A short stretch of the 66.2 km Round the Mountain Track
loop through a volcanic area with fabulous scenery, river crossings, cascades, waterfalls, and a lake.
This trail looks like it would be considerably more challenging in moderate to heavy rain. Check the forecast and pack prepared.
The Lake Surprise hike is an Ohakune area track
of Tongariro National Park. If hiking, it's a roughly five hour roundtrip section of the 66.2 km Round the Mountain Track
, which as of this writing is not included on Hiking Project but is described on the excellent New Zealand Department of Conservation website as linked. The name is a misnomer as the lake can be seen from early in the hike on a clear day and the destination is only moderately interesting. But the journey is fantastic, a real trek through Middle Earth with few hikers, even during the peak of the tourist season.
The trail is well marked with orange triangular markers as is typical for New Zealand trails but many parts of it are challenging and some stretches are less of a formal trail and more of a route to follow. Navigating the area near the base of the cascades involves some scrambling over rocks.
The trailhead is on Ohakune Mountain Rd. about 1.1 km before the base of the ski resort. There is a parking area and a trail sign labeled "Round the Mountain" but you can easily miss it because the trail immediately descends below the level of the road to the first river crossing. It then rises to just over 5000 feet affording the first view of Lake Surprise and excellent views of Mt. Ruapeha.
It the drops steeply into Mangaturuturu Valley beside a beautiful cascade flowing over smooth bedrock. After climbing out of the Mangaturuturu Valley, the trail continues over wooden planking crossing a seasonal wetlands before reaching the Mangaturuturu Hut (which can be booked for overnight use). Shortly beyond the hut, cross a large stream that can at times be managed without getting your boots wet but which may need to be traversed barefoot or with river shoes. Climb steadily up from the river valley to regain half the descent, continuing over more wooden planking. As you climb steeper trail sections, parts of which are a scramble up streambeds that may have minor flow, you'll arrive at Lake Surprise, a broad, shallow lake set amongst beech forest and tussock.