Having tramped around Ruapehu I thought it would be good to get the double and do Taranaki as well.
I started from the North Egmont visitors centre and went anticlockwise, which seems to be the most popular option. Conditions were quite wet when I started but having driven all the way from Auckland I was not about to drive back! The first section gains 400m straight up a ridge, but the track is well cut. Once you reach 1300m it evens out and contours around the hill, crossing several slips.
Then it drops down to the hut on boardwalk steps. This section took me 3 hours.
Holly Hut is also on the Pouakai Range circuit and so can be quite busy. However only I was mad enough to be out in the rain so I had it to myself. All the huts on the circuit are serviced so it had a good supply of firewood and coal, AND solar lighting!
The next day was just as wet. The track follows Stony River and crosses several stream branches. These are all quite large and were running up to calf deep (or knee deep if you steeped in the wrong place). The track is reasonably well marked with snow poles and cairns. If in doubt look for tracks in the sand. Some parts of the track on the river sand had washed away so there were a couple of places where I had to jump down about 1m. The scenery was quite epic in the mist but I’m sure it would be as good in the sun.
The rest of the track is in the bush, unless you take the high route to Kahui Hut. Some people complain about the mud on Kapoaiaia track but it is NOTHING! Only a few puddles! Oaonui track has boardwalk and corduroy logs so it has hardly any mud at all. If you have an old map it will show a swing bridge just before Waiaua Gorge hut. This has collapsed so the track is now re-routed up the stream bed about 1km.
It’s extremely well marked and had 7 track markers at one point (in case you were doing the Sudoku while tramping and were distracted??). It took me 7 hours to make it to the hut.
The next morning I finally had some fine weather so I took the high track (Brames Falls). This does involve climbing 1000m but does have a good view.
It crosses several streams so there are at least 5 points where you have to climb down 20m gorges and back up again.
I took me 5 1/2 hours to walk to Lake Dive (not including breaks). If I did the track again I would probably push on to Waingongoro since I arrived at the hut quite early, and you can continue on the high track to Dawson Falls so it would take less than 2 hours to reach the next hut.
This hut seems to be popular with people walking in for an overnight trip from Dawson Falls. However I only had 3 others who were walking the circuit in the other direction.
The next day I took Lower Lake Dive track to Dawson Falls, since I didn’t want to go all the way back up the stairs! This track is quite undulating and surprisingly overgrown with knee-high grasses and such. It took me 2 hours to walk to the Dawson Falls road end. The falls themselves are about 800m down the road and are NOT WORTH IT. It’s only 16m high! With more water they might be more impressive but I felt ripped off.
If you want a luxury night there is a lodge available here, with attached restaurant. I had planned on having an icecream but the tearooms were shut so I pressed on!. The track out of Dawson Falls is wheelchair grade for about 1 km before transforming in to DOC’s favourite – knee-high stairs. However the view is good.
From here the track is excellently graded uphill to Tahurangi Lodge. This section seemed quite busy with daywalkers.
Then the track goes straight down THE PUFFER!
This is just 45 min going straight down passing all the very puffed people going straight up. It took me 7 hours to walk from Lake Dive to North Egmont.
In summary, this is a good walk, especially if you like a bit of alpine terrain and don’t mind climbing. It’s shorter than going around Ruapehu, but has enough huts that you could spread it out if you didn’t want to do long days.