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Rainbow Mountain Reserve Walk

Home  »  North Island Walks  »  Rotorua  »  Rainbow Mountain Reserve Walk – Walk detail

The day we were there, we could see Mt Ruapehu 128Km to the south

Quick Facts

        • Location: Central North Island
        • Distance: 2.80 kms
        • Time needed: 1 Hour 30 Minutes to the top
        • Difficulty: Easy
        • Wheelchair Access: No
        • Route: Double back
        • Elevation: 743m
        • Wet Feet: No
        • Toilets: No
        • Dogs: No
        • Mobile Coverage: Yes
        • Last Updated: November, 2019
  • Track Highlights

    You will see a rainbow of coloured earth and rock on the side of the Rainbow Mountain.  If you have the time, you can collect the different colours of earth in a test tube, makes an excellent souvenir.  The mountain is covered in native bush on the western side; on the eastern side is the KLC pine forest.  On a clear day, you can see for miles.  The day we were there, we could see Mt Ruapehu 128km to the south, Mt Tarawera 14.2 km to the North and lake Rotomahana 7.8 km.
    to the east, the largest forestry plantation, in the southern hemisphere, Kaingaroa Forest.

  • Track Quality

    The track is a wide and graved for the first 10 min. Then the surface changes to a clay track all the way to Rainbow Mountain lookout.

  • Hazards

    If you walk off the track, there is a high risk of you walking onto hot thermal vents and burning your legs.

  • Transport

    Buses run from Rotorua to Taupo every day. But they might not stop to let you off.

  • Water


  • Driving Instructions

    Drive south on highway 30 to Taupo. Fenton St is the main road south out of Rotorua and the main shopping street in town. You can’t miss Rainbow Mountain. On top of the Rainbow Mountain is a forestry fire lookout and radio mask, you can just see the building from the main road when you are just 15 minutes from the car park. At 26km there is a turn off to the left on to highway 38. This highway goes to the east coast via a forestry town called Murupara, Lake Waikaremoana then on to Wairoa. 460m past the turnoff to Lake Waikaremoana there is a rather large gravel car park. Pull in, over to the left you should see the sign to the start of the track.

  • Shops or Restaurants nearby

    Waiotapu Village, 5 Minutes south past the car park.

  • Area & Track History

    Rainbow Mountain is a colourful part of Bay of Plenty’s volcanic landscape of boiling mud and steaming pools. Mangakakaramea, as it is also known, means mountain of coloured earth. The mountain has bare brown, orange and red steaming slopes, as the backdrop to two tiny crater lakes.

  • Best Things To Do near this walk

  • Map location of Rainbow Mountain Reserve Walk

    Map of walk

Points of interest along the walk

In the map above, if you zoom in on the walk, you’ll see all the following track points and their location. Each point has photos along with a description about each one.

Point 1: Rainbow Mountain Reserve Walk – Start

Crater Lakes look out 650m, 2.8 km.  The start of the track is easy to find, for a change DOC have build a sign that you can see and read.  The question is how long will it last.

Point 2: Rainbow Mountain Reserve Walk

An easy 15 minute walk, just follow the track. Turn left at the lookout sign, and in 2 minutes you will be at the crater lakes look out, take your camera.  Back on the main track again, keep a lookout to the left for good views and an excellent place to collect your samples of coloured soil.

Point 3: Rainbow Mountain Reserve Walk

To the left, you will see the crystal clear Emerald Lake.  If you feel like a little rough and tumble try making your way down to the lake, its only 50m.

Point 4: Rainbow Mountain Reserve Walk

Point 5: Rainbow Mountain Reserve Walk

As you walk higher, the bush changes from short dirty scrub to tall open young native trees.  Great for getting out of the hot sun or out of  the cold bone chilling wind.

Point 6: Rainbow Mountain Reserve Walk

When you walk around a corner and catch your first glimpse of Rainbow Mountain fire lookout, you only have a 45 minute climb to the top.  From this point on, look for a very short track running off to the left; go have a look, but tread lightly.

Point 7: Rainbow Mountain Reserve Walk

1 hour 40 minutes to the top, now it’s time for hot coffee and cake.  The last 15 minutes is a little steep and rough. You will walk out on to a service road for the fire lookout. You can either take the road to the top or cut back over to the left and continue walking along the walking track to the top.  Enjoy the view, you might have to move around the lookout building to find a good spot out of the cold wind.  I’m not sure how fresh the water would be out of the rain water tank next to the lookout, I will leave that up to you to decide if it is fit to drink.  Now look to the south, follow the power line on your left running down to the road at the bottom of Rainbow Mountain.  This is Kerosene Creek a thermal swimming hole.  Take a look at the Kerosene Creek walk on trampingtracks.co.nz.  In the first photo you can just see the red car in the Kerosene Creek car park.

Kerosene creek
184m at 1.8 km

Lake Okora
013m at 2.3 km

Lake Rotomahana
038m at 7.8 km

Lake Tarawera
015m at 14.2 km

Mt Tarawera
045m at 14.6 km

Mt Ruapehu
213m at 128 km

All walks in Rotorua…

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