The Department of Conservation has some good information on the tracks. I’ve walked the Tarawhai and some of the Western Okataina tracks, which are both easy walking tracks. For more information on the Lake Okataina Scenic Reserve, check out the DOC website.
Te Auheke Track (Cascade Falls)
Access to the Te Auheke track (also known as the Cascade Falls) starts by the Lake Okataina Outdoor Education Centre on Okataina Rd, which turns off from SH 30 in Ruato. The track starts behind the Outdoor Education Centre hut - walk along the left fence line until you see the wooden marker post. You can also access the shorter Rongomai track just a few metres away. I started the walk wearing my gloves, so it’s good to bring warm gear (just in case) even if the sun is shining.
The track itself is relatively flat, and wide throughout. The only time it narrowed was closer to the falls itself where I had to walk over some larger rocks. I thought about trying out my new hiking boots here, and there were some sections with overgrown roots and muddy patches, but as it was mostly flat terrain, my regular walking shoes did the job just fine.
As we haven’t had much rain lately, the 10m high cascading waterfall was pretty tame. There were a lot of moss on the rocks, which made me wonder how much water did flow down the rocks most of the year. You can head back the same way, or walk the loop that links to the Western Okataina walkway.
Ngahopua Track Track (Twin Lakes)
The loop track entry is on Okataina Road, across the road from the entrance to the Outdoor Education Centre. As I had just walked Te Auheke, I parked the car on the side of the driveway, just a few metres away. I walked the track clockwise (you can walk it either way), and the exit is about 50m down the road - turn right to make your back to the Centre.
The hike started with a steady uphill incline, the track was pretty narrow and had a lot of overgrown roots. Make sure to watch your step as there is a drop off to your left. My legs were a bit sluggish, but the walk itself was still relatively easy.
As the sun began to break through the trees, I started to see the first glimpses of Rotongata, also known as Mirror Lake. Don’t worry if the view is obscured by trees, keep walking along and there is a ledge that opens up to a full view. Lake Rotongata and its neighbour, Lake Rotoatua are volcanic craters that haven’t erupted in 3,500 years, and aren’t considered active.
Lake Rototua’s view was more obscured, so I didn’t get good pictures of that one. I noticed there were a lot wooden fences on this part of the track, maybe it’s more prone to slips.
The track links up to the Anaha Track junction - turn right to head back to Okataina Road. It’s just another 10 minutes to walk out to the small car park area.