel-covered. The first part of the walk is a reasonable climb up to the beginning of the lake circuit itself. Along the way there are some magnificent examples of matai and beech trees.
Arriving at the top is a junction marking the start of the loop. Although you can go either way, the walk from left to right (west to east) gives better views.
Proceeding left, after about 20 minutes, you come to the lake itself and a small beach. Further along the track actually continues along the beach itself; be prepared to get your feet wet if the lake water is high. At the end of this beach is a toilet facility. In the summer, the beach is an ideal spot for swimming and picnics.
Past the beach the path continues. From here it is largely uphill and there are some lovely vantage points with views of Mt Pihanga just behind. The track eventually reaches the starting point of the loop and from there it's a retrace down to the road and car park.
The entire length of this track traverses through beautiful (and quite dense) native bush with some beautiful specimens of native trees such as matai, beech and native ferns. In some places, trees are identified with small plaques, giving a full description of the tree species.
When to go
The walk is perfectly doable at any time of year and the gravel lined tracks mean that there is never a problem with mud underfoot. However, this is an alpine climate so the most pleasant time to go is in summer and autumn, from December to April.
Preparation & what to take
The weather can be changeable at any time of year so it is best to take a coat if there appears to be any possibility of rain. In the summer, sunscreen and insect repellant is advisable. Also take some drinking water.
With such easy terrain, walking boots are not necessary. Sturdy shoes or sneakers would be quite adequate.
There is an extremely active pest eradication program being undertaken in the area (particularly against rats) and there are more than 1000 poison stations throughout the bush. Obviously these should be avoided.
The other very important thing to note is not to stray from the path into the bush as there is a real possibility of becoming lost. The beginning of the path along the beach is not particularly clear; at this point it looks as if there may be a track through the bush, but don't be tempted to take it. You will end up deep in the forest.
This is a lovely walk and it is beautifully maintained. Both the Department of Conservation and the Tongariro Natural History Society are active in keeping this a pristine area for all to enjoy.