Time: 1 hr 30 min one way Distance: 2.5 km Type: Tramping Track
Rainbow Mountain lies 26 km south-east of Rotorua, beside SH 5 (the Rotorua-Taupo highway). Approaching from Rotorua the carpark is situated just past the turnoff for SH 38 (the Murupara/ Waikeremoana highway), on the left-hand side of the road.
Rainbow Mountain's Maori name is Maungakakaramea, meaning 'mountain of coloured earth'. The mountain top is an unusual rounded knob, known as Tihi-o-Rua - 'the owl's perch'.
Although it has a very volcanic past, Rainbow Mountain has cooled over recent years, allowing the native vegetation to slowly begin regenerating. Some plant species found on the mountain are very rare and grow only in geothermal areas. An information panel highlights special features of the vegetation at the start of two fascinating walking tracks.
The Crater Lakes Walk offers great views of two volcanic craters set against a backdrop of bare brown, orange and red steaming cliffs. The Summit Track leads you up through regenerating native vegetation and past steaming rainbow-coloured rocks. The climb to the summit is rewarded with magnificent 360-degree views of the surrounding Rotorua lakes, forests and mountains. You can also see south to distant Lake Taupo and the towering volcanic peaks of Tongariro National Park.
Immediately across the highway from the entrance to Rainbow Mountain lies Lake Ngahewa, home to a variety of birdlife. Native tui, bellbirds, waxeyes and kingfishers are abundant in the vegetation, while many kinds of waterfowl can be found on the lake.