Location: East side of bridge on SH1 over the Tongariro River, Turangi.
Access: Car park beside bridge.
Length: Loop walk ca. 6 km return; there-and-back walk to Red Hut 5 km (one-way)
Configuration: Shorter loop walk or longer there-and-back
Grade: Generally flat or undulating, with a few steep sections; well-formed track
Status: off leash (under control)
Cafes and restaurants: Cafe kiosk in car park at the start of the walk; many other cafes in town
More information: http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/tracks-and-walks/central-north-island/turangi-taupo/turangi-walking-tracks/
From the road bridge over the Tongariro River in Turangi, there are four options for dog walks: two headings downstream, on either side of the river, and two upstream. Whichever route we choose, we can park in the large open car park on the west side of the bridge – where for much of the year there’s a mobile-kiosk serving excellent coffee.
The upstream paths provide an easy and pleasant loop walk of about 4 km from the road bridge southward to the Taupehi Scenic Reserve, where there's a footbridge (Major Jones Bridge) across the river, then back again. A more adventurous option, however, is to remain on the east side of the river, and walk the six kilometres or so to the footbridge at Red Hut.
Choosing the latter, we leave our car in the car-park on SH1, and head off down the east side of the river. After a gentle start, the track soon has us climbing up to a lookout, from where we can see northwards over Turangi or southwards to Mount Pihanga. From there we drop gently down through pleasant bush, back to the river and Major Jones Bridge.
From there, the path continues in a more leisurely fashion, first as a broadish track between the bush-clad banks of the river and open farmland, and later as a narrower but still well-formed path through bush. For most of the way the gradient is easy, as the path runs along the flat surface of the gravel terrace that bounds the river. Occasionally, though we dip down into a tributary valley, or have a short climb up and over a low bluff. Despite the bush, there are numerous opportunities to get a glimpse of the river in all its different shapes and moods: here as fast-flowing torrent, there as a frisky stream winding between gravel bars, then quiet and slow as it lingers in a a deep pool. In places there are side-tracks down to the river's edge, which the dogs soon learn to use to quench their thirst.
At Red Hut, we have a number of options. The path does continue southward, and it's tempting to take it, for the walking is good. But be warned, before long the clear track dissipates into a series of much more devious fishermen's paths that have the habit of fading into nothing. Another alternative is to cross the bridge and make our way back down the other side of the river. This, though, means that we're walking for much of the way alongside SH1 - and though there is a track that winds through the bush in some places, at others there's no choice but to walk on the road. Better therefore, to return the way we came - and for variety on the way back we can cross Major Jones Bridge and do the last section down the west bank.