If you’re chasing waterfalls in New Zealand and are around Mount Taranaki then you should consider doing the Dawson Falls Loop Trail!

It’s an awesome and relatively easy trail that takes you around to this stunning 18-meter drop of a waterfall called Dawson Falls before continuing up to a cool swimming spot at Wilkies Pools right below Mount Taranaki.

We loved this trail and it truly left us in awe!

The combination of the beautiful rainforest, the sound of hundreds of birds singing, the running water from the streams and the waterfall… There’s something magical about this trek!

Along with the Pouakai Tarns Trek, the Wilkies Pools Loop Track to Dawson Falls has to be one of the most scenic and unique hikes you can do here in the Egmonton National Park.

Get ready to explore and hike one of our favourite hikes near Mount Taranaki!

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Everything you need to know about Wilkies Pools via Dawson Falls

The Wilkies Pools via Dawson Falls is essentially two separate hikes – but since the Dawson Falls trek is so short, it’s worth combining the two trails.

Since you’re already making the trip to the Dawson Falls Visitor Center, you might as well enjoy as much as you can while you’re in the area.

Honestly, both of the hikes are stunning and they go super well together if you do it in one big loop.

Give yourself a few hours to enjoy this part of Egmont National Park. It’s definitely a hike worth doing while you’re visiting New Plymouth and the Taranaki area!

This area is not the main area where most tourists go to hike (most people attempt to hike Mount Taranaki or go to the Pouakai Tarns) so there’s a good chance the trails will be relatively quiet.

The drive up to the visitor centre where the trail starts is absolutely beautiful too!

Practical information about Wilkies Pools via Dawson Falls loop

Distance: 4 km return / 2.5 miles return
Elevation: 170 m / 558 ft. elevation gain
Type: Loop trail (can also be done as an in-and-out trail)
Length: 1.5-2 hours return (time for photos and snacks) 
Difficulty: Moderate (surface can be uneasy at times + there’s a staircase)
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Click here to see a trail map for Wilkies Pools via Dawson Falls loop

Here’s a picture of the beginning of the Wilkies Pools Via Dawson Falls Loop

Starting the hike at Dawson Falls Visitor Center 

Before we get into the trail directions for Wilkies Pools to Dawson Falls, how incredible is the drive up? The drive up to the visitor center is stunning!

Driving through the trees where they all perfectly open up to create this trail of a road that leads to Dawson Falls Visitor Center is magical.

Once you’re at the end of the road, you’ll reach the visitors’ centre and a relatively big parking lot where you can park your car. This is also where the trail starts!

Dawson Falls and Wilkies Pools are essentially two different trails but it’s super popular to combine the two together and that’s what we’re going to do in this post as well.

We did the hike clockwise but you can easily do it counter-clockwise as well – or if you don’t feel like doing both hikes, you can still use this post as a guideline just for the Wilkies Pools Trek or the Dawson Falls Trek.

In this post, we’re sharing the hike the way we recommend it which is doing it clockwise from the visitor center. 

Hiking Tip: Look up the trail on AllTrails before starting your hike 🗺️. You can find important trail information such as recent wildlife sights and trail closures. Check out the free version here or get a 7-day free trial of AllTrails+ here.

Making your way up towards the Wilkies Pools

Keep following the signs toward Wilkies Pools

Since you’re in such a popular national park and the trail is quite well known that means that the trail surface is very well maintained.

You’ll find that a lot of the popular hikes in New Zealand are very well-maintained as DOC (the Department of Conservation) takes really good care of the trails.

This first stretch, as you make your way north up towards the Wilkies Pools, is super smooth and easy to walk on. There’s a slight incline but nothing crazy.

It’s a nice walk in nature and, as you hike up, you’ll have Kapuni Stream parallel to you so you’ll be walking to the soothing sound of running water.

After a while on this path in between the trees, you will reach a boardwalk that you follow until you reach a smaller suspension bridge.

If you look to the left when you’re walking across the suspension bridge, you will see the Wilkies Pools. On a nice clear day, you might also get an awesome view of Mount Taranaki!

We didn’t get that lucky with clear weather but we got it the previous day as we hiked up to Pouakai Tarns to see the reflection of Mount Taranaki so we can’t complain. 

Anyways, back to the trail… It’s super easy to follow and it’s quite a short little stretch to the Wilkies Pools where (if you’re up for a swim) you may be tempted to dip into these (cold) natural pools.

Enjoy the view from the Wilkies Pools

One of the best parts of doing the full Wilkies Pools to Dawson Falls Hike is that there isn’t just one part of the hike that is “the spot”.

The Wilkies Pools are amazing but there are more spots you can look forward to!

We had quite a cloudy day so when we got to Wilkies Pools there wasn’t much of a view but we tried to use our imagination and I’m sure it looks incredible with Taranaki towering in the background!

If you get lucky and get a chance to go on a clear day, you can let us know in the comments what the view is like.

At Wilkies Pools, you can also go for a little dip or swim if you’re up to feeling some “fresh” aka cold water! 😉

After a refreshing swim in the pool, you can continue up a little trail that leads to a “Mirador for the summit of Mount Taranaki” (Mt Taranaki viewpoint).

It does add an extra 150 meters each way to the hike but if the sky is clear, it’s totally worth it!!

Fun fact: These pools were formed by 20.000-year-old lava

Complete the Wilkies Loop towards Dawson Falls

Dom taking in the view

Once you’ve enjoyed this little section of the hike and want to head towards Dawson Falls, you can continue on the trail clockwise.

There are a few trails that go in completely different directions at this point of the hike since there are many different trails in the area.

Make sure you continue to follow the Wilkies Loop Trail markers. You can also look back at the Wilkies Pools trail map here

Even this stretch, as you continue along the loop trail, is so different from the first half. You cross a few streams and the trail is a lot less “tourist” friendly than the first bit.

It’s still easy to walk on, it’s just not as wide or as even. Remember to look down a bit as you walk as there are some roots sticking out.

At times it can get a little muddy as well depending on the recent weather and there are sections where your boots may get a little dirty as well (hiking boots are recommended for this one). 

Muddy or not, we’re sure you won’t care too much because you’ll be hiking through the most beautiful “goblin forest”.

We didn’t know at the time why, but we thought there was something really special about the trees around us.

I guess we were right because we learnt that this area in the Egmont National Park is full of Kamahi Trees – and walking through them is truly magical. 

Soon enough, you’ll end up back by the visitors centre and it’ll be time to head down towards Dawson Falls! 

The trees continue on the Dawson Falls section of the trail too so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to snap up some amazing shots! 😉 

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Clockwise towards Dawson Falls

Soon you’ll see what we meant when we said how convenient it is to combine these two trails to make one bigger loop trail.

The AllTrails map isn’t 100% accurate but once you get back on the road you’ll make your way toward the Dawson Falls Power Station.

You can stop by and quickly check it out or you can continue down the road just a tad longer before turning in on the trail (you’ll see a sign marker on the left-hand side).

We suggest following the sign that says “Dawson Falls via Kapuni Loop Trail”. That’s the one we’re writing about in this post which is 4km long including the Wilkies Pools.

It’s a short little section that’s easy to follow as you’ll still be parallel to the stream. After a short stroll through the trees, you’ll see a massive wooden staircase that will lead you down to Dawson Falls – or Te Rere o Noke as it is called in Māori.

Underneath it, you can see the old trail and staircase that used to lead to people the falls but over time, as New Zealand has boomed in tourism, it was probably a good idea to build this new, safer staircase.

Te Rere o Noke means “the Falls of Noke” which was a Māori warrior who hid behind the falls as he was being chased by a group of people. Noke ended up surviving as the pursuers ran past him and he fled to the east.

Enjoy the stunning Dawson Falls

We really love this trail because you get all these stunning views in such a short distance. The whole loop is just 4 kilometres long and you have multiple awesome stops along the way.

We are suckers for waterfalls so this little bit at Dawson Falls was probably the highlight of the trail for us!

Dawson Falls (Te Rere o Noke) is a picture-perfect 18-meter waterfall that drops into a little pool below before it continues down on Kapuni Stream.

Enjoy the moment at the waterfall and snap a few pictures for some memories because it is a pretty epic spot!

Complete the rest of the Dawson Falls Loop

The trail is not done yet and there’s one last stretch that takes you through Goblin Forest again – and it’s absolutely magical.

We usually don’t talk about hikes this way but we were just left in awe by this one…

As you’re hiking through the forest, hear the birds chirping and see the overgrown moss on the steps you will realize just how special this place is.

Especially after already seeing the Wilkies Pools and Dawson Falls on the same hike and then just being immersed in New Zealand’s beautiful nature.

Konini Lodge on the Dawson Falls trail
Konini Lodge on the Dawson Falls trail

To finish off this loop track, there’s a bit of incline as a staircase takes you up and out of the forest. You’ll walk past Konini Lodge and soon enough you’ll be back to the starting point and the car park at the Dawson Falls Visitor Center. 

That’s the Wilkies Pools and Dawson Falls Loop trail! So as you can see, you’ll get to explore quite a lot in just a few hours!

This is one of our favorite areas in the Egmont National Park and we hope you get a chance to see why!

What to bring on the Wilkies Pools Loop trail

This is one of those walks/hikes in New Zealand where less is more. It’s only 4 kilomtres but you should still bring some water, maybe a snack or two to enjoy at the waterfall, and the right gear.

Besides that, you really don’t need too much – unless you want to go swimming, then you should bring your swimsuit too!

Packing list for Wilkies Pools and Dawson Falls:

  • Water! We always fill up our LifeStraw bottles before hikes or day trips and even during them when we can. We try to bring at least 1.5 litres for this hike (better to have too much than not enough) – especially during the summer months. 
  • Sunscreen!! While a good chunk of this trail is covered by trees, the sun in NZ is unlike anywhere else. There have been multiple occasions while we’ve been hiking in New Zealand and the UV index has shown between 8 and 10!!
  • A power bank is good to bring – especially if you plan to take lots of pictures and videos or if you want to go on some of the side trails. Chances are you’ll need your phone both for trail directions, photos, and as a GPS for the drive so it’s better to be prepared.
  • Hiking poles also come in handy. This hike is relatively flat but it’s still nice to have that support. It’s one of those things where, once you start using it, there’s no turning back. It was great to have poles during the muddy sections on this trail.
  • Some snacks to enjoy at Wilkies Pools or Dawson Falls.
  • Your swimsuit and a towel if you’re planning on swimming at the pools.

The best affordable camera for beginners

The Sony Alpha a6000 mirrorless camera

If you’re looking for the best and most affordable camera for beginners, check out the Sony Alpha a6000 Camera.

This is the camera we’ve been using for years and still use to this day.

It’s perfect for travelling and super easy to use – even if you’re a beginner.

Before you hike Wilkies Pools to Dawson Falls

Check the weather in the Egmont National Park

Rain or shine you can hike to the falls (unless it’s pouring down, then we wouldn’t go). But of course, it’s going to be a lot more enjoyable if the weather is good. And if the sky is clear, you might be able to get some views of Mount Taranaki as well.

You can see the weather forecast for the Egmont National Park here.

Wear hiking shoes

We wear hiking shoes or hiking boots on almost every outdoor adventure we do – this one included.

Even though it’s not a very challenging trail there are sections (especially when it’s rained recently) that can get covered in mud – and there are a few sections that can get slippery on the stretch between Wilkies Pools and Dawson Falls.

Good, waterproof hiking shoes are definitely recommended!

If you don’t have any hiking boots, we highly recommend the Newton Ridge waterproof hiking boots from Columbia. Jo’s been using these for a full season already and she loves them!

Leave no trace

When you go hiking (and do other outdoor adventure activities), always remember to follow the 7 principles of leaving no trace.

This means:

  1. Plan ahead and prepare.
  2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces.
  3. Dispose of waste properly.
  4. Leave what you find.
  5. Minimize campfire impacts.
  6. Respect wildlife.
  7. Be considerate of others.

Renting a car in New Zealand

Car rental from Auckland Airport.

For this specific hike, you pretty much need to have a car so you can get to the trailhead.

Unfortunately, there aren’t really other ways to get to the trailhead of this specific hike unless you’re maybe in New Plymouth and call a taxi (which could be expensive).

We’ve had a car hire here in New Zealand for our whole trip and it’s been really nice and convenient – especially when getting to some of the different trailheads.

The car we booked was through DiscoverCars and we picked it up at Auckland Airport. DiscoverCars works like a search engine that compares all the different cars from different rental companies and shows you the best price.

It’s so convenient and we managed to snag a really good deal for ours ($50 NZD per day including insurance during peak season).

The longer ahead you book your car, the more likely you are to find a good deal. You can find and hire your rental car for New Zealand here

Another option is also to rent a big enough SUV that you can sleep in some nights (this is what we did on the south island) if you want and save some money on accommodation this way or sleep in some more remote places! 😉

There are quite a few good paid and free campsites around Egmont National Park that you can stay at before or after hiking this trail. (Or you can stay at the Konini Lodge hut).

Auckland airport car hire in New Zealand photo.

PS: DiscoverCars doesn’t just work from Auckland Airport. It can be used at pretty much any airport or city in the World. We’ve also used them in Italy, Portugal, and the Czech Republic.

When is the best time to hike in Egmont National Park?

We would personally say this specific hike isn’t as weather-dependent as some of the other hikes nearby like Pouakai Tarns or Paritutu Rock.

A moody day might actually be quite a nice day to see Dawson Falls since you’ll be able to get some pretty amazing pictures.

The downside is that you won’t be able to see Mount Taranaki from Wilkies Pools so that is a bit of a tradeoff. 

Regardless, the summer months are probably still the best time to come and explore and hike in Egmont National Park. Summer offers the most consistent weather and in winter it does snow sometimes (you can ski on Mount Taranaki).

November through March are the ideal months to come explore Egmont National Park and take in these awesome views.

As for the time of day, we actually started the hike later in the day around 4 pm. It was a warm but cloudy day in January and we had most of the trail to ourselves. It was incredible. 

How to get to Dawson Falls Visitor Center

You’ll have to drive to the Dawson Falls Visitor Center to get to the trailhead of this loop trail. There’s one way in and one way out so the time it takes to get there totally depends on where you’re coming from. 

From Auckland to Dawson Falls Visitor Center trailhead:

New Plymouth to Dawson Falls Visitor Center:

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Recap of hiking the Wilkies Pools and Dawson Falls Loop trail 

This loop trail to Wilkies Pools and Dawson Falls has to be one of the best easy hikes in the Egmont National Park.

There’s just nothing that compares to hiking through the Goblin Forest and seeing these natural wonders. But honestly, that’s just New Zealand. The whole country is filled with so much natural beauty.

We hope you get a chance to do both of these hikes and that you enjoy it as much as we did. The drive to the Dawson Falls Visitor Center is beautiful as well.

Hopefully, it’s a clear day so you can really see Mount Taranaki!

If you have any questions about this hike, Egmont National Park, or New Zealand in general, feel free to DM us on Instagram or leave a comment on this post and we’ll get back to you. 

Enjoy this incredible country and all the waterfalls you find along the way! 😉

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