A weekend away in Taranaki wouldn't be complete without a family adventure. After all it's what we MNM's love doing most.
I've been coming to Taranaki for weekends and holidays my whole life, so I'm not sure how it's possible I'd never done the walk around Lake Mangamahoe until now. Although let's face it, with little four and a half year old legs along for the journey, that'll at least explain why we hadn't attempted it for the past few years.
And knowing what these little legs are now capable of (like a nearly 10km walk to the Blue Spring at Christmas time and a good hour's walk on the Routeburn track north of Queenstown) the time was certainly right to try!
We'd looked up the walk information on the NPDC website and saw that the track was graded a 2-hour medium/hard walk so we were reserving judgement about whether we'd actually make it right around the lake. But again, little legs surprised us, and it helped that we had lots of stops for water and crackers along the way.
The lake is situated 10km south of New Plymouth on SH3, the road to Inglewood. There are two different car parks from which to start the walk - we chose the first car park and walked anti-clockwise around the lake. This worked well as it meant we got the steepest part of the walk out of the way first before little legs got too tired!
The walk starts in the bush and you have to cross two of the most rickety swing bridges I've seen in a while. Not to mention the fact that it was only AFTER we'd all walked across the first one at the same time and been silly bouncing around on it (as you do with a swing bridge!) that we saw the sign that said 'maximum 2 persons at one time'. Whoops - oh well we are still here to tell the tale so all's well that ends well.
There's a significant uphill slog till you reach a gorgeous viewpoint looking north over the lake in the pine forest, and not long after that you come to the redwood plantation that was planted in 1931 - Californian redwoods are the tallest species of trees in the world and it certainly felt that way looking up up and away into the canopy.
After this, you have a choice to take the high route or the low route down to the lake so we chose the latter and meandered along beside the lake until another big uphill took us out onto the top of the ridge amongst juvenile pine trees where we could look back on Mt Taranaki in all its glory - very barren at this time of year as it awaits its first cloaking of snow and reminiscent of the time of the year when we climbed it some nine years ago pre-children.
From here, the path winds back down to the dam, also constructed in 1931 to form the lake which, fed from the Waiwakaiho River and Mangamahoe streams, forms part of the Trustpower power scheme in the area. The lake also provides drinking water for the New Plymouth district so no swimming or boating is allowed in the lake.
On a good day (like we had) the views back towards the mountain are pretty special.
Now that little (and big) legs were getting a little weary, it was a very welcome relief to meander along the lake on a nice flat road all the way back down to the lower car park. Although the walk states 2 hours, we completed the walk in 1 hour 40 and we weren't going particularly fast, stopping several times for snacks and to admire the views.
If you still want to visit the lake but don't fancy doing the whole walk, just drive to the upper car park and take a walk to the dam (in less than five minutes) for the best views of the mountain, or pack a picnic lunch and enjoy it at one of the many picnic areas along the lake side amongst an abundance of birdlife.